The Aeronautical Museum of Belgrade

With a few parallels in aviation history, especially in the years immediately following WWII, former Yugoslavia benefited from supplies by a great number of countries. As a matter of fact, the air force of this newborn communist republic was formed at first from leftovers of retreating Germany and conquering Britain, followed by the establishment of a supply line initially from the USSR, and later the US and again Britain.

The special political ability of marshal Tito, who ruled uncontested as a communist dictator since the foundation of Yugoslavia in 1945 until his death in 1980, and the credit he benefited from especially in Britain, allowed him to keep out of the sphere of influence of the USSR since 1948. In a strategic position on the border with NATO countries like Italy and Greece, Tito adopted a detente policy of ‘equal-distance’ between the two opposing blocs over the Cold War period (even though NATO did not trust him fully, as testified by the deployment of a SAM defense line in northeastern Italy, see this post).

Of course, most of the military supply was of Soviet make, especially after the death of Stalin and well until the end of communism in Europe and the bloody fragmentation of the Yugoslav state. However, concerning civil aviation, autonomy from Moscow allowed the adoption of western aircraft, like the French Aerospatiale Caravelle and much of the Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas inventory, in the major national airline JAT – something which happened very rarely anywhere in the communist bloc over the years of the Cold War, another notable instance being Romania, again a ‘semi-autonomous’ communist dictatorship, who refused the Soviet Tupolev Tu-134 in favor of license-built British BAC 1-11s.

Another effect of the autonomy from the USSR was the creation of a national aviation industry, which especially in the case of SOKO, produced military trainers and light attack aircraft of good success, which despite ageing, are still flying today.

More recently, the fierce conflicts raging over the Balkans in the 1990s have created a major active front for modern aviation, where the air force of Serbia – which inherited the geographically central part of Yugoslavia and its capital city, Belgrade – confronted the NATO alliance in an open conflict. The unbalance of forces allowed the western coalition to quickly establish air superiority, which did not come without a few notable material losses however.

A rich display of this peculiar aviation history, actually tracing back to WWI and the early years of aviation, can be found in the Aeronautical Museum of Belgrade, which despite being in today’s Serbia, acts as a kind of Yugoslav Aviation Museum. As a matter of fact, it was founded as such back in the years of Tito, and opened in its current building nearby ‘Nikola Tesla’ civil airport of Belgrade in 1989, when Yugoslavia was still a reality.

This short post provides an outline of what you can find in this museum, with photographs taken on a visit in April 2019.


The museum occupies a relatively large area in the vicinity of the airport of Belgrade, and is made of an open-air exhibition, open-air storage area, and big mushroom-shaped building hosting an indoor exhibition.

The ‘gate guardian’ is a SOKO J-21 Jastreb, a nice light multi-role aircraft from the 1960s, powered by a British Rolls-Royce Viper jet engine.

Indoor exhibition

The entry hall of the mushroom-shaped building features is a good example of the architectural style from the late communist era. The ground floor hosts a small exhibition about the early days of aviation in the former region of the Balkans, with documents from WWI years. Among the items on display, you can find early pilot’s licenses from notable war pilots, likely granted after training abroad, and actually written in French.

The main hall of the museum can be found upstairs. This large can be walked on two levels. Most aircraft are to be found on the lower level, but a few are suspended to the glassy circular sidewall of the mushroom, lighted from behind by the sunlight – so that taking pictures is just a nightmare!

The centerpiece of the collection is an exemplar of the SOKO J-22 Orao, a twin-engined – two Rolls-Royce Viper turbofans – light ground-attack and trainer aircraft from the 1970s. Designed jointly by Yugoslavia and Romania, this model equipped the Yugoslav (then Serbian) air force during the 1990s, where a handful exemplars are still flying today.

Indeed a clean design with an interesting performance, this aircraft was possibly the last heir of the Ikarus-then-SOKO lineage, originated back in the years before WWII. In this respect, some unique exemplars of aircraft are preserved in this museum, witnessing the existence of a school of skilled aircraft designers in Serbia, not much known in the western world.

A key figure of the Ikarus design bureau, Dragoljub Beslin led the design of Ikarus S-451, a nice, very small, twin-prop attack aircraft flown in 1951, especially designed to sustain high load factors in maneuvers at high speed.

Another unique specimen is the twin-jet Ikarus 451M, the first jet aircraft built by Yugoslavia. Same designer as the S-451, this unusual jet-engined taildragger flew in 1952, but was soon superseded by more modern models, in those years of quick-paced development of aviation technology. Again, the engines were from the West, in the form of two French Turbomeca Palas turbojets.

Another member of the ‘Ikarus 451’ family – it must be said this Yugoslav one is likely the oddest model numbering systems ever created… –  the T 451 MM Strsljen (Hornet) features a more convincing configuration, resembling the single-engined British BAC Jet Provost and the Italian Macchi MB 326, both rather successful trainers from the late 1950s. On display is actually the ‘Strsljen II’ version, which is a attack/training version with more thrust than the first series aircraft. This model was conceived to operate from unprepared runways, and featured two Turbomeca Marbore II French turbojets. The aircraft flew in 1958, but an air force contract was not granted.

Some functional wind tunnel models of other aircraft, actually never reaching the 1:1 prototype stage, are on display. These include a rare ekranoplane design, the UTVA 754. With a mechanic-monster-like appearance like all ekranoplanes (the most famous being probably the Bertini-Beriev preserved at the Russian Air Force Museum in Monino, see here), this machine was designed in 1982 in the then-Yugoslav town of Zagreb, today the capital city of Croatia.

