EV13 Route IconIron Curtain Trail

Experiencing the history
of Europe's division

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Iron Curtain Trail

Cycling the Iron Curtain Trail along the Austrian-Czech-Slovak-Hungarian border you will encounter lots of reminders of the east-west separation of Europe along the former death strip - today the „green belt“. To appreciate fully this historically interesting and scenic route demands a certain fitness because of the often quite hilly topography.

EuroVelo 13 Photo Iron-Curtain-Trail from Waldviertel Tourismus with cyclist

Until 1989 the Iron Curtain divided Europe nearly 40 years into east and west. The inhabitants of a wide stripe along the border were resettled so that crossing the border became nearly impossible. Nature took this opportunity to recover and rare animals and species found a new habitat - the closed off territorry turned into a „green belt“.

Coming from the Bavarian-Czech border, you can visit the Zisterzienser monestary in Vyssi Brod (CZ), the „green belt museum“ in Leopoldschlag as well as the „Green belt Center“ in Windhaag, Upper Austria. Further highlights along the route are the health resort Harbach, the historic Kuenringer town Weitra with its small brewery and exhibition „Iron curtain“ in the castle, the outdoor museum „Iron Curtain“ at the border of Kadolec/Nove Hrady, the Renaissance town Slavonice, Hardegg - Austrias smallest „town“ with only 81 inhabitants - as well as the crossborder national park „Thayatal".

As next stops we recommend the bunkers and remains of the iron curtain at Satov (CZ), the historic wine town of Retz with its underground labyrinth and Laa an der Thaya with its historic center and modern Spa. You continue passing the wine cellars at Galgenberg to Mikulov with its castle and nearby monument „gate of freedom“ at Sedlec. The route continues through the UNESCO cultivated landscape at Lednice (CZ) and Valtice with its Iron Curtain-Museum.

Finally you reach one of central Europes most interesting wetlands, the March/Thaya-floodplain on the Slovak side from Hohenau to Devinska Nova Vez, where you can admire the most spectacular „Freedom Bridge“ along the whole EuroVelo 13 at Schlosshof, the second largest baroque castle of the Austrian-Hungarian Monarchy. Back on the Slovak side you cycle via Devin ruin Theben where the rivers March and Donau join and a ferry connects to Hainburg, only a few more kilometres to Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

From Bratislava you cycle along the border on a (mostly) EuroVelo 13-signposted trail until the historic bridge of March and Donau continue to Neusiedler lake, the historic town Sopron (former Ödenburg), southbound to Lutzmannsburg (thermal spa) and Szentgotthard (HU), where you finally leave Austria.

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EuroVelo 13 RoutenausschnittEuroVelo 13 Routenausschnitt | Neusiedler SeeEuroVelo 13 Routenausschnitt | Iron-Curtain-TrailEuroVelo 13 Routenausschnitt | Iron-Curtain-Trail

Historical background

The Austrian border reveals many reminders of this troubled period of modern European history and consequently cycling this section of EuroVelo 13 – Iron Curtain Trail is on both sides of the border a fascinating journey through the wide variety of landscapes, culture, culinary and history.

As a German ally during the Second World War, Austria and Vienna initially suffered a similar fate as Germany and Berlin: they were shared into four pieces managed by the four allied forces. However, contrary to what happened in Germany and Berlin, the allies agreed on the building of an independent and neutral Austria. Consequently, allied forces left the country and its capital city on the 25th October 1955. The route of EuroVelo 13 therefore passes from one side of the border to the other between Austria and the former Czechoslovakian Republic and Hungary. The sections of the federal states through which it passes – Upper Austria, Lower Austria and then Burgenland – are amongst the flattest parts of Austria and therefore ideal for cycle touring.

Although Austria was a State of the “Free World”, it was nevertheless a neutral state and not a NATO member. Its neutral status meant that it played an important role in Cold War history. In 1956 as in 1989 Austria was the beginning of the opening border. The fact that neutral Austria and UN headquarter Vienna was not an enemy of the Eastern Bloc explains why the first holes in the Iron Curtain were made on the Austrian-Hungarian border. A memorial on the Iron Curtain Trail still marks the spot, between the Hungarian village Hegyeshalom and the Austrian village Nickelsdorf, where a group of Hungarian border guards made the first cut in the Iron Curtain’s barbed wire on the 2nd May 1989.

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