Friday, May 14, 2010

Border crossings from around the world

Spanish-Moroccan border in Ceuta
For many, crossing a border conjures images of border personnel with stern expressions and gun belts, paperwork, questions, long lines and maybe sweaty palms. But borders can also be green, beautiful, informative and friendly – unusual, to say the least. It is also truly amazing where one can find border crossings, so follow us on a tour of astounding checkpoints around the mountains, deserts, seas and cities of the world.

Tunnel border crossings

Surely in the informative category is the underground border crossing between Austria and Germany. Housed at the Salzbergwerk in Hallein, a salt mine operating since 1517, one can learn about the salt mine that gave Salzburg its name before crossing the border. Actually, people taking the tour have to cross the border into Germany and then back again into Austria because the salt mine area is so large. And that's not to be taken with a pinch of salt.

The underground border between Austria and Germany at the salt mine in Bad Dürrnberg:
Austro-German underground border

How could any tour of borders and borders crossings be complete without talking about illegal border crossing attempts?

One of the most incredible stories must be the one of a tunnel dug by West Berlin students in 1964 who wanted to get their girlfriends and other friends and acquaintances out of East Berlin, after their street, Bernauer Strasse, was divided right through the middle by the border demarcation, later to become the Berlin Wall. So they started digging a 145-m long tunnel from East to West. The image below shows the tunnel entrance (Eingang) under a defunct East German bakery at Bernauer Strasse, and the exit (Tunnelausgang) just a few blocks away in the basement of a private house in West Berlin. Postenstand marks the location of East German watchmen who had orders to shoot anyone trying to flee into West Berlin.

The location of the tunnel entrance and exit (left) and digging the tunnel (below):

The tunnel was ultimately found out and destroyed but only after helping dozens escape to their friends and relatives in the West. The area today is a historical site and many guided tours take place that explain the dramatic history of the street.

The Casa del Tunel Art Center in Tijuana, Mexico went even further: It used the site of an illegal tunnel that started from the basement of a private house – and is now a museum – and ended across the U.S.-Mexican border in a San Ysidro parking lot. The museum is also an international community centre that promotes and facilitates borderless art.

The Casa del Tunel Art Center in Tijuana, Mexico at sunset:
Casa del Tunel in Tijuana

The illegal drug tunnel between Tijuana and San Diego from which the museum originates:
Illegal drug tunnel Tijuana

Sea and lighthouse border crossings

Despite sharing a long water border through the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain and Morocco also share a coastal land border around the autonomous Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla in North Africa. The border consists of two parallel 3m-high (10 ft) fences topped with barbed wire, constructed by Spain to stop illegal immigration and smuggling. However, Morocco does not recognize Spanish sovereignty in North Africa.

Here's the lit-up Spanish-Moroccon border in Ceuta on the North African coast:
Spanish-Moroccan border in Ceuta

This scenic lighthouse is actually a border crossing between Denmark and Sweden:
Border lighthouse in Denmark

Desert border crossings

This easy-to-miss heap of stones is a border post at the border between Morocco-controlled Western Sahara and Mauritania:
Mauritania border

The gates to the Western Saharan city of Tan Tan in Morocco cannot be called an international border, but surely are a gateway to the desert:
Tan Tan camel gate

Intra-city borders

How about standing with one leg in the Netherlands and one in Belgium while sipping a cappuccino? No problem in this Belgian, er, Dutch border café in Baarle-Nassau.

Netherlands to the left, Belgium to the right at this Dutch cafe:
Border cafe in Baarle-Nassau, Netherlands

Mountain border crossings

This gate at the beginning of the 3900-m-high Torugart Pass, marking the border between Kyrgyzstan and China, surely falls into the beautiful category. Don't miss the line of waiting trucks on the left.

Doesn't the Torugart Pass gate look straight out of Lord of the Rings?
Torugart Pass

A U.S. soldier standing watch at Torkham Gate at the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan:
Torkham Gate in Afghanistan

Lesotho is not only completely landlocked by South Africa, like an island state settled within another country, it is also the world's highest state at 1,400 m (4,593 ft) to 1,800 m (5,900 ft) in elevation.

A Lesotho border hut at the border to South Africa:
Lesotho border hut

This scenic spot in the Swiss and Italian Alps is the Margherita hut on the summit of Signalkuppe, a 4,559m-tall (14,954 ft) mountain marking the border between Switzerland and Italy:
Italo-Swiss border in the Alps

No comments: