Day 1 – Little Berlin

In Berlin Wall, DDR, Germany, Running on May 15, 2009 at 9:10 pm
The lights are off now, and nobody is at home.

The lights are off, and nobody's at home.

I hadn’t realised it, but there are three Berlins: East, West and Little. Catching a speedy railcar from Hof to Grabau, and thence getting picked up, I finally meet a couple of the other runners.

Timo now lives in Dresden, and Ulrich lives in Frankfurt. They seem like nice guys and it bodes well. With a cheerful pip of the horn a van screeches up and drives us through tiny country lanes to out start point.

Modlareuth is hard to find on a map. It’s a tiny village, but is has a big significance. This is Little Berlin, a tiny village straggling a state border between Thuringia and Bavaria. For decades this administrative boundary was no problem, until the Cold War got chillier and in 1952 a local schoolboy from the Bavarian side found he couldn’t go to school any more in the Russian zone.

Welcome fuel cheque for the five buses.

Welcome fuel cheque for the five buses.

History is often taught in the form of macro generalisations: one‘ism’ versus another. But just imagine you are a child, and one day you’re told you can’t see your schoolmates any more. Such are the tiny tragic banalities that the textbooks never mention.

This is the first of the preserved border areas we’ll encounter on the run. Under a barbed wire-topped fence, the other 30 or so runners (all German) assemble while the Burgermeister from the western side’s council makes a speech and photos are taken. I don’t speak German, so I listen to the bird song and watch the sun behind the silhouetted empty towers.

Beady bunker eyes.

Beady bunker eyes watch no more.

We’re standing in front of the wide strip of dirt that was kept smooth so any footprints could be spotted. Inside the reflective cone of a nearby searchlight, a big bulb sits in the middle of the same scene but inverted. The museum’s head steps up and says a few words. Then, speeches over, organiser Stefan Esser hands over a six-inch replica border marker (cutely striped black, yellow and red, with a tiny plaque that would read Deutsche Demokratische Republik if it were real).

A 4km prologue around Modlareuth will be followed by a barbecue and the first of many wurst. The Burgermeister from the eastern side starts a countdown and we trot through the gates and into the compound. The adventure begins.

Deceptively pretty, this spot is where the 2nd Armoured Cavalry squared up to men who now run the museum.

Deceptively pretty, this spot is where the 2nd Armoured Cavalry squared up to men who now run the museum.


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