Photo from the World: Highway L210

One of my favorite stories from the Cold War is that of the Pan-European picnic. In 1989, the Hungarian government began to reduce its patrols of the Austrian border, and then, in a symbolic gesture, decided to open the gate near Sopron, along an empty, insignificant stretch of highway, for a few hours on August 19th. Border guards were instructed not to carry guns that day, and soon after the announcement, pamphlets went out in East Germany (the German Democratic Republic) telling citizens about a picnic to be held on a field by this gate on that day.

Several hundred people went to the picnic, and found that the situation was exactly as they’d been told: unarmed border guards, and an open gate to Austria. So they crossed. Many were even helped across by the guards. This event is considered by many (especially in Hungary, of course) as the beginning of the end for the Iron Curtain.

Highway L210, running north out of Sopron to Austria, is that empty, insignificant road.

Looking Back on the Road to Freedom

Looking Back on the Road to Freedom

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