A medevac aircraft conceived for easy conversion between floats and wheels, the UTVA 66H can be visited also inside. The indigenous SOKO is represented by a number of models. These include the SOKO G-2 Galeb, a successful trainer/light attack aircraft from the 1950s, built around a single Rolls-Royce Viper turbofan. During its long history it was exported to several international operators, and gave birth to the more recent SOKO J-21 Jastreb. The Galeb was in service with Serbia until 1999.

Another section of the museum features aircraft of foreign make which witness the intricate history of alliances of both the pre-WWII Kingdom of Yugoslavia and the post-WWII communist Yugoslavia. Most remarkably, these include a Messerschmitt Bf-109-G! The history of this particular aircraft is not very clear, some sources stating it was captured from Bulgarian air force. As a matter of fact, Yugoslavia acquired about 70 Bf-109-E from Germany in 1940, which in turn furiously invaded from north in a quick an violent campaign in spring 1941.

Next in line is nothing less than a British Hawker Hurricane! A group of Hurricanes were acquired from Britain in the immediate pre-war years, and even license-built in Belgrade in a small number – Yugoslavia apparently purchased aircraft seamlessly from both opponents at the outbreak of WWII. Later on, Hurricane-equipped squadrons of Yugoslavia fought back on the side of the Allies from bases in southern Italy, finally regaining control over the Balkans.

In a similar fashion, a Supermarine Spitfire Mk.V witnesses the involvement of British-supplied national air force squadrons in the liberation of Yugoslavia from the German invaders.

In the closing years of WWII, Yugoslavia benefited also from the help of the USSR. This is witnessed by a massive – and pretty rare, out of former soviet republics! – Ilyushin Il-2 Sturmovik. This big attack aircraft, possibly the most famous Soviet aircraft of WWII, equipped three squadrons in the Yugoslav air force, and helped in the fight on the so-called ‘Srem front’ north of Belgrade. An often overlooked sector of the European front, substantial operations were carried out since late 1944 until April 1945, with the forces of Nazi Germany slowly retreating under the offensive of the Red Army (including Bulgarian divisions) and of Yugoslavia from the south. These operations involved 250’000 troops on either side, thus engaging the Germans and draining resources from mainland defense. At that time, an entire division of the Yugoslav air force were equipped with this aircraft type, kept in service until the 1950s.

Similarly, an elegant WWII Yakovlev Yak-3 fighter of Soviet make can be found nearby in the colors of Yugoslavia.

After the end of WWII, Tito was determined not to surrender his political and economic independence to Stalin. In this high-stake gamble, he made no secret of his thoughts, and sought international recognition from the west. As expected, Stalin showed no sense of humor in that matter, and as the USSR broke relationships with Yugoslavia, this country faced the risk of isolation and of Soviet invasion in the early stage of the Cold War (late 1940s).

Over the years, the good relationship established with the western Allies during WWII were strengthened further, and most incredibly for a communist country, the US provided aircraft and helicopters, in the form of Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, Lockheed T-33 Shooting Star, Republic F-84G Thunderjet and (much later, in the early 1960s) North American F-86D ‘long-nosed’ Sabre.

The years of Kennedy administration saw a significant improvement of the relationship between Tito and Khrushchev, and this led to a switch to Soviet aircraft in the form of the supersonic MiG-21, which equipped the Yugoslav air force in substantial numbers over the following two decades. An exemplar of this iconic and ubiquitous aircraft, an unquestionably well-performing aircraft in his age, is preserved in the museum. By the way, the early 1960s saw also the widespread adoption of SOKO Galeb trainers and the phase out of older British/US models.

Other peculiar exhibits in the indoor part of the museum are the wrecks resulting from air fight operations during the Yugoslavian wars of the 1990s. On the national (Yugoslav) side, the tail cone of a SOKO G-4 Super Galeb – a totally different design from the quasi-homonym G-2 – damaged by a shoulder-launched Stinger missile in 1991.

But much more material is from NATO countries, resulting from combat during operation ‘Allied Force’ against Serbia in 1999. Most notably, you can see a substantial part of the wing of a Lockheed F-117 Nighthawk, the famous stealth aircraft downed by a vintage Soviet SA-3 Goa surface-to-air missile in March 1999, as well as a landing gear, ejection seat, pilot’s helmet, Vulcan cannon and some smaller parts of a General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon downed the following May, again due to an SA-3 missile. The first stage of the missile which hit the Nighthawk is on display too.

These are basically the only aircraft lost in action over enemy territory during that operation.

An apparently easier prey, General Atomics RQ-1 Predator UAVs were used in great numbers, some twenty of them being downed. One wrecked example is put on display.

More items of the kind include parts of NATO missiles, including HARM anti-radiation missiles and cluster-bombs containers.

On the upper level, you can find a mostly photographic exhibition mainly about the national carrier JAT. Interestingly, not a single Soviet-made model appears in the pictures, whereas you can find Boeing 707s, 727s, 737s, Douglas DC-9s, McDonnell-Douglas DC-10s, Aerospatiale Caravelles and ATR-42/72s – clearly a strong commercial bound with the West, pretty unusual for a communist country!

Another Yugoslav airline started operations to a later date – Aviogenex. This apparently did use aircraft from the USSR, in particular Tupolev Tu-134s, later flanked by Boeing 737s. Aviogenex ceased operations much later than the end of Yugoslavia, and operated as a Serbian company for some years.

One of the most iconic brutalist monstrosities in northern Belgrade is the skyscraper which used to host the headquarters of this airline – it looks like a good setting for some ‘Blade Runner’ or ‘Judge Dredd’ movie…

Some more panels include descriptions of airport history and modern operations in the nearby airport of Belgrade. The history line of the national aviation industry is also presented in detail through historical pictures.

