Ten of the strangest international borders from around the world
International borders have provoked more wars than anything else in history. The decision that one nation should claim one piece of land over another almost certainly leads to strife. But borders are still necessary because the world is not one happy village as we would all like it to be. Not all borders, however, are defined by lines with soldiers lined up on both sides to keep the peace. Some borders are guarded by mines and bombs, and others are simply lines running through a restaurant or library that can be crossed without anyone noticing. Here’s an overview of the most interesting borders from around the world.
Hotel Arbez Switzerland/France
Have you ever dreamed of sleeping with your head in Switzerland and your feet in France or vice versa? This is the best chance for you. The hotel was built in the 1800s before the border between Switzerland and France was drawn. When the border came down, it turned out that the hotel was already operating in Pontus Field, so it continued to operate for two countries. During World War II, the hotel could host both Nazi soldiers and the French resistance, as long as the former kept to the French side and the resistance stayed on the Swiss side of the hotel. However, there is no more tension on the border, so you can book a room that occupies both countries and sleep in two states at once.
Diomide Islands Russia / USA.
You won’t get any sleep here, but crossing this particular international border will either give you 21 extra hours in your day or take them away. The islands are the small island of Diomede, which is part of Alaska, and the larger Diomede, controlled by Russia. The two islands are only 2.4 miles apart, but each is on different sides of the International Date Line, which means that the 115 people living on little Diomede can see the 21st hour of tomorrow through their homes. Little Diomede is also called Yesterday’s Island and Big Diomede is called Tomorrow’s Island because of the 21-hour time difference between them.
So, Baarle is a place where you can sleep in the same bed with someone while in different countries. It is a municipality in the Netherlands, which is mostly Belgian territory. However, inside the enclave there are areas of land belonging to the Netherlands. It all started in the 1800s, when different dukes with different backgrounds owned land in the area. The result was a confusion in which you could just change your front door if you wanted to start waking up in a different country. The allocation took centuries, and the final agreement was made in 1995.
Bir Tawil Triangle and Halayb Egypt/Sudan
Each country seems to value the opportunity to claim an additional piece of land, but in this case, both countries do not want the Bir Tawil desert. It remains the only unclaimed piece of land in the world, and the Internet monarchs have not been slow to claim control over it. The problem goes back to the British colonial era, which declared the border between Sudan and Egypt first as a straight line and then had to make adjustments to accommodate the interests of local tribes that were either closely tied to Sudan or to Egypt.
In one treaty Bir Tawil was declared part of Sudan, and oil-rich Halaib part of Egypt. This was followed by a second agreement that transferred control of the Halaiyib triangle to Sudan. Thus, whichever country claims control of Bir Tawil automatically recognizes the loss of control of the oil-rich triangle, and no one wants that. At present, the Egyptian military still controls the triangle, and no one wants Bir Tawil.
Haskell Free Library USA/Canada
The U.S. and Canada do not have open borders like the EU, so you have to carry a passport when crossing to one side or the other, except for this library, located on the Quebec/Vermont border, which was built in 1904. The library was built specifically to serve as a cultural and educational center for communities on both sides of the border. The front door is in the United States, the books are in Canada, but the reading room is on the other side of the border. An opera house was built over the library in the 1920s, and the audience sits in the U.S. and the stage is in Canada. You don’t have to show a passport when you enter here.
The demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea
This is by far the most hostile border in the world, thanks to the tensions that exist on both sides. It is a strip of land 155 miles long and 2.5 miles wide that has been cleared of all civilian homes, and the only things left are tents that serve as meeting places for rare diplomatic contacts. If you try to cross from one side to the other, you are likely to be killed by a hail of bullets from either side or blown up by a mine on either side of the border.
There is no human contact here, not even in the two special villages of Taesung in the south and Kijong in the north, which have been allowed to remain inhabited but are still separated by 1,300 feet of demilitarized zone. People who have families on the other side of the border have no way of knowing how their loved ones are doing.
Northwest corner of the U.S./Canada.
This is a part of the United States that does not share a land border with Minnesota, but has a border with the Canadian state of Manitoba. To get there from Minnesota, you must either fly in by plane or use a boat. The other option is to cross the border into Canada and then return to the United States, in which case you can only contact U.S. customs authorities by telephone.
