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Germany’s Former Borders, Memories Lure Tourists

Germany’s Former Borders, Memories Lure Tourists

Wednesday, 13 December, 2017 - 08:45
Bavarian musicians in traditional costumes arrive at the Bavaria statue in Munich. (Photo: AFP)

Albert Iber knows how to draw attention during the tours made in former East Germany and West Germany, with stories about spies uncovered, dramatic escape attempts, and extensive surveillance efforts.

In buses full of tourists, when he returns to places that were outside the border a few decades ago, Iber recalls memories of historic shifts in the region between Bavaria, the state where he was born and Saxony, which at that time was a part of East Germany, the German news agency reported. Although Iber, a former police officer, has just turned 81, the company he works for is not worried about his resignation.

"As long as I can, I want to take part in tours, but I want to see more interest from younger generations," says Iber.

Tourism requests come from across the former states of Germany, Saxony and Thüringen, as well as from other parts of the country.

The supervisor from the tourism agency said: “the demand has increased in recent years. Bus tours are mostly being booked by older groups. The tour across the border of Saxony, Thüringen, and Bavaria lasts for three hours.

"Many want to see places they were not allowed to go before, and want to hear stories about what happened there," she says.

As the bus advances along the border, Iber displays photographs taken during his service in the border guard forces on the Bavarian side or West Germany.

"Everything at the border ended up on my desk," says Iber, including the brilliant escape from the east to the west. He often received anyone who crossed the border safely, with a friendly greeting in a local Bavarian accent. Iber recalls a balloon flight that caused a stir in the 1970s.

"The balloon passengers flied in Thüringen, and had to land urgently in the evening because the gas was running out of them ... They did not know which side of the border they landed," he said. In an instance, a woman arrived in West Germany through a 70-meter-long drainage hole.

Iber remembers the borders’ opening in 1989, describing it as a wonderful stroke of luck, especially that it announced the end of 70 hours of work a week at the Bavarian police station.

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