Some more aircraft can be found on this level, as well as a SA-3 Goa missile in a non-operative paint scheme, likely for training or telemetry tuning purposes.

Outdoor exhibition

The large area around the building is split between a small outdoor exhibition prepared for the public, and a larger storage area with many more aircraft which can not be neared nor walked around.

The displayed aircraft include an Aerospatiale Caravelle in the colors of JAT. This exemplar was one of three operated by this airline, and was active between 1963 and 1976.

A much elder transport, a German (French license-built) Junkers 52 with P&W engines represents a fleet of four such aircraft operated by the Yugoslav air force, complementing another group of originally German aircraft captured during the war.

An aircraft of historical significance is an Ilyushin Il-14 twin-prop transport. This aircraft was a personal goodwill gift from Khrushchev to marshal Tito, and the founding member of Yugoslav presidential fleet.

A couple of Lisunov Li-2 and some original Douglas C-47 Skytrain, of which the former is a license-built Soviet version, are on display, albeit not all complete. A MiG-21 Fishbed and a Kamov twin-rotor helicopter are also on display.

Another extremely rare item from the post-WWII years, a Short SA.6 Sealand amphibious aircraft of British make has made its way to Belgrade, after years as a transport aircraft in the Yugoslav air force.

The non-visible part of the museum features a rather impressive collection of MiG-21 in several versions, SOKO J-21 Jastreb and SOKO J-20 Kraguj in a large number, a SA-2 Guideline soviet-made SAM launcher with two missiles, and a number of partly assembled aircraft and wrecks.

A mystery item is a part of an allegedly US aircraft, apparently a part of the tail empennage of a bigger transport – any suggestion about this item welcome!


The museum is located to the northwest of the airport of Belgrade. It can be easily reached by car from the access road going to the main terminal area. Website with info in English here. Parking ahead of the entrance.

The museum can be visited in about 2 hours by an interested subject, much less if you have just a mild interest in aviation. Much paneling is in double Serbian and English language, allowing to get the most from your visit.

Despite being fully operative, the place has a somewhat rotting appearance especially from the outside, as mostly typical to former state-run institutions in former Yugoslavia. Furthermore, some form of protection for the aircraft in the outside exhibition is hopefully to be considered by the management, otherwise the aircraft with literally disintegrate to the action of the elements in a matter of some years.

The German Inner Border – GDR vs. FRG

The Berlin Wall is widely known as one of the most emblematic symbols of the Cold War – a materialization of the ‘Iron Curtain’. The Wall – at least in its preliminary stage – was erected almost overnight in August 1961 by the Government of the GDR (‘German Democratic Republic’, or ‘DDR’ in German), and later developed into a complex and virtually impenetrable dividing barrier with fortifications, multiple fences, barbed wire, watchtowers, watchdogs, mines, truck stopping bars and other devices, isolating the part of Berlin attributed to the US, Britain and France from the Soviet occupation zone.

This monster, which caused many people to lose their lives, or forced them to risk everything – and leave everything behind – in the pursue of freedom, remained in place and was steadily updated until its triumphal demolition in November 1989.

What is less known is that the reason for building the Wall was the urge of the GDR to stop emigration towards West Germany (‘FRG’, Federal Republic of Germany, or ‘BRD’ in German) and the free world. Actually, the Wall was built following a massive emigration wave from the harsh living conditions of the GDR, taking place during the Fifties and mounting until the Wall was built. Literally millions of people fled the regions occupied by the Soviets from the end of WWII in 1945 until 1961.

Consequently, blocking the border only in the city of Berlin would have been nonsense. As a matter of fact, at the same time as the construction of the Wall begun, the government of the GDR started one of the most gigantic ‘border-armoring’ operations in history, by ordering fortification of the whole border line between East and West Germany. The Berlin Wall was actually only the tip of the iceberg, as all the more than 800 miles long border line between East and West Germany, extending from the Baltic Sea to Bavaria and the Czech border, was blocked with the same level of restraining techniques deployed in Berlin, to the explicit aim of preventing people from crossing the fence and going East to West. For the Communist government, East Germany had to be reconfigured basically as a nationwide prison.

This incredible operation, which engaged thousands border troops and tons of equipment, plus required continuous updates of the patrolling technologies, was reportedly so expensive that it contributed effectively to the collapse of the economy of the GDR. It crystallized the so-called ‘Inner Border’ between the two German republics, which had existed since 1945, but had never been so deadly. After the introduction of this strict border patrolling policy the number of people killed or wounded, and of those arrested because trying to cross the border, increased steadily until the re-opening of the border, following rapidly after the demolition of the Wall in Berlin in 1989.

Berlin is today an enjoyable city, full of interesting places to visit and things to do, and its urban configuration, so strikingly bound to the Wall and its history – unlike all other capital cities in Europe, Berlin is lacking a true ‘city center’ – with the passing of time is becoming more uniform. Differences between the two sides, once obvious, now tend to vanish, at least in the most seen parts of the city, with new buildings, fashionable shops and malls, stately hotels and governmental buildings rising where once the Wall had created barren flat areas, not restored for long from the ruins of WWII. Obviously, nothing bad in this process, which also makes Berlin one of the most lively places in Europe in terms of architecture.

The grim atmosphere of the Cold War years can still be breathed in many places in town especially in the former East Berlin, but even close to the few memorials of the Wall scattered over the urban territory it’s hard to imagine how it really felt like being there when the border could not be crossed. If you want more evocative places, you should look somewhere else.