The population of the small town is just over 100 people, as most of it is covered by water and forests. It arose as a result of a cartographic error when a geographer misstated the source of the Mississippi by as much as 150 miles (241 km). The city has repeatedly tried to secede from the United States because it is isolated and lacks access to basic services on both sides of the border.
Peñón de Velez de La Gomera Spain/Morocco
This border is considered the shortest land border in the world. It is an island that was only a few meters off the coast of Morocco and joined the African continent in the 1930s when a violent storm blew a lot of sand onto it, forming a peninsula. It is just one of seven enclaves of Spanish territories in Morocco that have been a source of dispute since the 1600s. Only Spanish military personnel live on the small island, and the boundary on the sand is marked with rope.
Hans Island Canada/Dania
This island should probably be called Whiskey War Island. International law allows a state to claim any land within 12 miles of its shore, which places this island in both Greenland (governed by Denmark) and Canada. It is just a bare piece of rock without any resources to claim it, but it is still claimed by both countries. In 1984, for example, a Greenlandic minister visited the island and left a bottle of brandy and a Danish flag with a note saying “welcome to Denmark.” Canadians did the same a few years later, and thus the island belongs to whoever left the whiskey bottle and note last.
Siachen Glacier India/Pakistan
India and Pakistan happen to be the only countries in the world that will fight for anything and everything, judging by this piece of hostile ice. Here both countries are losing more soldiers to frostbite than to bullets. Trouble began after a redrawn map of Kashmir in the 1970s failed to account for the glacier because the UN didn’t think anyone would be interested in it.
In 1984, the Pakistanis tried to take full control of the glacier by establishing a military base there, but the Indians beat them to it. This led to decades of fighting, but most of the deaths were caused by severe weather conditions. The unstable peace agreement signed in 2003 is still in force, but both sides still maintain a military presence on both sides of the glacier. It is still considered the highest altitude conflict in the world.
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25 interesting state borders
State borders sometimes look unusual and strange, and sometimes they can give an insight into the politics of a country.
Norway and Sweden
Netherlands and Belgium
Photo: NASA This non-rigid border runs through the city of Baarle, dividing it into two parts.
Former West and East Berlin
Photo: Chris Hadfield / NASA When the city was divided, East Berlin’s streets were lit with sodium lamps, while the Allies used mostly halide lamps in West Berlin. The difference is evident to this day.
South and North Korea
It is pitch black at night in North Korea.
The United States (right) and Russia (left)
The islands of Diomide lie on opposite sides of the Russia-US border. In spite of the fact that the distance between them is only 3.8 km, the time on the Russian island is 21 hours ahead of the clock on the American island.
United States (left) and Mexico (right)
United States and Canada
Photo: NASA This long strip among the trees marks the U.S.-Canadian border, extending further through the small town of Derby Line and, dividing several buildings in it into two parts.
Spain and Portugal
Portugal is notorious for bad roads.
India and Pakistan
Photo: NASA The bright orange line is an illuminated border area between the two countries. The border is 1,248 kilometers long and can be seen from space.
Haiti and the Dominican Republic
Photo: NASA In Haiti there is no control over deforestation, so the left side in the photo looks barren. But in the Dominican Republic, rainforests are preserved.
Poland and Ukraine.
This is land art in the form of two “unity fish,” a project developed by artist Jaroslav Kozyara. The fish symbolize unity and trade between the two countries.
Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil
China and Macau.
In China one drives on the right side, while in Macau, one of the former British colonies, the traffic is right-handed. Both styles of traffic have been combined to cross this border.
Germany and the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic, Germany, and Poland meet at a river junction
Germany and Poland
The bridge over the Oder River leading from Poland to Germany was blown up by the Soviet army in 1945.
Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana
The stunning Mt. Roraima divides the border between the three countries.
Spain and British Gibraltar.
Netherlands and Belgium
The Belgian road system is one of the busiest in the world with traffic from other European countries.
Argentina (left) and Brazil (right)
The Iguazu Falls act as the border between these two countries.
Brazil (left) and Bolivia (right)
This shocking border shows how different each country’s level of rainforest protection is.
Germany and the Czech Republic
On this border, we see a different approach to the problem of bark beetle infestation. In Germany, beetle-infested trees were cut down and young seedlings planted, while on the Czech side, the trees were simply abandoned.
Austria and Slovenia
Spain and Morocco
Ceuta is a small Spanish city located on the northern coast of North Africa, surrounded by Morocco. A high wall encloses the city.