Sunday, 26 August 2012

Crossing the Iron Curtain

I live only a few miles from where the Iron Curtain used to be. After the collapse of communism the Czechs tore down this symbol and means of their oppression. The minefields were cleared, the watchtowers and the multiple barbed wire fences were torn down. So there is very little left for the interested visitor to see. 

Of course if you're looking, you will occasionally come across remnants: rusty iron hedgehogs from which barbwire would have been hung, concrete anti-tank barriers and the ruins of houses which were cleared to create the no-go zone several kilometres deep which ran the length of the frontier. Having understandably wanted to clear away these painful memories, the Czechs now find that a new generation has grown up, which has no memory of the past and to whom the story of a dark time in the nation's history needs to be told. Visitors also ask to visit the historical remains of the Cold War. 

One of the best places to visit is Bucina in the Sumava. It's a strange haunted place on the German border. You cannot access it by car as the area is still protected. Instead you approach by one of the minibuses from nearby Kvilda or on foot or bike. If you want to come by coach (as I did with my archaeology tour) you have to arrange to pick up a permit. Even the process of doing that reminds you of a scene in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy. Clutching a numerical code on a piece of paper, you search a derelict building before finding a hidden wallsafe. You tap in the code, the safe door opens and you take the pass within. 

There is virtually nothing left of Bucina, the village houses and church were torn down to remove hiding places for those trying to cross the curtain. In among the grass and wildflowers low ruined walls and farmhouse floors are just visible. In the grounds of the one building there (a newly built hotel looking across the Sumava towards the Alps) you will find a reconstructed segment of the Iron Curtain together with information panels. 

A track takes you past the ruins of Bucina and over a small stream via a small wooden bridge. A board announces that you have just entered Germany. In a matter of minutes you have done what hundreds of Czechs died attempting to do.

Note: If you are interested in visiting Bucina and fancy staying in the hotel there, please contact me at Czech Tours


Karen said...

It's terrific that you are sharing that with people - the next generation needs to know!

Anonymous said...

Hi, live just across the border in Germany from Bucina (as expats), nice article as usual, by the way the sign above the photo of the guy peeking through the chains is "door to freedom"
Rgds Mick


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