An opportunity to develop sustainable tourism is provided by the idea of The Iron Curtain Trail development. The trail is winding throughout European regions in which prosperity has been limited in previous decades by the existence of the Iron Curtain there. It is estimated that from the beginning of the route at the Barents Sea on the north to its end at the Black Sea on the south it is about 6 800 km long. The trail combines the preserved nature along the former restricted borders with the historical and cultural heritage of the European regions. Therefore it is aimed to make the route a sustainable tourism initiative in order to enhance the regional and local development at communities which have once been affected by the division of Europe into East and West.
A great supporter and actual creator of the ICT idea is Michael Cramer, an European parliamentarist, whose personal devotion has made it possible to gain European-wide understanding for the need of such a trail. In order to accelerate the process of route development the European Commision has supported the establishment and development of the ICT as a symbol and an instrument for unity and genuine European identity. An important step in this process is the initiation of the trail within the development of the Euro Velo cycling network to provide stronger branding and service quality. Thus the Iron Curtain Trail is also acknowledged as the number 13 Euro Velo route.
The Southern Part of the trail is going along the border regions between the Balkan countries: Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, FYROM, Greece and Turkey. In a signiffican part of the trail the actual Iron Curtain remains are found in high mountain regions. This makes it challenging for the local developers to combine the historical heritage with harsh terrain in a way to comply with the Euro Velo Network criteria. A strong advantage of the ICT is the opportunity to pass through regions with alsmost untouched natural resources where human access and interference has been restricted for decades. These territories are also subject of nature protection activities under the Green Belt initiative which seeks to preserve them as sanctuary habitats for many protected animal and plant species.
The local developers of the route would need more support in their efforts to enhance tourism provider capability, marketing and know-how for the physical creation of a viable cycling route. They would also face the challenge of combining the nature protection with economical development. Thus a more profound approach is sought to meet these major goals.