Old border country in the heart of Europe

Historische Grenz- und Wappensteine wie am Schönwappenweg weisen darauf hin, dass die ehemalige innerdeutsche Grenze bereits seit vielen Jahrhunderten Herrschaftsgebiete markiert.
Historical boundary stones and coats of arms in stone, such as here on the Schönwappenweg (Coat of Arms Trail), are an indication that the former inner German border has marked out territories over many centuries.

The Thuringian-Franconian section of the Green Belt between Mitwitz and Mödlareuth stretches almost to the Czech Republic. Mitwitz is considered by many to be the birthplace of the idea of protecting the Green Belt as a national nature heritage. The once divided village of Mödlareuth, on the other hand, also known as "Little Berlin", today demonstrates, almost as well as its big brother, what political and personal repercussions were involved in the inner German border. The Rennsteig scenic trail and the river Saale form border lines in an area that was territorially split up well into the 19th century. Even today, historic boundary stones, and more recently, watchtowers and remains of the wall, testify to the 20th century division of Germany that has been overcome.

 

Historical borders and history turned to stone
The areas on the Franconian-Thuringian border were split up into different territories for many centuries. The land of the archdiocese of Bamberg fell to the Kingdom of Bavaria in 1803, the margravate of Bayreuth in 1810. On the Thuringian side, the duchy of Saxony-Meiningen and the principality of Reuß Junior Line (later named People's Republic of Reuß) continued in existence until the foundation of Thuringia in 1920.

The numerous historical boundary stones are silent witnesses to these former dominions. Some have simply been left to nature, like the Dreiherrenstein in the Rodachtal near Nordhalben, others have been artistically renovated, like the Kurfürstenstein from the year 1513, on the Rennsteig scenic trail to the south of Lehesten.

Divided, and yet belonging together

The border between Thuringia and Franconia was never totally clear-cut. Parts of the Thuringian Forest are Franconian in character, while in the north of the Franconian Forest, links with Thuringia are traditionally very strong. Even after the end of the Second World War and the partition of Germany into zones of occupation, there was a lively border trade for several years with goods crossing sides, and Franconian labourers also worked in the Thuringian slate mines, for example. With the building of walls and fences, economic links were cut off along with family links, until the Iron Curtain fell in 1989.

A natural weather and language barrier
A natural border after all stretches right through the region: the ridge of the Central German Uplands, along which the famous Rennsteig scenic trail runs. The 169-kilometre long ridge trail traditionally connects the Thuringian Forest, the Thuringian Slate Mountains, the Franconian Forest and the river Saale in a west-east direction. The ridge of the Central German Uplands is a weather divide and watershed, as well as a language barrier. The old-established residents speak the Thuringian dialect in the north, and Franconian in the south.