In this sense, the preserved border checkpoints and portions of the fortified Inner Border are much more evocative, and constitute a very vivid, albeit little known, fragment of memory, inviting you to think about the monstrous effects of ideology and dictatorship. All along the former border, especially in the southern regions of the former GDR, you can still spot large areas spoiled of trees, where once the border fences run. Scattered watchtowers are not an unusual sight in these areas, even though many have been demolished immediately after dismantling the border. In some focal places, often corresponding to former checkpoints where important roads crossed the border, the fences have been totally preserved or just slightly altered, for keeping historical memory.

The following photographs were taken during an exploration of some of these sites in summer 2015, winter 2016, summer 2021 and again in summer 2023. The exposition follows a southern-northern direction along the former Inner Border.


The following map shows the location of the sites described below. For some sites you can zoom in close to the pinpointed positions on the map to see more detailed labels. Directions to reach all the sites listed are provided section by section. The list is not complete, but refers to the sites I have personally visited. Border sites in Berlin are not included.

Navigate this post – Click on links to scroll


Getting there

Mödlareuth is actually the name of a small village placed along the former Inner Border between Bavaria and Thuringia. The site is not difficult to reach by car, a 4 miles detour from highway N.9, going from Munich to Berlin. Just proceed to the village of Modlareuth, which is dominated by the ‘Deutsch-Deutsches Museum Mödlareuth’ (website here). This encompasses an open-air exhibition of the former border area, plus an indoor exhibition with patrolling vehicles, artifacts, videos and temporary exhibitions. Large free parking on site.

For photographing purposes, I would suggest approaching from the south, from the village of Parchim via H02. Mödlareuth is located in a natural basin surrounded by low hills, and the H02 proceeds downhill to the site, allowing for a perfect view of the former border area.


Most of the Inner Border once run in rural areas. In that case, ‘only’ double fences, dogs, watchtowers, truck-stopping grooves and mines were ok. In the less common cases when the border crossed or passed close to villages, something similar to what had happened in Berlin was replicated on a smaller scale, and a further fortification layer in the form of a tall concrete wall, was put in place.

This happened also in Mödlareuth, where the small village was split in two parts by a wall, gaining to this town the nickname of ‘Little Berlin’. The place was rather famous in the West before 1989, and it was visited also by vice-president Bush in the years of the Reagan administration.

As here one of the relatively few local roads not cut by the Inner Border was left, the village was also place for a border checkpoint for cars.

The open air exhibition showcases what remains of the wall – the most of it was demolished restoring the original, pre-war geography of the town -, as well as a full section of the border protection system and checkpoint. Looking from the West, you had first the real geographical border, coinciding with a creek as it was typical. Beyond it, poles with warning signs and distinctive concrete posts painted in black, red and yellow stripes (the colors of the German flag) with a metal placard bearing the emblem of the GDR. These signs had existed since the inception of the inner border to mark it, and date from older times than the other border devices. Then followed the wall. Behind it, a corridor for walking/motorized patrols and a fence. Then you had a groove in the ground, reinforced with concrete, capable of stopping a truck or a car pointing westwards from the GDR. An area of flattened sand followed next, to mark the footsteps of people approaching the border area. In different times, mines were placed in a much alike sand strip. Then followed a final fence.

Except for the wall, the above description applies with slight variants to all the length of the Inner Border.

The net used for the fences was very stiff and conceived to avoid fingers passing through, this way making climbing very difficult.

A peculiar aspect of the wall in Modlareuth is a small door in it. That was a service door for border patrols, used to access the area between the border line in the middle of the creek and the wall itself, for servicing or arresting Westerners. This happened more than once, not only here – as a matter of fact, walking past the border from the West was as easy as walking past the little creek where the border line passed. This was in all respects entering the GDR, even though the fortification line was about 30 feet further into the East. When this happened you could expect to be rapidly arrested and kept for interrogation before eventually being released in most cases. Servicing, like cutting trees and so on, in the strip between the wall and the real border was reportedly a task for very enthusiastic Communist troops, as escaping to the West from there was again as easy as a leaping past a narrow creek…

The road crossing the border in Mödlareuth is not active any more and is part of the open air exhibition. Actually the former customs house hosts the ticket office. Along the former road it is possible to observe an example of car stopping devices and original ‘stop’ and ‘no-trespassing’ signs.

The area was dominated by watchtowers. There are two in Mödlareuth, one original and inaccessible, the other probably cut in height. Both are of a relatively recent model, with a distinctive round section.

Going to the two main buildings of the museum it is possible to find other interesting items, including models of the site, and pieces of hardware like a sample of the standard border wall, and a vehicle stopping device able to cut the road in a matter of a second at a short notice.

A large depot hosts many vehicles – armored vehicles, 4×4, trucks, and even a helicopter – once part of the border patrols of the GDR, and also of the FRG. Forces of the latter did monitor the border, but as the problem was mainly with the GDR in trying to keep its citizens back, the FRG forces were as substantial as it is usual for a border between states.

There are also original road signs and warning signs, including some in English for US troops.

Finally, the museum offers a well-made 15 minutes documentary, played in English on request, with the history of the Inner Border and of the wall in Mödlareuth, with video recordings from the past which really add to the perception of how the place used to work, and show what it meant for the local population – families split overnight and for decades, as it was the case in Berlin.

When I visited in 2015 the temporary exhibition was unfortunately only in German.

There are information panels scattered all around the village providing an opportunity to better compare today’s village with how it was before 1989.

