iron curtain trail

The mule stood in solitude, waiting. The others had gone before it, setting out on a journey of utmost importance, precious cargo upon their backs. Human cargo. Cargo of assorted size and shape. Cargo of assorted age. Much time had passed between the outset of this human journey from Syria and the point in time in which the cargos were introduced to the mules.

The mule stood in solitude because it was quite possibly the last. Mules had become increasingly difficult to obtain since word of their usage had become common knowledge. The mule’s value had increased, but not in monetary terms. The human cargo had given much, and had no such money left to give. It was bitter irony then that the town in which the mule stood was named Nickel.

It was early the next morning when the owner of the mule led a small group of humans to see it. Animated chatter filled the morning air as a boy in his teens attempted to hide his excitement. “It may not be pretty, but it is beautiful to me!”

The weather worn leather saddle creaked as the boy sat on the ancient bicycle. Faded red paint gave faint indication as to the brand or pedigree of the machine. No matter. This mule had a purpose to serve. It would carry it’s cargo to safety. To freedom. To a life filled with hope in Norway.

old red bike

Here on the borders of the Russian Arctic Circle, human cargo from Syria hope to use bicycles of any description to cross the Russian border into northern Norway. Crossing on foot is prohibited. Drivers that carry passengers without the required proper documentation are heavily fined. The teen is one of roughly 1,200 immigrants each year that must cross the border “with wheels”. This is the stipulation. The simple bicycle is perfect for the task.

At the Storskog border station the teen smiled. He had ridden the old, red bike from Nickel, across the border without incident. An attendant directed him to an outbuilding. He wheeled the bicycle towards it. Sliding open the heavy door, his eyes fell upon dozens and dozens of discarded bikes.

The mule stood among the crowd of others. It needed to wait no more.

bike pile