The Beauty Of No Borders
May 4, 2016 1:46 PM   Subscribe

The non-enforced borders between European nations are a feast for the eye and a testament of hope for a united, peaceful, border-free world.
posted by blankdawn (23 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Wow. These are beautiful. The one of the river between Germany and Poland, I can just see the many bodies of those who died at that border.
posted by jillithd at 1:57 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

These are lovely photographs, but I'm not sure how much has really been erased along most of these borderlines. Even in the era when crossing these borders required going through a checkpoint, I imagine a lot of the more remote areas looked pretty much exactly like they do now.
posted by jacquilynne at 2:01 PM on May 4, 2016

Lovely photographs. Even more than the entirely unmarked borders, I quite like e.g. Lithuania/Estonia, with that path of rubble marking the actual border.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:01 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

Very nice photographs. And poignant: these pictures are in danger of being relegated to history as the various European far-right parties and their mainstream enablers, increase their power and raise increasing numbers of fences on these borders to keep out terrorized refugees...
posted by talos at 2:09 PM on May 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

Why did the chicken cross the border?
posted by jim in austin at 2:10 PM on May 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

The beauty/cruelty of these pictures, right now, is almost too much.
posted by progosk at 2:12 PM on May 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

Actually, talos & progosk, I would say these pictures are a perfect tonic to this "end Schengen" nonsense that has cropped up everywhere, a visual reminder that in so many parts of Europe there really aren't any borders, no real physical barriers and that reinstating the huge border-crossing bureaucracy that Schengen mothballed would be a lot harder than just mouthing off. Yes, reversing Schengen has a real impact at choke points (i.e. airports, ports, tunnels & rail crossings) but so much of the borders are like in these pictures, fat handfuls of nothing, some politician's invention. That there are people dying at the choke point borders again, and people working hard to keep out refugees or even ordinary immigrants, building walls and whatnot, is a shameful scandal.
posted by chavenet at 2:24 PM on May 4, 2016 [6 favorites]

When I lived in Switzerland we would drive 2km into France to buy our groceries, we could either go through the "official" border crossing (no stopping, just a wave at the border guard), or take one of the many many regular roads between the countries that were unguarded and had nothing marking the border.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:32 PM on May 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I grew up in Sweden close to the Swedish/Finnish border shown I these pictures (I took some pictures at the same place this Christmas). Most people there live in the two cities where the river meets the Baltic bay, Haparanda in Sweden and Tornio in Finland. I guess that I've crossed the border more than 100 times, and almost never been stopped. No check, no anything, you're just in another country suddenly. In the Swedish equivalent of high school, we used to walk to Finland during lunch hour to utilize Finlands more relax laws about the legal age to by beer, and usually had time to both eat and get back to next class.

This Christmas was a bit different though (I live in Stockholm now, but visit home during holidays). There had been demonstrations on the Finish side to prevent refugees who arrived in Sweden who wanted to go to Finland to meet family to had arrived there. One time we where even stopped going to Finland. After a quick look into the car and seeing we where mostly white, we got a "hyvää joulua" (happy Christmas in Finnish) and waved on. First Christmas we recommended our American family member to keep her passport on her...

It's still one of the most open borders I know of, and I hope it can stay that way. For many people living there, it's one city - not two cities in two different countries.
posted by rpn at 2:40 PM on May 4, 2016 [10 favorites]

Thanks for the post. No borders is one of my hobby horses and the photos are beautiful. I hate the ugly lines that crisscross landscapes, lines literally drawn on maps by rich white men who think they literally own the world (and fucking hell the scary part is they literally do). But I'm calmed by looking at photos like the one of the beautiful lake at the meeting point of Norway, Finland and Sweden. It's such an ageless image - that lake has been there for a long time and its like "Fuck you, rich men. I've been here long before you and I'll be here long after."

It looks from the key at the top that there were photos taken in Ireland but I can't see them in the gallery. So I'll submit this one of the Northern-Southern Ireland border. When I was small I remember a checkpoint, but now you only know when you've driven over it because the road markings are different and the speed signs are in kilometres instead of miles. Totally arbitrary division of a country. A lot of suffering for that stroke of the pen, as is true the world over.
posted by billiebee at 2:46 PM on May 4, 2016 [11 favorites]

Crossing the border at the Brenner Pass was one of the most awesome experiences of my life. Seeing the customs house converted to a shop.

The crossing is back to being manned now.
posted by ocschwar at 2:54 PM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Lovely photos, making me well up almost. billiebee I've never favourited owt so hard...

