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Železná Ruda - deep in the heart of Šumava

 
photo:  (radio.cz)
 

Železná Ruda is a small Czech town deep in the heart of the Šumava national park. Surrounded by hills and mountains on all sides, Železná Ruda serves as a major hub for tourism – meaning for skiers in the winter and hikers and holidaymakers in the summer. Accordingly, the town is filled with a good number of lodges and hotels. Dominating the view is Velký Javor, or Großer Arber, the 1456 metre-high largest mountain in the Šumava region, which lies on the German side of the nearby border. On the Czech side are the Pancíř and Špičák mountains, 1214 metres and 1205 metres high, respectively.

 

No matter which way you head out from Železná Ruda, there’s tens of kilometres breathtaking countryside. Lush pine forests, steep hills, crystal clear streams and mountain fresh air. But asides from the scenery, the town possesses another very particular tourist attraction, perhaps unique in all the world. Železná Ruda - Alžbětín is one station on from the town’s main station. It lies directly on the German border, and is quite literally twinned with the German station Bayerisch Eisenstein. One huge 138 metre-long building traverses the length of the platform. At its midpoint is the Czech-German border, running through what is today a nature museum in the middle of the station building called Svět přírodního parku. Apparently if you break a window in the German part of this dual nation museum they call the German police, and if you break a window in the Czech part, they call the Czech police.

The station, which lies 725 metres above sea level, was built in 1877 by the Bavarian railway company. The long platform and station were designed that way in anticipation of heavy freight traffic. Inside the building were cafes, lodging, customs offices and the like. However, it turned out that a train line a little further to the west, traversing from Domažlice to Furth im Wald, ended up serving as the key transport hub in the area. And so a slow process of decline began, although this Šumava line was still used to transport coal and timber.

The near death blow came in 1948 when the communists came to power in Czechoslovakia. The station was curtained behind the “zakázáné pásmo” forbidden border zone with the West. The Czech side of the station became a military barracks, walled off from the German part in 1953. Railway lines were ripped up or blocked off. Suddenly Bayerischer Wald was a station at the end of nowhere. It was scheduled to be closed down completely by 1991. But just in the nick of time the Iron Curtain fell. Since then considerable EU funds have gone into restoring the train lines and station. Last February hundreds of local Czechs and Germans gathered here to mark the 25th anniversary of the de facto reunification of this station. It all looks brand spanking new today. But on the outer side of the station building, a souvenir remnant of barbed Iron Curtain fence has been installed – as a reminder of the past. Beyond that is a sign looking towards the future – one boasting an EU logo detailing a more than CZK 700 million contribution to an upgrade of the train tracks from Železná Ruda to the Czech town of Klatovy.

 
 
Author: Český rozhlas Radio Praha
 
Added: 09.04.2016
 
 
 

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