I’ve always had a thing about collecting and counting geography. You’ve seen examples of that before on the Twelve Mile Circle, most notably my ongoing tally of U.S. counties that I have visited. Sometimes these "visits" are exceedingly brief, even measured to mere seconds, yet still count according to the arbitrary rules as I’ve applied them to myself.
I haven’t focused much attention on the blog on my international travel but the same rules apply. I may be arbitrary but I’m consistent. I would have to clip only the tiniest corner of a nation and I would consider the goal completed. I’d color-in that nation on my world map. Sure, I would prefer to experience the sights, meet the people and explore the nation in depth. That wouldn’t change this tally, though.
That describes my first trip to Germany. I’d been visiting with a friend in Brussels and we took a day trip down to Luxembourg. I mentioned that I’d never been to Germany, and it was oh-so-close, and couldn’t we just hop across the border please so I could say I’d been there?
The Schengen Agreement had been inked at the time but it hadn’t yet been implemented so there was still a border control station heading into Germany. The guard asked us about the nature of our trip and how long we planned to stay. My friend explained that we’d be in Germany for about ten minutes until we crossed into France, and only doing it because the strange American in the passenger seat wanted to say he’d been to Germany.
The guard chuckled, smiled and waved us through. It was probably the most entertaining thing he’d seen all day. In my defense, I will say that I’ve been back to Germany subsequently and i’ve seen much more than my original 9 km strip [map].
As I think back on it, I wonder if there might be other 3-nation excursions that are even more ridiculous in their minuscule length and duration. There are something on the order of 150+ international tripoints, so plenty of opportunities exist. I imagine the better instances would occur in areas with well-developed road systems matched with relaxed border controls. That sounds like the Schengen Area. Indeed I found a number of great examples in western Europe.
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In fact, I could replicate that same Luxembourg to Germany to France confluence in a considerably shorter distance: a single kilometre. One would depart Luxembourg from the town of Schengen. Indeed that’s the same Schengen where the agreement was signed. I find that incredibly appropriate.
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One could clip Poland departing from the Czech Republic and ending in Germany. It’s not quite as short as the previous example but it’s still rather diminutive at only 1.5 km.
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Head on over to the BEDENL tripoint where the Neutral Moresnet condominium used to exist. This time the Netherlands gets clipped on a journey from Germany to Belgium, a distance of about 2.1 km. Right at the tripoint, however, there seems to be an old gravel path on the German side. With a motorcycle or a 4-Wheel Drive I bet one could do the same thing but remain in the Netherlands for only a couple hundred metres!
Other situations I found in Europe included:
- A 3.1 km section of Belgium between Germany and Luxembourg
- A 3.7 km section of Lichtenstein between Switzerland and Austria (although I believe a border control still exists for crossing into Austria)
There are many examples worldwide. I saw a good one in South America and a couple of others in Africa. I didn’t want to take away any of the fun from the readership, though. I know many of you will enjoy taking the challenge and seeing if you can add equally impressive examples to the list. It has to be a real road though, not some hiking trail or goat path, and displayable on a Google Maps link like the one’s I’ve provided. I might want to convince a friend to drive me across it someday and I prefer pavement.