Leaving to the north-west towards Thuringia along K310, it is possible to spot a part of the most external border fence which has been preserved out of the village. You can walk freely along it. Still in Modlareuth, in the parking of the exhibition a Soviet tank still occupies one of the parking lots.

I would recommend this place for a visit, it is convenient to reach and extremely interesting for the general public as well as for the most committed specialist. Visiting may take from half an hour to 1 hour 30 minutes, depending on your pace and level of interest. The countryside nearby is lovely and relaxing. The site is fully accessible and well prepared, with many explanatory information. It may be a bit crowded, as people mostly from Germany are visiting it in flocks… yet visiting is very evocative and rewarding.


Getting there

The Eisfeld site can be reached easily from highway N.73, less than .5 miles from exit Eisfeld-Süd. Actually, the highway didn’t exist at the time of the GDR, and the corresponding traffic ran on what is today Coburger Strasse. The very location of the former border checkpoint is today taken by a gas station, serving the highway traffic.

On site, you can still find the ‘Gedenkstätte Innerdeutsche Grenze Eisfeld-Rottenbach’, hosted in the original control tower for the border checkpoint. The tower can be visited as an automated museum, meaning that entrance is possible by putting a few coins in an automatic system to unlock the door. Despite being automated, the museum has hours of operations.


The Eisfeld site is similar to the one in Eussenhausen (see later), being the location of a former border crossing point. Actually, this checkpoint was built in a relatively later stage in the life of the inner border in 1973, to decrease congestion on major crossing points then in existence.

The highway today running nearby was not there in the Cold War years, hence the relatively smaller road running today into the service area and gas station now taking the place of the former checkpoint, used to be a major road linking the FRG and GDR near Eisfeld.

Of course, having been turned into a service station, the original function of the place is somewhat deceived. However, the control tower greeting you when approaching from the south betrays the original identity of this facility.

The control tower was there to oversee and keep a constant watch on border control and customs operations, taking place on the several vehicle lanes beneath. Today, it is home to a very interesting exhibition on the topic.

Most of the exhibition is centered on pictures from the time of construction, operation and final dismantlement. These are very evocative of the bygone era of the Iron Curtain.

On the top floor, a scale model of the former border crossing facility can be found. This is extremely interesting to understand the general arrangement of the site, and how traffic flows used to be managed on site. The normal access road from the FRG was interrupted by a preliminary checkpoint, giving access to the control area. Vehicles were split in multiple parallel queues for the official check. The lanes then rejoined and access to the GDR was via a normally-sized road. Basically the same happened in the opposite direction.

Stopping gear for emergency – conceived especially to stop fleeing vehicles – was located in several points, as well as fences all around the area, with watchtowers and more usual stopping systems for men and vehicles. Garrisons and booths were abundant too.

Most of this has gone today, except maybe some of the buildings of the service station, recycled from a different function.

The control tower is the most conspicuous remain, together with some pieces of the Berlin wall, clearly not from here, but located here for remembrance. Visiting the small museum – unfortunately with descriptions in German only – may take about 45 minutes. Website here.


Getting there

The memorial can be found on the local road connecting Gompertshausen (Thuringia) to Alsleben (Bavaria). Parking opportunities on site.


The memorial Grenzdenkmal Gompertshausen is centered on an early-generation watchtower. The place was unlikely associated to a crossing point, and it is possible that the local road, now passing right besides the tower, was cut in the days of the GDR.

The memorial cannot be toured unless by appointment. However, its location in the middle of a peaceful agricultural area is rather suggestive of the grim atmosphere of the bygone oppressive communist regime.

Close to the tower, a portion of the fence has been preserved, similarly to the access to an interesting underground facility – with a function which is today hard to guess from outside. A ventilation pipe is clearly visible in the premises, likely connected with this facility.

Not far from the tower, in the village of Gompertshausen, an attentive eye can spot a (likely) former garrison of the border guards, now in a state of disrepair.


Getting there

Unlike some more prominent museums on this page, the ‘Freilandmuseum Behrungen’ open-air exhibition is not associated to a border crossing point. Actually, the public road giving access to the memorial runs parallel to it. Access is very easy driving from the village of Behrungen (Thuringia, former GDR) along Röhmilder Strasse, leaving the town heading east. The memorial can be found to the south of the road roughly 1 mile from the town. A first part of the memorial is a small preserved portion of the fence line, very close to the road. From there you can spot the watchtower. You can approach the latter by car, driving on the original service road, and park right ahead of it.

Visiting the watchtower is rarely possible. However, you can move around the area and cross the border with a short walk on a trail, to get good pictures anyway. The surroundings of the preserved part are in the middle of a natural preserve, making the visit a possible stop when wandering in this very nice area.


The installation in Behrungen is basically a preserved section of the original border in the deep countryside, not corresponding to any crossing point. The focal point in the exhibition is an early-type watchtower, which has been restored and hosts a small exhibition, seldom open unless by appointment. The detection sensors on top of the tower are still there, as well as the communication antennas.

A service road with the original prefabricated concrete slabs can departs from the tower.

As usual in the structure of the border barrier of the GDR, the tower was in the middle of an interdicted strip, between two fence lines – one towards the GDR (north of the tower in this case) and one towards the FRG (to the south of the tower).

Two little portions of the inner fence line have been preserved, and can be seen quite apart from one another along the public road coming from Behrungen.

Besides one of the two fence traits, a smaller concrete shooting turret can be seen. Turrets like this, often covered in camo coat, can be found in a high number all along the line of the former inner border.

A big portion of the outer fence, south of the tower, is also visible in this exhibition. Running along it, a vehicle stopping moat made of concrete slabs is clearly visible still today.

