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Travel: Let’s help break down totalitarian walls!

Today's sleek, high-speed Intercity trains criss-cross Europe with impunity, but it wasn't always so easy. In 1989, thousands of East German refugees waited desperately for a train that would take them from Prague to the freedom of the west.

Story of German ‘freedom trains’ a good reminder of why we shouldn’t take our freedom to travel for granted

By Bob Berwyn

Speeding through a rainy German night aboard an Intercity train last year I got a quick reminder on why we should never take travel for granted. An article in the railroad magazine focused on the “refugee trains” that, in October 1989, carried thousands of East German fugitives from the German embassy in Prague to freedom in the west.

It’s hard to believe more than 20 years have passed since the Berlin Wall crumbled, but during our autumn trip to Europe, all the magazines and newspapers were full of reminders. The images are unforgettable. East and West Berliners reached across the wall to touch hands, and then worked from both sides with sledgehammers to demolish the concrete barricade.

The Communist regime of the former East Germany did not build the wall to keep potential enemies out. They had to seal the Iron Curtain to keep their own people in. Had the totalitarian dictators let people out, it’s a sure thing that many of them would have never returned. The simple and powerful desire of East Germans to come and go as they pleased played a big role in the dismantling of the totalitarian regime, something worth keeping in mind as we all blather on in our travel blogs about things that are, in the bigger picture, really quite trivial. Continue reading

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