I believe that the physically difficult experience of this 1,600-mile route must be embraced and used in my understanding of the Iron Curtain. Experiencing firsthand the sheer size of the trail will be the most primitive, and maybe the most important way of understanding the lost border. This mode of transportation will also force me to interact with and depend on my environment, unlike a passenger in a car or train who is sealed off from their surroundings. The athletic challenge in this project will give my research a backdrop that cannot be acquired by studying at a distance.
I also feel that this would be an appropriate way to honor the memory of Ted Mullin. Ted was a History student and swimmer at Carleton College who died of cancer in 2007. The fellowship I received for this project was established in his memory. As a student-athlete, I understand the passion and intensity that is committed to both academics and sport. I am familiar with the perspective that is uniquely won through physical challenge, and I want to incorporate this understanding into my project.
Finally, biking is green! The Iron Curtain Trail runs through Europe’s Green Belt, where wildlife and endangered species were allowed to flourish during the forty years of enforced human absence as a result of the Iron Curtain. Biking is therefore an ideal way to explore the environmental legacy of the Iron Curtain, and also help maintain the region’s natural beauty.