In the vicinity of this fence, a mine was found by chance as recently as 2001. A commemoration stone was put in place, to stress how the monstrosity of the wall left a long-lasting and unwanted inheritance for the local population and visitors as well.

Unlike in the Cold War years, you can now cross this border, heading south into Bavaria. The original striped concrete post and white signals, showing the actual line of the border – south from the monstrous fence – are still there.

Further south, you can find the original ‘Stop’ line put in place by FRG authorities, with prohibition signs and an explanation of the rules in the border area dating from 1989. This rules were very tricky, especially for the fact that getting past the line marked by the posts, without even reaching to the fence, was already a border violation. This was something that could happen for Westerners just by mistake, but would trigger capture, interrogation and possibly fines by the GDR border control police.

The silent and peaceful area of the Behrungen site makes for a thought-provoking stop along the former inner border.


Getting there

The open-air exhibition of the ‘Grenzmuseum Eussenhausen’ can be reached along the St2445, roughly 1.5 miles north of the small village of Eussenhausen in Bavaria. Crossing the border with Thuringia, the road changes its name into L3019, and the closest village is Henneberg, about 1 mile north of the inner border. The exhibition is arranged on a former apron of the border control area, slightly uphill, but fairly accessible for the general public, and with a large parking ahead. The exhibition is open-air and arguably accessible 24/7 for free.

As of 2021, the large border control area on the GDR side of the border line (i.e. in Thuringia) is basically abandoned and severely damaged. For relic- and ghost-place-hunters or like-minded people, this can also be toured, and makes for an evocative sight. A dedicated parking is not available in the vicinity of this former facility, hence parking close to the official memorial is recommended.


This border museum is located on a former border crossing point between and the GDR and FRG, likely opened similar to other checkpoints in the 1970s, to reduce the traffic jams created by border controls on major transit arteries. Today, the site is composed of three parts, two of which are officially for visitors, and the latter an abandoned site.

The first and most significant part of the site is made of the (arguably) original road giving access to the large control area. The original external fence of the GDR border area can still be seen along the sides of the road, as well as the original external gate.

It is likely that this area was originally intended for a kind of pre-check of vehicles, heading inside the GDR from the West. Today, the area has been converted into an exhibition of a wide array of stopping mechanisms and control booths once in place in the area of the border checkpoint.

Among the most striking items are one of the closing bars moving on a rail, and pushed by a still visible hydraulic actuator. The mass of the bar allowed to stop heavy traffic, and hydraulic power allowed for a very quick closure. This item was likely transferred here from the eastern side of the checkpoint, since similar stopping gear was intended to prevent GDR citizens fleeing the country.

Concrete shooting points, rather common along the border line also far from the authorized border-crossings, were often camo-painted. Some have been transferred here. A striped border post is also part of the exhibition.

A second part of the exhibition is a memorial built after the reopening of the border, to celebrate freedom. The meaning of the installations here is not always easy to capture. However, original parts of the fence wall rise the historical value of this area.

Finally, the area once used for controls can be found towards the eastern part of the checkpoint. This area is not open for visitors, but is basically open and unguarded, so a check is advised for more curious visitors. Here a tower was put in place to oversee the operations in the control lanes. This can still be seen, albeit severely damaged.

Close by, the large area once occupied by the control lanes can be seen. Original lamps are still there, but the sun shelters and control booths are totally gone. Looking at a historical picture available on the official part of the exhibition (see above), it is also clear that the bulky building on the side of the apron was not there at the time of border operations. Maybe this was built as a hotel – and construction halted before completion – after the reopening of the border.

A surviving building in this area is that of a small mechanics shop, possibly for the vehicles of GDR border protection corps.

The Eußenhausen site is interesting for the easy-to-visit exhibition, but also a glance to the currently (2021) abandoned former control area may be really evoking. This short 360° video captures the unreal silence of this once busy border point.

Schwarzes Moor

Getting there

This site is immersed in a beautiful national preserve area, a popular destination for lovers of hiking or cycling activities. This site used to be a sharp corner of the inner border line. Today, the three German regions of Thuringia, Bavaria and Hessen (the former previously part of the GDR) still meet close to this point. The watchtower and the remains on site can be reached with a short walk on an unpaved, perfectly leveled and easy road from a large parking area, put in place for the visitors of the national preserve.

The parking can be reached by car approaching from Bavaria, where road St2287 meets St2288. The closest sizable village is Frankenheim, geographically just one mile north, but connected to the parking via a somewhat longer curvy road. The tower cannot be visited inside, and this small complex makes for a 24/7 open-air memorial, which can be neared without restrictions.


Smaller than other sites, but nonetheless interesting also for the vantage position on top of a hill and immersed in a beautiful natural preserve area, the Schwarzes Moor site is visible from a distance thanks to a late-generation, slender, square-based watchtower. This has been restored thanks to the intervention of local businesses, and the sight it provides from a distance is quite evocative of how the inner border should have looked like in this hilly countryside back in the years of operation.

A small remnant of the original fence put on the western side is also in place, right ahead of the watchtower. One of the original gates in the fence was apparently located here, arguably used only for maintenance operations. No crossing was possible in this area.

A striped original ‘DDR’ concrete border post, as well as a few white poles with a similar demarcation function, can still be seen, making for an ideal photo subject – provided you dare to walk on a pasture area generously pointed by the results of cow digestion…

Possibly less obvious to a less trained eye, a portion of the vehicle-stopping moat, once aligned with the largely disappeared fence, can still be seen, partially invaded vegetation.

