At the Grenze under the Ski Jump

In April 2018 I travelled back in time to the now defunct German internal grenze (border) at the Wurmberg Mountain.

In the mid-eighties I had stood on the west side of the Grenze half way up the Wurmberg Mountain in the Harz, a region of mountains rich in folklore set in central Germany.

Above my head and to the back of me was a ski jump opened in 1921, recently demolished, which once pointed out toward the East and the Grenze. There was enough space it would seem for the jumpers to glide to earth without jumping the border.

It felt odd, very odd at the time. I said this to a West German border patrol that came along and I and they looked across the fencing at men who looked back at us. We all smiled although not the East German’s, and my temporary companions moved along whilst we climbed into our red Beetle.

The ‘Mauer’ clearly denoted West Berlin as an enclave deep within East Germany. The Grenze or Internal Border beyond the city cut through Germany regardless of the terrain and ran from the Baltic Sea to the then Czechoslovakia, some 1,393 kilometres in length.

The roads that serviced the Inner Border remain and it is on these roads used by the East German Army (NVA) that the annual Grenzesteintrophy is held. This is a self-supported cycle event held along the length of the border. I have heard fearful stories of riding the Kolonnenweg, where slots set in the concrete rattle you senseless to an extreme and the weg can disappear in an instant sending you flying.

The prologue of the Grenzesteintrophy is a lap of Berlin tracing the wall where it once stood. Good luck to Emma Osenton from Britain who will be riding it!

Pictures

The bottom of the now demolished ski jump and behind the camera is the Grenze.

The Kollonweg stretches in each direction for miles in defiance of the terrain – this section is almost benign.

Some sections are in a worse state than others – this is actually quite good.

An old post situated within East Germany.

The Stein road comes in all sorts of styles here an adjoining service road is fashioned with the nasty slotted version and is ‘filled’ thankfully with mud.

A small disc marks the border – The Grenze was marked on the west side by posts painted red, yellow and black with additional warning notices. Just beyond the posts there was the first East German fence, then a death strip and another fence looked over by watch towers.  Estimates put the number of people who died at the border at a thousand. Beyond that was the concrete road used by the East German guards to move along the Grenze.

Andrea stands on the disk, just in front of her would have been the red, gold and black West German concrete posts, behind her and set a little inside of the DDR would have been the first fence.

Looking down from the old Ski jump – it was used for the German ski jump champs whilst the border was in place although no one ever flew across! The Grenze is just beyond the tree line at the bottom.

The Wurmberg is 971m high and is overlooked by the Brocken Mountain which was off limits being then a Soviet Union listening post.

Berlin – Viktoria Cyclo Cross und der Grenze: https://cyclesport.london/berlin-viktoria-cyclo-cross-und-der-grenze/

The Harz Mountains: https://veloklubhaus.com/2018/03/17/spit-out-of-middle-germany-the-harz-mountains/

Grenzesteintrophy: https://grenzsteintrophy.de/en/

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