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Monday, 09 November 2009


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As seductive as photo gear is, an idea and photo treatment like "Borders" reminds us of the great power of the photograph.

I've visited the Korean DMZ from both sides, and I hope one day tourists will be going there to buy paraphernalia and rent North Korean cars.

"Cal Amari"? Snort!

It's nice of them to leave a distinctive building as a landmark :-).

Thanks for the link! I love before/after historical images (probably why I did my Master's project using that technique) so these are right up there in my area. In some ways, it's hard to believe it's only been 20 years since the reunification...

Sgt Pepper keeps on running through my mind. 'It was 20 years ago today..."
I have a piece of the wall in my office. I had hoped that this transition was the beginning of the end. It appears to have been only a transition to a different chasm.

Today, 11/9/2009, is a very important day in the history of all borders. Today is the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. When you look at these pictures, you reminded how much has really changed in the world and it changed for the better, a lot better.

Interesting stuff... Thanks for posting this, Mike!

I visited Berlin in April 2000, after the wall had come down, but before reunification. Surreal confusion reigned. Portions of the wall had been torn down, and anyone could walk from West to East Berlin and back. But Checkpoint Charlie was still in operation with East German border guards carefully scrutinizing the papers of Westerners coming through. Soviet solders were selling everything from boots to medals. Driving from West to East on a Saturday morning, we encountered a massive traffic jam in both directions. Eastbound lanes were packed with large, late model BMWs, Mercedes, and Audis. Coming the other way, an endless line of battered, smoke-belching Trabants.

@mcananeya: Since most of the 'new' eu is now in the Shengen zone, there are no border checks at all between these countries.

If you want some really nasty borders however, have a look at Central Asia, especially areas like the Fergana Valley or border between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, where Stalin has deliberately made them as conflict-generating as possible. He succeeded, the train line instead of going along the border crosses it a number of times requiring a multiple entry visa to all of the countries on the way (almost impossible to get for tourists, needless to say).

Without a doubt the most complicated border in the world is the one between Belgium and The Netherlands. I believe as a result of medieval land trades between royal houses, there is a cluster of Belgian enclaves within The Netherlands, and some of these have Dutch enclaves within -- nested enclaves! This all takes place in a village, whose Dutch parts are called Baarle-Nassau, and whose Belgian parts are called Baarle-Hertog. The smallest enclave is around 2600 square metres.

Border running through a beer supermarket:

The two police forces cohabit:

Where I live in Holland, if I need to fill up, I drive 5 minutes down the (Dutch) road before turning left into a German gas station. Gas is cheaper in Germany.


the map is a bit misleading, the Spree is a river.

Greetings from Berlin,


I loved looking through the photo essay. I visited Czechoslovakia in 1988 and the border was quite something, though the Klashnikov toting guards were rather friendly. I recently visited Russia near the Finnish border and required a special pass to get within about 50 km of it. At one point as we drove through the forest we came across a massive fence and a dressed sand strip. I said the border is 15 km away, the driver said this is the pre-border. I will shortly visit the East of Germany and I'll keep an eye out for the old border

@cmpatti: You probably mean April 1990 ? April 2000 is definitely years after reunification, which was in October 1990.

@ Mike: "Spree" is the name of the river flowing right through the centre of Berlin. It has been a part of the borderline within Berlin, before 1990.

@ cmpatti: Life is really short, isn't it? You like to think it's 10 years back, but it's 20 years already. German reunification was on October 3rd, 1990. I suppose you have been in Berlin in April, 1990.

@ self: You're a know-all old fart! Get a life!

Everyone seems to have forgotten that this 20th anniversary of the fall of the wall is also the 70th anniversary of Kristallnacht and the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street.


Borderless freedom backstage – Berlin today ; )



I think you are referring to the narrow piece of Czech protruding into Germany at the left side of the map, but Neusalza-Spremberg is actually a town a couple km to the east of it. On Google maps, the only place name within this spit of Czech that points northward like an extended middle finger is a crossroads called "Fukov".

I lived in Berlin Mitte within walking distance of the wall. As a small boy I knew every cobble stone and every shop in my street, which ran through the wall back then. I revisited the same street in '92. Walking along it I had the strange sensation that i knew my way until an invisible line where the wall used to be. This line was not obvious on the street or on the buildings, but on the other side I did not know any of it. My side I had been renovated but still fitted in with my childhood experience, the other side was totally foreign within a few steps of it

Talking about borders, things have changed here in North America, as a kid I would walk across the border from Canada to the US so we could buy a Hershey chocolate bars that were not available in Canada. Try that now and you will have homeland security on you very quickly. Europe is celebrating borderlessness and here in the New World... we are not!

Hey! I also briefly lived in Zittau. What a small world this is. I took with me my first digital camera, a Casio QV-10, and with that I took a picture of the point where all three countries meet:

I wanted to go stand at the point exactly, but as you can see, it's in the middle of the Neiße, and it was my last day and I wasn't properly prepared to get all wet.

(That's not scaled down, by the way — that's the full resolution you got from the camera's .CAM raw files. Hmmm; I think I still have those archived somewhere... I wonder if ACR supports them....)


If you think that's odd, try this on for size: when the millenium celebrations began on the evening of December 31, 1999, all of the major television networks were showing the celebrations from around the world as the New Millenium gradually rolled west and approached the US.

