• Border guards hunt refugees with dogs in SBS On Demand's new drama. (SBS)Source: SBS
Turns out geopolitics isn't as simple as you think.
Shane Cubis

22 Aug 2016 - 4:34 PM  UPDATED 22 Aug 2016 - 4:38 PM

Having been subject to the whims of Prussia, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia over the years, Poland knows a thing or two about national borders. That legacy lends substantial historical heft to SBS On Demand's new political thriller series The Border, which is set on the border between Poland and Ukraine and deals with some hardcore topics – human trafficking, for starters.

In the spirit of the series, here are six of the most complicated map-lines on the planet...


There's a town in the Netherlands AND Belgium

Let’s start with something friendly. The Netherlands and Belgium are good-rockin’ buddies who don’t mind sharing an entire town between them. Baarle is smack-bang on the border between these nations, and the line between them is marked with helpful flagstones marked with a white cross (well, the parts that don’t run through people’s lounge rooms and back yards).

As any tour guide worth their five-euro tip will tell you, trading-hour laws used to mean that the Dutch side of a restaurant would shut down early, forcing diners to get up and move to a table in Belgium.


Korea's DMZ is a refuge for endangered species

Even someone with the optimistic disposition of Pollyanna would be hard-pressed to find something to be glad about in the ongoing conflict between North and South Korea (although Kim Jung-un’s press corp would probably give it a red-hot go).

For the flora and fauna living in the DMZ between nations, however, there’s plenty to be pleased about. Four kilometres wide, 250 kilometres long, it has become an accidental wildlife refuge. Red-crowned cranes, Amur gorals, musk deer and other endangered species have flourished under the 63-year ceasefire.

The UK and Spain are neighbours thanks to a 1713 treaty

During the War of the Spanish Succession, England seized Gibraltar – a tiny outcrop of land on the southern side of Spain – and has held it ever since.

While they have ceded most of their world-spanning empire since then, Gibraltar turned out to be useful for international maritime trade, as a staging area during war, and in more recent times, as an important symbol of what once was. Spain totally wants it back, but so far 1713’s Treaty of Utrecht has held firm.

The islands that exist on two different days

The International Date Line is one of those things you learn about in primary school that forces you to stare into the middle distance for a little while, contemplating the wonders of time.

For the inhabitants of the Diomedes Islands, it’s a daily fact of life. It’s just that they can’t agree on which day it is. If you’re on Little Diomede (which is part of the USA), you can gaze across a 3.8km stretch of icy cold Bering Strait water to Russian-run Big Diomede, and see what the weather will be like tomorrow. (Hint: awful, but that’s the price of time travel.)


India and Bangladesh are all in each other's business

Speaking of the former British Empire, the dying days of the Raj spawned some very messy politics. Let’s just say India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have all had a very complicated few decades.

There’s a border between India and Bangladesh, but there are sections belonging to each country on both sides of the line. The most famous of these was Balapara Khagrabari, an Indian enclave on the Bangladeshi side of the border.

With a Bangladeshi enclave inside it.

And an Indian enclave inside that.

Until it was all ceded to Bangladesh in August last year.

Nepal and China climb every mountain

Specifically, the world's highest. You think it’s hard crossing the border from Victoria to Tasmania? It’s totally not – all you have to do is kayak 100km or so across treacherous, freezing waters.

Getting from Nepal to China, on the other hand, requires the intrepid traveller to climb up one side of Mount Everest and down the other. Make sure your visa is in order before you start... or you could drive along the far less treacherous Friendship Highway that links the countries instead. Your call.


Season 1 of The Border is available on SBS On DemandWatch the first episode here:

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