Borders are important because they let countries know who they're allowed to tax and/or shoot to death. That's why it's a little disconcerting to learn how many of these boundaries were drawn with less care than your average Bowsette hentai. And their management isn't much better. For example ...
There's nothing fun about illegally crossing the Mexican border into America. If you manage to avoid being shot, dying in the desert, or getting chucked in jail immediately upon arrival, you still may spend the rest of your life hunted by ICE agents. But for African people hoping to become European citizens, in some places the same process sounds weirdly ... almost kind of fun?
Now don't get us wrong, illegally crossing any border is incredibly dangerous and decidedly not a game, but Spain sure makes it sound like one. You see, Spanish laws are such that anybody who makes it into the country can declare asylum and apply for citizenship. Of course, getting into mainland Spain is pretty difficult for many Africans, so they instead try their luck at the much closer Spanish city of Melilla, which is located in Africa.
Of course, Melilla officials are fully aware that would-be immigrants target their city, so they've erected a complicated series of fences and patrol them with guards like the world's most hardcore obstacle course. Lest you think we're making light of a clearly desperate situation, here's the kicker: The guards aren't armed. They're allowed to smack wrists and stuff, but if somebody gets through, they get through.
Every once in awhile, several hundred hopefuls charge the fences in an attempt to make it into the city on the other side, and a few occasionally succeed. This weird perpetual non-sport is happening in a city that's really not all that large, so for citizens of Melilla, it's pretty easy to sit around and watch as foreigners desperately try to scale your walls. At this point, it's only interesting to them insomuch as people loudly clamoring for freedom can really throw off your golf swing.
Alexander Koerner/Getty Images
Alexander Koerner/Getty Images
If America ever needs to seize Canada's means of maple syrup production by force, the American city of Point Roberts, Washington will find itself behind extremely polite enemy lines. That's because Point Roberts isn't actually in America at all. When America and Britain agreed on the 49th parallel as a border during the 54-40 dispute, nobody bothered to check if any American towns were built above that line.
As a designated patch of freedom, Point Roberts is a Canadian black market. It's only 20 miles outside Vancouver, so it attracts untold numbers of shoppers looking for America's cheaper gas, beer, groceries, and even postal shipping (unaffected by Canada's higher taxes). The average stay in town is something like 15 minutes, or just long enough to wolf down a medium rare cheeseburger, which is straight-up illegal in Canada. But while Canadians fill their snowmobiles with cheap gas and their stomachs with raw freedom meat, Americans in Point Roberts sit in endless traffic. Students cross the border into Canada, then back into Washington state, and then take a bus 25 miles to the public school they're technically required to attend. Coming home is the same annoying problem, and so is basically any trip anywhere.
Maybe the weirdest thing about Point Roberts, though, is how the double border creates the world's safest gated community. See, convicted felons can't acquire passports, which makes crossing into Roberts to whack someone -- say, someone in the witness protection program -- virtually impossible. That's precisely why the program has settled 50 people there. On the flip side, think of all the Canadian felons who can't eat good burgers. They served their time, people.
Like a shitty game of Risk, China and Mongolia have been swapping territory back and forth for centuries. China was conquered by the Mongols during the late 13th century, only to have the Chinese kick them back out a century later and build that wall everyone thinks is so great. They've been at it ever since. As China continues to grow and Mongolia, uh, doesn't, Mongolians today have few reasons to trust their more powerful neighbor won't move in and try and secure that huge continent bonus, so Mongolia protects its border with sheer inconvenience.
For fairly arbitrary reasons, most of the modern world's train tracks sport a 4-foot, 8 1/2-inch gauge. The only exceptions to this rule are found in several former Soviet countries, such as Mongolia, which use a slightly wider gauge, presumably as a way of spitting in the face of freedom. Even when they recently built a new track explicitly to make trade with China easier, Mongolia refused to switch to the standard track gauge to accommodate Chinese trains, apparently because "tanks can easily penetrate into Mongolia in no time if [they] build a railway with a [narrower] gauge track, the same used in China."
As a result, every border-crossing train has to undergo a lengthy "wheel change." It's not quite as simple as putting the old Dodge up on cinder blocks. Rail officials literally have to lift trains into the air, remove the wheels, and replace them with a new set. This process can sometimes take up to three grueling hours, during which passengers are left onboard, locked in their cabins and without air conditioning. It's not even high enough to pretend you're on a really boring roller coaster.
It's a good thing nobody ever initiated a war that was mildly inconvenient.
Until recently, Cooch Behar was the most complicated series of borders and residential areas this side of an HOA. The craziest part was Dahala Khagrabari, an Indian enclave so far up Bangladesh's ass it could taste yesterday's dal. See, Dahala Khagrabari was a part of India surrounded by a Bangladeshi enclave which was itself surrounded by an Indian enclave which was, get this, surrounded by Bangladesh proper. Here's a map to give you a sense of how drunk the guy in charge of drawing the borders must have been.
As you can imagine, this created massive problems for the people living there. Residents had an extremely difficult time accessing state amenities like water and electricity, and even a trip to the market was virtually impossible. Heading out to buy food technically meant entering a foreign country requiring a visa, but the only way to get a visa meant traveling to a major city in their own country first, but to do that, they'd have to illegally enter a foreign country multiple times to and from wherever they were hoping to get a visa. On the bright side, getting deported presumably involved a polite step backward.
Eventually, things got so bad that India and Bangladesh struck a deal whereby each enclave was absorbed into the country that most surrounded it. The citizens in each enclave could decide whether to stay put and become citizens of the new country or be relocated somewhere in their original country. If they could even remember where that was.
Although Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen still isn't entirely sure, the CIA reports that Norway is hella white. Like most countries with a surplus of white people, they're not keen on visitors of other colors. But in 2015, they saw an unprecedented 23,000 refugees cross the border and apply for asylum.
Norway went with the classic "build an anti-minority wall" plan, but they needn't have bothered. Before the wall was even started, asylum seekers were down a whopping 95 percent. The problem had already sorted itself out. Also, the wall was only 650 feet long. Oh, and it directly bordered a much longer and better-built Russian wall that served the exact same purpose.
But they did it anyway. They built a wall to sit on while they politely watched Russia's wall do all the work. On their first try, Norway had to tear up their wall and start over because they realized they'd built it so close to the Russian wall that it was actually inside Russia. They were so gung-ho about keeping people from crossing their border that they accidentally crossed someone else's. If this were a children's book, everyone would learn a valuable lesson, but this is real life, so nobody learned shit and everybody wasted a bunch of money, time, and human potential.
If you can't watch, the incursion across the border that needed a rebuild was shorter than this sentence.
Bosnia owns the world's second-smallest coastline, pictured here in what might be the world's most hilarious map:
Blame it on the city of Dubrovnik, which gave up that little sliver of land to what would later become Bosnia in 1699. The idea was that if Venice attacked Dubrovnik, the Venetians would be forced through that six-mile stretch of beach and hopefully decide to drink Mai Tais on a towel rather than raze Dubrovnik to the ground. Fast-forward a few centuries, and now Croatia's most famous city -- where they film everything from Game Of Thrones to Star Wars -- is separate from the rest of the country, and travel from there to the northern part is maddeningly difficult. Croatian policeman inspect passports on either end of the six-mile Bosnian stretch, creating massive traffic jams.
It's gotten so bad that Croatia intends to build a huge $621 million bridge that does nothing but circumvent that tiny stretch of land. We've never seen somebody work so hard to avoid going to the beach.
You know what people who make it into that Spanish city should start singing? "It's gonna take a lot to drag me awayyyyyy from youuuuuu!"
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