niedziela, 23 marca 2008

18 years afer the revolution frontier regions of Poland and Germany are still separated

18 years lapsed, but if anything changed in the Polish- German order region, it only turned worse. Author grew up in the frontier region, attended to schools on the other side of the border. After having returned to his region, he found that it is even more difficult for people living in the area to visit each other than it was a decade ago.

Gubin and Guben- one is Polish, the other is German. Both are viewed as located on the end of the world. One world is Polish, it ends up on the river Neisse, dividing the countries, the other is respectively German world, and Guben is its very end. It lost nearly half of its former inhabitants (downsized from 37 to 20 thousands), blocks of empty flats are demolished.


Photo: Theater Island on the river Neisse in Gubin, with the Municipal Theatre destroyed in the WWII.
This end of the world was once in its centre. The town was once on an important high-speed rail link connecting Berlin with Wrocław (in 2 h 30 minutes) and Silesia (in 4 hours 30 minutes). Now from the sleepy railway station in Guben there are no connections to Polish side. The high speed rail line is even partially dismantled on the Polish side, where rails are widely stolen from unused lines. If you see the destroyed line on Polish side, you hardly believe that once trains passed it with 100 mph. Also the regional mainline Guben- Zielona Góra is closed, although a decade ago it was in use.
Photo. Łagów, view from the castle tower

If you take a journey further north, You find that the region generally lacks bridges or ferries that would connect the communities separated by border riviers . For over 50 kilometers between Guben and Frankfurt there is no link. On our journey we passed through the ferry in Połęcko, to find sleepy villages in the end of Polish world. Bridges, that once linked the communities there, 60 years after the WW2 are still left in ruins. In Kłopot, local bridge ending somewhere in the very middle of the Odra river, is left as it was exploded by retreating German Army in 1945. It became known as the “półmost”, half-bridge, a local curiosity to be seen except for the local stork museum in this touristically attractive area. However, tourists are a rarity here. On the Polish side of the border public transport is practically not existing, there are no restaurants, pensions, hostels, cultural offer is absent. Local community centres, that existed in the German times, have been turned into churches or stay abandoned.
Photo: Author with friends on the half-bridge in Klopot, 2007

Another missing link is the former ferry in Urad, formerly connecting Aurith and Urad. Nowadays in order to contact the people gathered 130 meters further on the other side of the ferry passage, You have to shout loudly over the waters of the river. A bridge for lorries was planned here, that in local viewpoint is unnecessary as it endangeres the local wildlife (this area is beloved by storks). A bridge or ferry for local traffic would change here a lot, help the local community, of which some laugh at the strangers from the banks at local grocery- a meeting place for local communities in such villages.

Next curiosity could be seen in Kunice. The local railway line, that once linked Cybinka with Frankfurt, serves nowadays only freight traffic. It has a branch to Kunice, where the tracks suddenly end up in a river- a train could from here simply jump into the border river.

There are many more missing links in the border region, such as those in Lebus/Lubusz, Górzyca, Siekierki/Bad Frienwalde. Until now the rail traffic between the regions is practically non-existant, it is marked by poor schedules with 2-3 trains daily, dramatically slow speeds, very high fares, much higher than the fares on the German side.
Until now, in order to get to the German side of the border (for example to nearby Berlin), Polish people often have to take the most expensive EuroCity trains. Fares are as high as these to Warsaw, and journey time from Zielona Góra to Berlin (140 km) is nearly the same as to Warsaw (440 km). The only inexpencive way to travel from Polish side to German side requires a 4-km long walk from bus station on the Polish side of the border in Słubice to the German railway station in Frankfurt (Oder).

Nearly two decades of coexistence lapsed, and still no public transport exists between the neighboring towns, twin-cities such as Gubin-Guben, Frankfurt(Oder)-Słubice, Kostrzyn-Kuestrin/Kietz. Before the WW2 these links were so frequented, that in all 3 cases were served by tramway lines. Nowadays sometimes you can find only remnants of unused tracks as in Gubin. Currently these two countries are connected with each other nearly only with infrastructure for mass motorisation, private cars, and even such infrastructure is seldom. There are stretches of 50 km-borderline with no possibility of passing it.

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