Across Europe, thousands of miles of railway have been abandoned over the years and left to rust. But in one German town, an old line that once transported Prussian troops and military equipment and later shuttled children to and from school has been brought back to life. Today, you can enjoy a ride along the disused railway on a draisine— or rail bike.
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Walls protrude from the tangled undergrowth. Cobblestones cut through the grass with kerbstones delineating old pathways and tracks. Ahead, steps spiral up to what once must have been a grand doorway. A stone plinth stands empty, the statue it once held long since disappeared. Then another plot, this time with a cross – presumably the remnants of an old church. Opposite it, a staircase leads to a former fort. You can still see a tiled bathroom, a relic from a bygone era.
In the early hours of April 16, 1945, the 2.5 million strong Soviet Army began its assault on Berlin in the hope of defeating Nazi Germany once and for all. After 16 days of heavy fighting and at times even hand-to-hand combat, 200,000 soldiers and civilians had lost their lives and much of the city lay in ruins. Despite the devastation, several landmarks and battle scars still survive today scattered across Berlin, serving as an important reminder to the last major offensive of the Second World War in Europe.
They say you can’t properly understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. And while this saying might be overused to the point of being trite, I think we can all agree that a little more empathy in the world would go a long way to bridging the gaps in our increasingly polarised society.
The air is thick with cinnamon and cloves, roasted almonds and sweet pastries. Artisans busy themselves selling handmade decorations and handicrafts to curious shoppers. There’s stollen (a traditional sweet bread filled with candied fruits) to fortify you and hot mulled wine to warm you up. The Silesian Christmas Market in Görlitz is full of festive cheer, but Germany’s easternmost town is steeped in history and there’s a lot more here to discover.