Duderstadt (and the Grenze) – June 23 Ride 2019

I scream und Erdbeere (road to Duderstadt)

Duderstadt was once linked by a small railway to Goettingen (Die Gartetlbahn); sadly this service which ran from 1897 was closed in 1957. Our gain is that almost all of it is now a cycle path that can be used with other cycle routes to carry us the same by bicycle. We pedalled 66 kms on mixed surfaces.

We of course had cake, we shared an Erdbeere Kuchen and knocked back one ice tea and an iced chocolate laced with ice scream and cream near ride end at the historic Spinnerei.

We followed many cycle signed routes, although some are now too faded to read properly, despite this they still allowed us to miss busy roads.

On route was a big and it looked like a new road, which just stopped! (we were on the adjacent cycle path which continued).

Duderstadt (talking houses)

Duderstadt goes back to 929 AD, in fact the Eichsfeld has many old villages including Nesselroden where we stopped for a chocolate muesli bar. The Eichsfeld is also noticeable for featuring religious shrines and the like, and this highlights the fact that the area was (and remains) a Catholic enclave in a largely Protestant Northern Germany.

The Eichsfeld was like so much of the German speaking myriad of states dominated by the Austrian Empire and large areas of it were devastated by the Peasants Revolt of the 1500’s which was put down by the Aristocracy and the brutal Thirty Years War of the 1600s (a decisive battle was fought nearby). The latter was caused by a push back by the Catholic Church led by the Austrian Empire against Martin Luther’s Reformation.

In Dudertsadt there are ‘Talking Houses’ some of which proclaim an allegiance to the Reformation with carved panels citing the first lines of a Martin Luther hymn; “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott, ein gute Wehr und Waffen. Er hilft uns frei aus aller Not, die uns jetzt hat betroffen”.

The biggest and most famous employer in Duderstadt is Otto Bock (in fact in the area), this company began in Berlin in 1919 specialising in artificial limbs etc. to meet the demand caused by World War One, it then transferred to Königsee in Thuringia before it was forced to relocate to Duderstadt when Königsee fell into the Soviet Zone (and then became part of the DDR) after World War Two. You may note a good number of people visiting the town for treatment and the sight of people with artificial limbs is common. I got talking to two young women from Bahrain and one was here to help increase her mobility after a nasty car crash.

Today newer companies are based in Duderstadt including AX-lightness Composites, who are famous for carbon manufacturing including bicycle wheels etc. and Benotti Bikes (both owned by the same people). We exchanged greetings with a group of Benotti club riders as we pedalled through the ancient town.

Duderstadt and the B247

Riding East from Goettingen it only takes 15 to 20 kilometres to reach what was once one of the most heavily fortified and dangerous borders on Earth. This was not a fighting line designed to hold back tanks or even to launch tanks from, rather it was an internal border constructed to stem the numbers of people who were seeking to leave East Germany (more on the Grenze here).

Our ride to Duderstadt over a mixed surface route covered 66k’s and once we had finished looking around Duderstadt we rode along the B247, a road that before the partition of Germany in 1945 linked Duderstadt with Worbis.

For many years the road was closed and some sections were actually dug up but in the 1970’s it was agreed that there would be a border crossing situated just a few kilometres east of Duderstadt and many used it to travel to the West German Friedland Transit Camp not so far away.

The now defunct crossing point is marked first, if coming from the West by the bus stop where people were picked up before travelling through the West German/British customs house, followed by the West German border markers, DDR marker posts, then past the first fence situated inside East Germany, through the death strip, then a second fence, over the Kolonweg border patrol road and followed by the East German control complex complete with tower and buildings for searching and screening vehicles plus people going East (and of course if going West).

I remember crossing into the DDR at Friedrichstrasse Station in Berlin and at Helmstedt when crossing from West Germany to travel to Berlin by motorway. It was an odd oppressive experience with lots of twitching of net curtains (the DDR loved net curtains).

Today the border checkpoint at Duderstadt features a museum and clear signs of the border including the Kolonweg that East German border troops would use within the DDR to patrol. Still in place is a an amazing device that would shoot out to stop a vehicle trying to crash through, a helicopter of the West German border patrol and other items that make you realise how determined the East Germans were to perfect their ‘anti-fascist barrier’.

There is also and importantly a memorial to the people who died near this spot trying to cross from the East.

We rode a bit of the Kolonweg but it is very exposed and with temperatures near to 30 degrees we decided to do more another day and on more suitable bikes.

Later in the ride we crossed the border between the villages of Nesselroden and Boseckendorf both of which are within sight of each other but were separated by the Internal Grenze (pictures below). The death strip there is now a barley field and only the Kolonweg is left to meander away into the distance in two directions and away from the road that is now taken for granted.

The Internal Grenze in many places is part of the Green Band and new sections are being protected as wild life reserves despite some push back by farmers.

The Ride: https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/3776997055

Links:
Viktoria Cross and Berlin
Der Internal Grenze
Friedland
Friedland Transit Camp

Cycle Fahrrad Goettingen home page

Gallery – Road to Duderstadt (and back)

Gallery – Duderstadt

Gallery – Duderstadt and the B247

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