East Germany’s old mines transformed into new lake district

Despite a €2.2bn regeneration programme, the Lusatian Lake District project, on land once occupied by the GDR’s industrial heartland, remains relatively unknown to non-east Germans. So we took a tour …

‘This was once one of the dirtiest areas in East Germany,” says Sören, my tour guide from IBA Tours, as our bikes swoosh through the Lusatian Lake District. “When I was growing up here, before the Wall fell, we never hung our laundry outside, and we never wore white socks, because we knew they wouldn’t be white after a few minutes. The coal dust was everywhere, all the time.”

It’s difficult to connect this information with the pristine landscape around us, all soaring pine forests, glistening lakes and immaculate asphalt cycle paths. The only other major signs of life have been a smattering of fellow cyclists and a sedge of cranes in a field. We haven’t heard, let alone seen, a motorised vehicle – and there’s certainly no coal dust in the air now.

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