A farm track runs eastwards across gently undulating fields from the outskirts of Neualbenreuth, a small, idyllic Bavarian town close up to Germany’s border with the Czech Republic.
Then, after a mile-and-a-half, the track comes to an abrupt end in a pine forest with thick, undergrowth. This is the site of the former Iron Curtain. But 25 years on, the sole reminder of its erstwhile existence is a slight dent in the tree line – the only evidence left of communist Czechoslovakia’s triple high-voltage electric border fences.
The Germans and the Czechs have spent the past quarter century trying to forget the Cold War. But the respective deer populations on either sides of the old divide are incapable of erasing the memory. Naturalists who have spent seven years studying the animals’ movements with GPS monitoring devices have established that they still stick to their respective sides of the border even though the barrier has long since disappeared.
The habit is apparently so ingrained that it has been passed on to deer which were not even born when the Iron Curtain was standing. Pavel Sustr, a Czech biologist, insisted that the deer were not ideologically hidebound. “They are just very conservative in their habits,” he concluded.