BELEX18

This expedition started and finished in Brussels with fellow IBRG members travelling from the UK, Denmark, Lithuania and Holland. The route maximised the opportunities to visit both rural and coastal border crossings, tripoints and to view border markers both on historic and contemporary borders. Visiting towns and driving on roads divided by borders also featured as did a visit to the Vennbahn exclaves at Roetgen and Entenpfuhl. We also took the opportunity of visiting the most western point in Germany too.

As with all these trips it evolved en route and we had diversions to WW1 cemeteries, perhaps a testimony and reminder where the link between nationalism and borders never ends well.

Participants: Ann Kennard (UK), Jan Krogh (Norway), Hans Peter Nissen (Denmark), Jannis Deeleman (Netherlands) and Barry Arnold (UK)

Day One

Border Crossings Visited:

  1. The small rural border crossing at Visé (BE) /Eijsden (NL) More details are available here

This provided an opportunity to visit an area of land which had been recently swapped between Belgium and the Netherlands. The countries’ border once previously ran down the Meuse, but the river’s course has shifted over time, leaving land on either bank of it in the neighbouring country. This led to jurisdictional problems with Belgium unable to police its territory effectively, because Belgian authorities required Dutch permission to travel to one of the peninsulas, it became accessible to them only by boat. The land developed a reputation for drug deals, prostitution and illegal rave parties. Four years ago a headless torso was found on the land. Dutch police could not investigate a crime committed on Belgian territory, and Belgian officials ferried prosecutors, crime laboratories and investigators to the peninsula, which has no docking provision for boats.

2) The small rural border crossing between Nieuwstadt (NL) and Isenbruch (DE). More details are available here

Other notable aspects of Day One was a visit to Germany’s most western point at Isenbruch Between 1949 and 1963, Isenbruch was under the Dutch administration, but was returned to Germany (in addition to other territory) when Germany paid DM 280m. More details here

Our first divided road was at Heringsbosch where the border goes directly down the middle of the road. More details here

Our second divided road was visited in Vaals on the border between the Netherlands and Germany. More details here.

Our first tripoint visit of the trip was BEDENL, one of the most accessible tripoints which is also close to the highest point in the Netherlands.

Our last visit of the day was to the Vennbahn exclaves at Roetgen and Entenpfuhl. These exclaves were created when the Vennbahn, originally a railway line and now a cycle path was ceded to Belgium in perpetuity in the Treaty of Versailles. More details here

Day Two

This day was equally full with further exploration of the Vennbahn. More details here

Following this we covered a lot of ground visiting 3 tripoints. Out first stop was at BEDELU with its Europa memorial and park. An interesting point with the DELU condominium with its triline and 2 technical tripoints to explore.

Our next stop was the DEFRLU tripoint and exploration of Schengen. Lots to see here with the triline, road and rail crossings as well as trying to locate actual points of the ground. Schengen provides an opportunity to celebrate the European ideal, especially for the UK participants in the (then) pre Brexit situation.

The final tripoint of the day was BEFRLU, a rather neglected point where Belgium, France and Luxembourg meet. It provided a sharp contrast to the European celebration inherent in our earlier 2 tripoint visits.

Our final visit of the day took us to La Flamengrie, a small town in northern France to explore the historic border between Austria and France! These border markers represented the boundary between the Austrian Netherlands and Napoleonic France between between 1714 and 1797. More details here.

Day Three

The last day of the trip involved us firstly visiting divided towns on the Belgium – France border. Our first stop was at Bon Secours in Belgium, part of the wider munciplaity of Peruwelz where the border divides the town from its French neighbour Condé-sur-l’Escaut. The Basilica of Bon-Secours, a grand gothic revival church which lies directly on the border. More details here.

Our second divided town was Mouscron (BE) which merges with Tourcoing (FR). The border is marked and goes down the centre of roads, across small streets and along the side of buildings. More details here.

By the time we began thinking about lunch the rain was becoming constant and we decided to detour to Ypres to visit the Menin Gate before driving further to Ieper in Belgium to visit Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world. Both places are stark reminders of the folly of nationalism and the seeds of division it sows.

Our last visit of the day was the rain soaked Belgian and French border at Oostcappel which is likely to be the closest land border to my home in London. The road border visit was paired with the finding the northern most border marker on the beach between Bray-Dunes and De Panne which was erected in 1819 to mark the border between France and the Netherlands at the time. This is the northernmost point of France and westernmost point of Belgium. More details here.

Many thanks to my fellow BELEX18 participants for making this trip so enjoyable.

Dates of visit: 27 – 29th April 2018

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