“Hungary was where the first stone was removed from the Berlin Wall” Helmut Kohl, former German Chancellor
On that day in 1989, a Pan-European Picnic was held on the Austrian / Hungarian border, just outside the Hungarian city of Sopron. The event was organised by members of the opposition parties in Hungary and was planned as a peaceful event to promote friendship between East and West. As Historian Dr Kelly Hignett has explained, Austrian and Hungarian authorities agreed to open a small stretch of the common border for just three hours in order to allow small delegations representing both countries to exchange greetings. On the day, however, hundreds of East Germans arrived at the picnic to attempt to walk across the border into Austria. It is estimated that around 600 people made it across the border that afternoon – the first large-scale exodus of East German citizens to the West since the construction of the Berlin Wall back in 1961.
To mark the twenty fifth anniversary of the Pan-European Picnic, the Hungarian Cycling Alliance, as project partner of the Iron Curtain Trail project, organised a series of events along the former iron curtain, including an opening ceremony for the new EuroVelo 13 signposting, a cycling trip along the new section, and a three-day ‘EuroVelo-festival’ in Szentgotthárd incorporating daily cycling trips to Austria, Slovenia and Hungary. The signposting has been financed by the South East Europe Programme on the Austrian side while the Hungarian Ministry for National Development and the railway company GYSEV-Raaberbahn AG supported it on the Hungarian sections.
The offical opening ceremony was attended by Hans Niessl, Governor of Burgenland; Csaba Hende, Hungarian Minister of Defence (both pictured above); Becsey Zsolt, Secretary of State in the Ministry of National Development; Michael Cramer, MEP and founder of the Iron Curtain Trail, Szájer József, MEPP; and Ádám Bodor, the ECF’s Director of EuroVelo, Cycling Tourism and Regional Policy.
Some of the attendees had started testing out the newly signed route the day before, cycling a short section from Sopron Station to a campsite close to the Pan-European Picnic Park. Following the formal ceremony, where the Minister of Defence and the Governor of Burgenland cut a ribbon beside a EuroVelo 13 sign, those participating in the tour continued to Möblisch-Balf-Harka and on to Kőszeg. The final day of the tour covered the remaining part of the newly-opened section to Szentgotthárd. Photos of the tour are available at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/EuroVelo13-ATHU-opening-tour/1455171044727202?sk=photos_stream
This Iron Curtain Trail trip was followed by a cycling festival in Szentgotthárd. The festival was supported by: Gábor Huszár, mayor of Szentgotthárd // Opel. As part of the festival, one-day cycling trips have been organised, visiting a different country each day. Participants have been taken to memorial places linked to the Iron Curtain whilst taking in the beautiful landscapes. Afternoons and evenings hosted cultural events relating to the Iron Curtain, including readings, historical theatre, screenings, vehicles from the time, music, exhibitions, competitions for kids, wine cellars from the region, bands, and the introduction of different nations of the region.
All events were organised in the frame of the Iron Curtain Trail project, co-financed by the South East Europe Programme of the European Union, which aims at developing the Southern section of the Iron Curtain Trail cycling route in terms of sustainable transport and tourism. For more information, please view the website
Photo and video credits: Mobilitätszentrale Burgenland, Mrs Martina Jauck, Christian Weinberger and EuroVelo13 AT/HU opening tour.