"borders" between "countries" are merely the products of a deranged imagination, to paraphrase the late great D.A. And the "Brexit" gang, aka The Quitters, want to put up more imaginary divides between people to regress to some fantasy worse-than-Westeros Dark Ages! eeevil, pure and simple.
(which is why, irrespective of Erdoğan's psychopathy and the shameful refugee-trading deals that this scheme is rewarding, the Commission's move towards granting citizens of Turkey visa-free travel is a great humane step forward, and will hopefully make the lives of my Berlin neighbours who have family in Turkey concretely better)
posted by runincircles at 3:33 PM on May 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

I ask this out of ignorance. If I am in nation A and I cross over into nation B, and once in B I get stopped and asked for my passport, am I in a sticky situation?
posted by Postroad at 4:26 PM on May 4, 2016

There is a deep irony to this post. It seems silly to celebrate the end of European borders at a time when Schengen is de facto collapsing:

The EU executive approved six-month extensions of controls at the German-Austrian border, at Austria's frontiers with Slovenia and Hungary and at Danish, Swedish and Norwegian borders...

Austria is building fences at its border with Italy on the Brenner Pass, the major Alpine crossing for heavy goods traffic. Avramopoulos avoided comment, other than to say Italy and Austria were negotiating a solution.

I can't imagine these "temporary" border controls ever end, no matter what people say. There is no foreseeable end to refugees who want to come to Europe.
posted by crazy with stars at 5:16 PM on May 4, 2016 [5 favorites]

I'm no expert in European politics, but is there some irony to the fact that Leonidas guards the Belgian border?
posted by condour75 at 5:29 PM on May 4, 2016

The whole point of these borders is that the demarcation lines are so subtle, but there's another sort of meaningfulness when the borders are obvious - not because of walls or fences, but because of different environmental controls. There are places where you can see borders from space, and one side is green and the other is sandy yellow. They're inspirational in their own way: they show that we could look after the planet better.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:21 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm no expert in European politics, but is there some irony to the fact that Leonidas guards the Belgian border?

This... Is... BRABANT!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by ocschwar at 6:42 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

And the "Brexit" gang, aka The Quitters, want to put up more imaginary divides between people to regress to some fantasy worse-than-Westeros Dark Ages! eeevil, pure and simple.

Worse than Westeros Dark Ages, and Evil? I'm sorry, but this it total and utter nonsense.
posted by marienbad at 6:47 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

The pictures with the board walk ways are great.

It's so sad that the US and Canada have rapidly been going the other way with cameras and fences and armed guards in helicopters and down market military vehicles.
posted by Mitheral at 8:21 PM on May 4, 2016 [2 favorites]

I went across my first controlled land border in the EU a few weeks ago, between Bulgaria and Greece. The photograph at that border in the link doesn't do it justice, because it's a photo of the mountainside. This is due to the fact that the border villages are in a pass, and the crossing infrastructure still dates back to the times when it was on the iron curtain (it's actually a gigantic concrete structure with a canopy at three times the height of any truck that would go through it). The queues of trucks going northbound were pretty long, for reasons that I don't understand, although the border was blockaded by Greek farmers protesting in February, and Bulgaria is doubtless keen to stop migration of undocumented people coming through Greece.

But I guess it pales in comparison to how it was 50 years ago, when my dad took a train from Sofia to Athens. The single carriage crossing the border was decoupled from the train and they got it while paperwork was sorted. There were shops at the Bulgarian border village with communist era commodities* (the sugar bag had sugar written on it, and nothing else) and propaganda leaflets in English for the few thousand Anglophones who might pass through the entire country in a year. So in that context, it's very good to see fewer borders.

*It's actually pretty likely that the Bulgarian villages had more access to market goods than the northern Greek villages across the border, although even during the CIA sponsored junta, they were far more free.
posted by ambrosen at 9:29 PM on May 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

Postroad: If I am in nation A and I cross over into nation B, and once in B I get stopped and asked for my passport, am I in a sticky situation?

No. You just show your passport (or I suppose your driver's licence). But noone ever asks. I go shopping across the Dutch/German border every week or so, it's not a big deal. There's a restaurant in the building where the border used to be, they do great burgers. It's close enough that we can go there by bicycle if we want.

That's what 'open borders' means: you are allowed to cross them freely.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:38 AM on May 5, 2016 [2 favorites]

There is a deep irony to this post. It seems silly to celebrate the end of European borders at a time when Schengen is de facto collapsing:

On the contrary, this is the best possible time to celebrate open borders.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:45 AM on May 5, 2016 [5 favorites]

It's interesting to see this evolution in what nationhood means, at a time when Estonia is offering people all over the world the chance to become a "digital Estonian" - a kind of national identity which does away not only with borders, but with the need to even reside in, or be from the nation concerned.

It's primarily an economic status, defined as: "a transnational digital identity available to anyone in the world interested in administering a location-independent business online". But for a tiny country - population about 1.3m - right on the border with Russia, watching what's happening in Ukraine with a sense of foreboding, it's a stroke of genius to get as many people as possible around the world to have some kind of national identification with your country, without them actually having to up sticks and move there.
posted by penguin pie at 3:10 PM on May 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

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