I first learned about the Iron Curtain Trail last summer. I don’t remember how I found out about it then, but it popped up again this year in an article from the German Embassy. Both times I read about it I thought it would be great to bike the trail and then write a book about it. Up until now, I’ve kept this idea to myself because I thought it would be too “out there.”
I envision focusing on three topics- the history of the Cold War, remembering the Cold War, and bicycle/sustainable tourism. We learn about the American side of the Cold War but very little about the European states, especially the ones along the Iron Curtain. Sure, we’re taught about Berlin (Airlift, Wall, 1989, etc.), maybe a little about East Berlin in 1953 or Hungary in 1956, the Prague Spring, and of course, the events of 1989. With this book, however, I want to tell the story of the Iron Curtain states and the experiences of the people living there during the Cold War. Perhaps I could also talk about the current tensions between the West and Russia, to draw some parallels.
I would also like to see how people living along the trail memorialize the Cold War. What types of monuments or memorials do they have, if any? If they don’t have them, why not? What do they teach about the Cold War in school?
The third topic is more about what Americans can learn about bicycle/sustainable tourism. I’d like to talk with government officials and citizens about the effects of cycling on their towns, villages, cities, etc. How do they promote bicycle/sustainable tourism? What’s worked, and what hasn’t? Cities in Western Europe, e.g. Copenhagen, Amsterdam, receive a lot of attention for their bicycle-friendly cultures (and rightly so), but I would like to give these Iron Curtain cities a chance to showcase their achievements. Finally, I want to explore the role of the EU and The Greens in this project and write about their successes and obstacles to the project.
As a side note- if this dream were to somehow become a reality, I would blog about the experience in addition to gathering material for the book.
While this sounds like an amazing idea to me, the reality is that I don’t even know where to begin with proposing it. (That’s sort of why I’m writing this blog post and hoping that somebody has some ideas) I would have to take sabbatical, but those aren’t paid, so I would need to find funding to take the place of my salary. Do I look for sponsors in the cycling world? European sponsors?
As for publishing, do I find a publisher before or after funding? This isn’t a scholarly monograph, so university presses are out of the running, but then what type of book is it? History/policy/travel/sport?
Finally, I have to take my family into account. I can’t just pack up and leave my wife and kids for months while I cycle the trail (or can I? hhmmmm). Do we take the year off and homeschool the kids while we’re in Europe? I think it would be a tremendous experience for my kids, but could they handle traveling for an extended period of time? We would also need to find money to make up for my wife’s salary, as well as lodging while we travel from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea. What kind of sponsors could we find who are willing to pay for two teachers to take their children on a bicycle tour in Europe?
If anybody has any ideas about how to make this whole thing happen, I would love to hear them.
Thanks for reading.