Sometimes a visit to a border resonates as something much more significant. In 1989 the closed border crossing between Sopron (HU) and Sankt Margarethen im Burgenland (AT) was a site of considerable historical significance. The pan european picnic was calling for the end of the cold war and for the iron curtain to be abolished. What initially was intended to be an Hungarian led event where the gate would be opened to let Austrian and Hungarian delegations meet transformed into something that no one had envisaged. Thousands of East Germans were in Czechoslovakia and Hungary and through word of mouth and flyers many found their way to the picnic site. As the gates were opened at 3 pm 600 East Germans rushed through. The Hungarian border guards took no action. This ultimately led to the relaxation of border controls completely on the Hungarian – Austria border and an exodus of east Germans to the west. The following month the east German leader Erich Honecker was ousted and the Berlin Wall fell.
- The Guardian (12/06/2019) Snipping away at the Iron Curtain: when Hungary opened its Austrian border – archive, 1989 https://bit.ly/2QxhTrJ
- The Irish Times A Hungarian border guard, 600 East Germans and a picnic that split the Iron Curtain https://bit.ly/2Xrk3uo
- Secrets of ‘Pan-European Picnic’ still shrouded in mystery 30 years later. DW Link
Date of Visit: 25/08/2008