I was in New York City watching one of CBS/ABC/NBC (for those who aren't familiar with these, these are the 3 biggest and most well-known television networks in the US, along with Fox, I suppose). The progression of cities went something like this: celebrations in the Red Square in Moscow, celebrations in the Zittau village center, celebrations at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Yup, you read that correctly. They had a correspondent in Zittau and must have reported on the fireworks in Zittau for about 15 minutes. I don't think I have ever seen anything more random on television. And that is saying something.


Checkpoint Charlie was a border crossing only going from East to West. From West to East, there definitely was no border, as the four parties (USSR, France, UK, US) agreed that the city would not be divided. As far as the West was concerned, that agreement was permanently in effect. That's why the famous sign warns that "you are leaving the American zone". It was only a zone, not a different nation.


Keep in mind that that part of Poland was likely part of Germany. As part of the end of WWII, Stalin got Poland and took a big chunk of Eastern Poland for himself. He moved those Poles to what was the Eastern section of Germany. When you visit Western Poland, the old buildings are and look German. Once German towns were renamed into Polish. Berlin is practically on the Polish border now too.
But, everybody is OK. Germany does not want that back. Poland is roughly the area it was long ago. Maybe the Poles are not so happy with Stalin though... Everybody is in a United European and that is better than war and devastation for decades any day!

Mike, if you're interested in border stamps, you should just go to Berlin. When I was there this June, there were these two guys in Potsdamer Platz selling East German border stamps. 20 Euros for a bit of ink in your passport...

The United Arab Emirates and Oman have some interesting border situations. Enclaves within enclaves. A similar thing occurs with the various emirates. Nahwa is an interesting example. Earlier this century a British officer went around asking which sheikh each village and tribe gave allegiance to and that's how the borders got set.

The Lost Border by Brian Rose remains one of my favorite photography books of all time...


cmpatti- think ya got yer dates confused. I was in Berlin the summer of '90, Checkpoint Charlie was very much in disuse and disrepair.

Coming from an country consisting of two main islands at the bottom of the world, 3 hours flight from the next nearest country, arbitrary lines across bits of dirt hold some fascination.

I remember on several travels while living in Europe, like standing just inside the Swiss border, or even standing in San Marino, the weird, detached feeling when considering that just "over there" there was once a world war, and "just here" was safe. Standing in what was once West Berlin, and looking over the river and at the apartments in what was the East gave me goosebumps.

Since 2007 there has been Schengen Agreement in all of this countries (and almost all the other states of the EU) and nobody has to show anything to anybody no more.

Hradek nad Nisou is where I grew up (I live in Sydney now)and often wisit my family there. The border procedure was axactly like discribe above. Since Poland and Czech Republic entered into Shangan group you just drive through without any problems and stopping. Our house is less than 1 Km from the spot where 3 countries meet. When there I often would bike ride from Czech Republic to Germany to Poland and back to Czech republic before breakfast. Nice part of the world. Regards, Vladimir.

Very interesting photo essay, thanks for the link, Mike.

That and this must be my faves of the before/after. A very eerie and strange feeling, those.

John Long,
You are right about the Canada/U.S. border being less open. I am fascinated by the 49th parallel, as it is totally removed from any geographical feature (river, mountain range) that often marks other borders. I shot this photo near Emerson, Manitoba, in 2006, standing right on the border. I fear I'd have trouble setting up the same shot today, as the U.S. border patrol is either planning to fly or is already flying drone aircraft over this stretch of the country to look for suspicious activity. And you know how suspicious we photographers are.

Funny thing is that most people think that borders are actually real things, like any other object or natural accident.

But no need to travel so far from home: I understand that the Mexico-US border is as silly as any other, a fact highlighted with Bush's decision to build the (in)famous wall: once they started working at it they realised it would split sevral towns in half, some even in thirds.

Great fun is the European border with Asia. It used to be different before Catherine the Great 's geographers got at it, but it nonetheless contains some sort of internal logic.

Down the watershed of the Urals (not much of a watershed, as the Urals/Cairngorms/Appalachians are an old, old mountain range (so old they used to be joined together.) I've visited that border just outside Ekaterinburg: well-marked in a good Soviet granite/marble sort of a way.

The border then heads for the Caspian Sea, down a river through Atyrau where there's a bridge that you can drive over (I have, a few times) which puts a reasonably large but empty part of Kazakhstan (a Central Asian state) in Europe. And people grumble about Turkey being in Europe ?! Your old map may show Atyrau as Guryev.

From there it's through the Caspian Sea down to the Caucasus watershed, which keeps Chechnya and a number of original Buddhists in Europe, to the Black Sea and the mundane and well-known (but still fantastic) Bosphorus through Istanbul, another continent-straddling city.

If you can't find food for imagination and photography in this lot, you're wasting your time on this website !


There's another "three way" set of international borders just next to the northen Argentinian town, Iguazu......just down stream from the Iguazu Falls. I was there in September and it forms the border between Argentina Paraguay and Brasil a lovely sub tropical setting at a T junction between these beautiful rivers......no obvious signs of military guards, helicopter gun ships nor communist dictators just beautiful coloured birds and sensational water falls

Amen! I think the best thing about the European Union is the lack of borders. I hope in the future the rest of the world's borders will disappear. http://simongriffee.com/imaginarylines/

I've been reading this blog for a long time now -- what a surprise to read about my part of the world. My hometown is Herrnhut, just 10 miles north of Zittau.

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