He happens to live in Switzerland. She happens to live in Germany. Before the coronavirus, that didn’t mean much for Lukas and Leonie, a cross-border couple. Then suddenly, a fence was built between them and they were ordered to stay apart.
On Friday, workers began taking down the fence between the German city of Constance and the Swiss city of Kreuzlingen, which had become a symbol of the division created by the global pandemic.
For weeks, couples have been gathering here to gaze at each other across no man’s land. But after Switzerland and Germany agreed to open up, the fence came down by midnight.
Lukas, 34, and Leonie, 31, had expected the border to be opened earlier on Friday, and Lukas said Leonie was getting impatient.
She’s “a bit annoyed, actually very annoyed. Now she’s laughing across the border at me — her brothers just given her a beer, I think that helped”, he said.
In ordinary times, on a continent where borders have gradually faded into insignificance, people can walk, cycle or even swim between the neighbouring lakeside towns.
In mid-March, however, German police erected the fence on their side of the border — roughly along the line where a barbed-wire barrier had separated the countries during World War Two.
When people started violate social distancing rules by hugging or kissing through the chain links, authorities erected a second fence, to keep them apart.
Married couples who could prove they had a spouse on the other side were permitted to cross. Lukas, who would not give his surname, confessed that, although he and Leonie are not married, he had occasionally been able to talk his way past the guards.
Still it had been a strain: “Just the constant not knowing from one day to another when youre next going to be able to see each other.”
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