Thanks to its elevated position, the former wide area of the border, once spoiled of any vegetation and today invaded by younger trees, is still visible from the hilltop where the tower is. The original service road running along the fence line, made of typically-GDR prefabricated concrete slabs, helps to capture the shape of the sinuous line of the border.

A historically relevant stop for those touring this region for the beautiful panoramas and for sporting activities, you will hardly miss this hiking trail head when roaming in the natural preserve.

Point Alpha

Getting there

The place is located between the small towns of Rasdorf, in Hessen, and Geisa, in Thuringia. It is very famous (website here), and official ad signs can be spotted also along highway N.7, going from Munich to Hamburg, near the town of Hunfeld, Hessen. From there it is a 12 miles drive – in a very relaxing, typically German countryside – to the site. Approaching from Rasdorf on the L3170, it is possible to access the site from two sides. If you go straight uphill to the top, you reach the small museum to one end of the site. If you take to the left just .2 miles before reaching the top of the hill, you access the site from the opposite end, where the most peculiar part of the complex – a US Army outpost – is located.

Both items are interesting, and they’re also linked by a walking trail – .25 miles -, running along the former border line. Free parking is available on both ends, so it’s just a matter of what you want to visit first.


This place is extraordinary in the panorama of the relics of the Inner Border, due to the fact that this portion of the border line was guarded directly by US troops instead of FRG border patrols on the western side. This is witnessed by a small outpost of the US Army which has been since then deactivated and opened to the public. The area – the so-called ‘Fulda Gap’ – was considered by western observers as one of the most likely targets for a possible attack/invasion from the East. This was also due to the fact the US quarters in Fulda were relatively close and there is no natural barrier between this section of the border and that city.

The US outpost is a very interesting prototype of similar installations. Much of the original barracks are still standing. The side of the outpost facing the border is also the place for an observation tower with much communication equipment and an observation deck.

The former canteen now hosts a bar. To the back of it you can still see a basketball court. Other buildings include former office/barracks, with a nice exhibition about the history and function of the site, and vehicle depots. There are also some vehicles, including a tank and two helicopters, and tents.

Very close to the tower the American Flag is still waving. The pole is not planted in the ground, in observance to the fact that this is not American land.

Curiously, walking towards the fence from within the fort you can see signs for military personnel, warning about the limits of jurisdiction outside a delimited area, in order to avoid raising diplomatic issues by introducing armored vehicles or similar items in an area too close to the border.

After visiting the outpost you can walk towards the small museum, telling more about the history of the Inner Border. The short trail runs along reconstructed portions of the original fence and border interdiction system. Most notably, on the GDR side there is a watchtower of the most modern type, tall and with a square section. Facing the US tower, there is a shooting bunker from the early age soon after WWII, put in place probably before the total closure of the border. Some signs provide scant descriptions, but the function of all devices there is pretty obvious.

Close to the US outpost on the eastern side of the border it is possible to appreciate very clearly the construction of the vehicle stopping groove.

The portion of the border next to the small museum is preserved as it was before the final blockade – in a first stage, only concrete posts were in place, whereas barbed wire and stop signs were included in the picture. This was before the subsequent modernization, taking place in more stages from the definitive closure with fences, barriers and watchtowers in the early Sixties, until the reopening of the border.

Similarly to Mödlareuth, this place is easily accessible, fully prepared for the general public and interesting also for people with a specific interest in the matter. The US outpost is a peculiar sight of this border site. In terms of resemblance to the original condition of the border fortification system, in my opinion it is less evocative than other places, but it still provides a good idea of how it may have looked like. The area is really nice to walk, so there is something for everybody here. Visiting may take from half an hour if you skip the museum, to more than an hour, depending on your interest.

Point Alpha is the best preserved among other installations of the kind, which include Point India and Point Romeo further north along the border with Hessen (west) and Thüringen (east).

Point India & Point Romeo

Getting there

The US outposts of Point India and Point Romeo are not located on the same spot, but they are described together here for convenience, especially since there is nothing left of Point Romeo today, except for an info table and a commemorative stone.

Point Romeo can be reached in two minutes out of the Wildeck-Obersuhl exit on the highway N.4. Taking north from the exit along L3248, you will reach the small village of Richelsdorf. Turn left on Shildhofstrasse upon entering the village. Keep on this road for about 1.5 mi, until you see the massive foundation of highway N.4 ahead of you. You should find a small sign showing the direction of the memorial and telling you to go north-west on a narrow road. Turning right according to the sign on this unnamed road, you should find the memorial .3 miles from the crossing. The memorial is open-air and unfenced, with picnic tables on the spot. Reaching is possible at all times.

Point India can be found starting from regional road 7. Reaching the village of Lüderbach and driving along Altfelderstrasse pointing west, you should leave the village behind you as the road climbs steep uphill. Upon leaving the village, you will take a sharp bend to the right, followed by a gentler one to the left, all in less than 300 ft. Upon entering the latter bend, you will see a wide road taking sharply to the left. As you take that road, gently ascending and going to the east, you many notice the path is unusually wide for the non-existent traffic, and for the rural location where the road is. It is such due to its original function, as it led directly into the US outpost. Keep on this road going east for about 0.5 miles, gently climbing on top of the hill, and you will find a dead end with a small parking, and a clear sign marking the original place of Point India. The memorial is open 24/7, including the tower.

The location of the Point India post has been included in a nice nature-culture walking trail in the area. The corresponding map can be found at Point India, as well as in other notable places along the trail. One of them is the East German watchtower in Ifta.

