The Iron Curtain Once Fell Here

This past spring, I was startled to realize that, for the first time ever, students to whom I was teaching the Cold War had never lived during the Cold War.

That's right, they were born after the attempted coup of August 1991 that effectively rendered the Soviet Union moot. Now, we've truly arrived at the end of an era, even though for years now I've already had to point out regarding the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain which was the physical barrier and which was the metaphor... ☺

As you will see, however, even metaphors have a history...

Yesterday, we were driving around the Collio "wine road" in the Italian region of Friuli near the Judrio river that forms there the Slovenian border, when we chanced to see a small gravel track on a little bridge which crossed the river bed. Thinking I'd suddenly get to add visiting an additional country (even just for a few minutes) to my vacation, I suggested we stop and walk across.

That's when my husband noted, "Once upon a time, this is where the 'Free World' ended."

Sure enough, I'd forgotten that not only was this the boundary between Italy and Slovenia, but it had also been the frontier between Western Europe and the communist East.

Now, however, the end of the Cold War and the Schengen Agreement unifying the borders of the European Union have rendered all that obsolete. So together we sauntered unhindered down a path which once separated two worlds...

What's left here where once the Iron Curtain fell? Not much... On the Italian side, there is a little checkpoint hut falling into ruin and a flagpole that used to fly the good ol' Red, White and Green. (Another view, together with the former crossbar, is here, and the bridge with the river here...)

On the other side, we found a building (now a private house) that had performed the same function for Yugoslavia (together with the unused flagpole) and the little hamlet of Mišček. At one time, there were in this village a number of inhabited structures, but it seems now that many are abandoned (as also pictured here).

A search for this placename came up with a traveler's account in Italian, which seems to put all these enormous geopolitical changes into context in this lonely rural place. "Here, everything's falling to pieces..." one inhabitant said. "Here, nothing's changed. Yugoslavia, Slovenia... it's all the same. Now, Europe... but what's changed? Here nothing."

1 comment:

Howard said...

I've been following you for quite sometime...thanks for your postings! ~HL, NYC