Vilm Island

Rügen may be the largest of the German islands, but there are several interesting smaller islands dotted around it. One of these islands is called Vilm, and it is part of the South-Eastern Biosphere. As such, the island has special protection. Boats are not allowed within 100m without permission. Swimming is not allowed in that area either.

The eastern side of Vilm, once the place where the GDR leadership bathed.The eastern side of Vilm, once the place where the GDR leadership bathed.

One part of the island is completely out of bounds to visitors, the other is used by a national government agency for nature conservation (Bundesamt für Naturschutz). Visitors here are limited to 30 at any one time, only in organised groups and only along a set path. Even the number of tours each year is limited, so when the Biosphere held a press tour on the island, they had to get special permission to exceed that number! [Read more…]

This was once a border

Germany was, as most readers will know, at one time split in two halves by the Iron Curtain.

At some points along the “Inner-German Border” there are still some watchtowers, preserved to show the World what the border looked like. But in many parts the border has just disappeared and is part of the landscape.

To make sure that people do not forget just where that border was, many of the roads that cross that point in Germany have had signs erected, commemorating the fact that Germany was divided at those points.

A commemorative sign near Salzwedel at the location of the Inner-German border

This one can be seen between Brome (West) and Mellin (East). It is also about 25km from Salzwedel, the town in Germany that apparently is the furthest from any motorway exit and happens to be on one of the routes that I use each year to travel to the island of Rügen.

Another can be seen on the A20 motorway which follows the coast of the Baltic sea running eastwards from Hamburg.

The border itself was around 1,400km (860 miles) long.

The night the Wall came down… 5 years on

Five years ago I wrote an article for this website called “The night the Wall came down”, at a time when Germany was commemorating 20 years since the fall of the Berlin wall.

In front of the Berlin Wall in November 1996

In front of the Berlin Wall in November 1996

Now that another five years have passed all the talk this weekend is of the 25th anniversary, and that article is as valid as ever.  Except that one thing has changed: I have now spent more time in the Eastern part of the country.

I have been to the island of Rügen located in Baltic Sea five times now, and taken different routes and seen different parts of the landscape each year.

On Rügen itself I have come face to face with some of that East German history, and visited areas that were off-limits to normal East German citizens until 1990 – some of which will appear in future articles.

I still haven’t been back to Berlin.

Click here to read the original article

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