This blog is getting its highest ever visitor numbers thanks to the BBC website, which has published some photos from my bicycle ride along the Iron Curtain. As I write, the very front page of the site's UK version is displaying a gallery of pics from my new book (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/8429885.stm). I am not a little chuffed, and very gratified by the unexpected levels of interest in the project. I have received lots of interesting feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to everyone!
To see more photos from the journey, with lots of accompanying text describing the route and the interesting people and places along it, you can view an on-screen preview of the book that I've produced: http://bit.ly/5JvJ2x (more details in the post below this one). It is also available for purchase here (and nowhere else, until I find a publisher) by following the relevant links.
To read my day-to-day record of the journey itself, scroll down the page a little for the last of the blog entries made on the road. For those with a serious interest, you could experience the whole journey from its shaky beginnings by scrolling to the bottom of this page and reading upwards: http://curtainrider.typepad.com/curtainrider/page/9/
Here it is: my photo-book documenting the people and places of the Iron Curtain as they are today, twenty years after the revolutions of 1989:
The entire book can be viewed at this link (it can, of course, be bought, too; only a couple of euros/pounds/dollars of the purchase price gets to my pocket - I didn't do this for the money!). I'd be grateful for any feedback (email@example.com), and please do forward the link to anyone that might find the subject interesting.
I've also set up a Facebook page for the book, should anyone want to become a 'fan':
It's a year since I returned from my bicycle journey down the route of the old Iron Curtain. In the last post of the trip I promised to turn the material I had gathered into something more durable. It's taken me a lot longer than intended: I have been distracted by a new job, my first property purchase and a burglary that took all my photography equipment (but luckily not my photographs) and a laptop on which I'd written early texts for the book.
But I hope it will have been worth the wait and that it will get across the most interesting experiences of my journey. The 160 pages contain more than 150 photographs with captions and descriptions, arranged in chapters according to the countries of the section of the border (Germany-Germany, Austria-Slovakia etc.) Each chapter has an introductory text.
This is the book's front cover, showing an abandoned military watchtower at a spot on the border between Italy and Slovenia, near the city of Trieste. Below it I have copied the first few paragraphs of the introductory chapter. The story it tells will be familiar to those who followed the blog while I was on the road a year ago.
"EVERY YEAR in mid-August, on the edge of the German
Robert’s house lies near the geographical centre of Germany, in the rural state of Thüringen, just a few hundred yards from the line that divided the country for over forty years, from the end of the Second World War until November 1989, when revolution in East Germany led to the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification. The crowds that arrive in Robert’s road every summer come to commemorate Rudi Arnstadt, an East German border guard killed by a West German border patrol in 1962, at the top of the low hill that separated the two states. The memorial to the martyred 35-year-old captain stands in a small public garden opposite Robert’s house.
Wiesenfeld was a frontier village, on the eastern side of the dividing line, and Arnstadt was posted there just a few months before his death. On 14 August he was among a group of two hundred soldiers erecting new metal fences along the border. A year earlier
The East German regime extracted full propaganda value from the affair: Rudi Arnstadt was made into a national hero who had died in defence of the socialist fatherland. Schools and roads were named after him. Hans Plüschke left the West German border guard in 1970, and given a licence to carry firearms at all times, as protection against reprisal missions sent across the divide. As the two Germanies grew apart, he built a quiet living as a taxi driver.
Today, nearly fifty years after Arnstadt’s death, and twenty years after German re-unification swept away the fences outside Wiesenfeld, several busloads of aging friends, colleagues and sympathisers still come each year to the Arnstadt memorial, to sing patriotic East German songs and reminisce about the good old days.
Robert has reason to resent the visitors. As the communist East German regime strengthened its grip on power after the war, agricultural land around Wiesenfeld was collectivised. By the end of the 1950s, Robert’s father was the only farmer who had refused to join the local cooperative. Since the regime wanted only politically reliable people in the sensitive frontier zone, the young family was forced to move away from the border, to the city of
Over thirty years later, after
Over thirty years later, after
Meanwhile, Hans Plüschke never spoke publicly about Arnstadt’s shooting until, in 1997, on the 35th anniversary of the incident, he went on television to discuss his involvement for the first time. Seven months later, he was discovered dead in his car by the roadside, just a few kilometres from the spot where he had killed Arnstadt. He was murdered by a shot fired into his right eye–the same place his own bullet had hit Arnstadt. His killer has never been found..."
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