Archive for June 2nd, 2008

Austrian-Hungarian Border, with weeds

Monday, June 2nd, 2008

On Saturday, we drove through the Austrian-Hungarian border. We stopped for a moment to take these photos. During the day, we passed through two different checkpoints, both completely abandoned. On December 21, 2007 Hungary became a fully implemented signatory to the Schengen Agreement, which allows for passport-free travel between members. No one checks anything – you just drive/walk/bike from Hungary to Austria.

Being of a certain age, this is a truly amazing non-event. The Austria-Hungary border was the front line of the Cold War, guarded with barbed wire, walls, guards and dogs. This was the case for 15 years before I was born until I was 26 in 1989 (i.e. “forever”). My uncle was kicked out of Hungary in 1949 for assisting Hungarians to defeat the Soviet-imposed border.

I had only a few experiences of crossing the Cold War border:

1984 – By train from Munich to Berlin; and in Berlin, crossing to East Berlin for a day. This was joyriding as a college student. Dang, the guards were scary!

1987 – On a guided, Swedish bus tour of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) out of Helsinki. We were going to an arranged Jewish wedding and the only way to get a visa was to be part of an official tour. The wedding was staged so that the bride could move to the US with her two children.

Even after the fall of the wall, the border wasn’t so nice. The roads that passed through the Cold War boundaries were never upgraded, so they were small, unimproved two-lane roads. When driving from Prague to Monte Carlo in the South of France in 1993, I passed through one. There was a line of trucks several miles and (so they told me) three days long to get through the border. It was an eerie sight, late at night with lots of groups of truck drivers settled around folding tables playing cards and drinking while waiting for their turn in line.

It’s clear that the facility in this photo was upgraded to allow more traffic. But I certainly think it is much more useful and less intrusive surrounded by weeds, as cars and trucks speed by without stopping.

The world is a better place.

And Gabi wanted to shop in Austria, so we drove on in to get good deals on t-shirts and shorts.