To get there, you might drive to the village of Ifta, which used to be on the GDR side, and take Willershäuserstrasse to the south. Upon leaving the village behind, as the road enters a small forest, you should spot the watchtower on top of a hill, 0.2 miles to the right of the road up. Take the road climbing to the tower, which is paved in the original concrete slabs typical to all service roads on the eastern side of the former border, and drive to the place, where a small flat area suitable for parking and basic picnic facilities can be found. The tower is generally closed.


The function of the two outposts of Point India and Point Romeo was similar as that of Point Alpha (see above). The region of the ‘Fulda Gap’, along the border between Hessen in the FRG and Thüringen in the GDR, was considered of high strategic significance, and actively guarded by US forces since immediately after WWII, when the line of the German Inner Border was crystallized. Thanks to the favorable morphology of the terrain in this area, an invasion from the Eastern Bloc was considered especially likely from this sector of the border. As a matter of fact, this idea elaborated on the western side of the Iron Curtain turned out to be a correct prevision of the actual plans for an attack to the West, prepared in the years of the Cold War by the USSR, taking advantage of its own presence in the Countries on the border with Western Europe (see here and here).

Today, the outpost of Point India has been almost completely demolished, and the area returned to nature. From the parking, you can spot the three traces that remain from the observation post (OP), namely the observation tower, the entry sign, and a service building which used to shelter some electrical gear, and currently standing right ahead of the parking area.

The sign bears an emblem with a motto from the 11th US Armored Cavalry regiment, which took responsibility for manning the observation point. The sign is a copy, but it resembles the original one, and it is close to its original location. The parking is actually very close to the former gate of the camp.

From the parking, a short walk leads to the original watchtower. This concrete watchtower is the third installed in the observation point premises, its predecessors being a wooden one from the late 1960s, flanked by a metal one in the late 1970s. Both were replaced by the concrete tower you see today, a perfect twin to that found in Point Alpha (see above).

The tower can be climbed today, and it is possible to enter the former observation room, as well as the open observation deck.

Inside the observation room, now spoiled of all hardware and turned into a permanently open memorial room, a very informative table with many interesting pictures from the site in the Cold War era can be found.

From the open deck on top, pointers allow to find a few notable locations in the panorama, including the original line of the border, today rather hard to spot, due to the now grown vegetation, as well as the tall antennas of the FRG-US Hoher Meissner electronic espionage post (in the distance). The village of Ifta, the first met on the East German side, can be clearly spotted.

With an equipment mainly composed of a ground radar and communication gear, the roughly 200-men staff of the observation point was that of keeping trace of any change along the border in their area of pertinence, including military movements on the communist side of the Iron Curtain.

A GDR watchtower in the vicinity of the US observation post can still be found along the nature trail in the area, of which Point Alpha is a highlight. The tower, similar to that to be found in Hotensleben (see later), and once in many places along the inner border, can be reached also by car, in a few minutes from Point India.

The observation point ‘Point India’ is settled in a very nice region, and is an interesting complement to the major site of Point Alpha. Located far from the crowds and with an interesting selection of pictures proposed in the exhibition, it is surely worth a detour for committed Cold War specialists or tourists in the area. A visit may take about 30 minutes.

Geographically placed between Point India (to the north) and Point Alpha (to the south), the Observation Point Romeo shared with them the history, purpose and arrangement, including a concrete observation tower built in the 1980s. However, the site has been completely demolished in 1994, a few years after German reunification.

Today, on the site of Point Romeo is a commemorative stone, and a table (in German) retracing the history of the site with interesting photographs, copies of newspaper headlines from the time, and text.

The Point Romeo site is a quick detour from the highway, keeping memory of the service of US military staff in the area for the long decades of the Cold War. Checking out the site may take 10 minutes.


Getting there

The border museum in Schifflersgrund (‘Grenzmuseum Schifflersgrund’ in German) is a major installation along the former Inner Border, and is clearly marked with signs when approaching the town of Bad Sooden-Allendorf (FRG), in Hessen, or Sickenberg, in Thüringen (GDR). It is located on a local road connecting the two towns. The memorial site is modern and hosts a rich collection. It is also an active cultural center on the topic, with a central building for temporary exhibitions, and a separated building with a big conference room.

A large parking is available on site. For visiting the museum collection a ticket is required. Furthermore, a nature trail along the former border has been prepared and is clearly marked with tables on way-points. No ticket is required for it. Website with full information in multiple languages here.


The site of Schifflersgrund is centered around a preserved portion of the Inner Border. Due to the local morphology, as the border ran along the rim of a small canyon, the inaccessible area between the two fences marking the border on the GDR side was unusually large. A section of the ‘external’ fence, immediately past the border line when coming from the FRG, is still preserved, together with an original watchtower. The latter used to sit in the restricted area between the inner and external fences, which was accessible only to the border guards of the GDR. Close to the watchtower, a small section of the ‘inner’ fence, the first met coming from the GDR towards the border line, is also preserved.

Between the two fences, the respect area encompasses the local shallow canyon with the original East German service road, now employed as a cultural and nature trail, running along the ‘external’ fence for some thousands feet.

Access to the area around the tower is possible with a ticket. The main building with the ticket office hosts interesting temporary exhibitions and a book, souvenir & memorabilia shop.

Walking towards the watchtower is across a yard, where an interesting series of vehicles and helicopters once employed along the border by the opponents on the two sides is on display. Vehicles include a Soviet truck with a radar antenna typically deployed for airspace monitoring.

Helicopters of Soviet construction on the GDR side include a Mil-24 attack helicopter, and Mil-2 and Mil-8 utility/transport models. On the FRG side are two US-designed Bell helicopters managed by the Border Guards of the FRG.