Atlas of geographical curiosities

For a border freak like me, the Atlas of geographical curiosities by Vitali Vitaliev provided nothing that I didn’t already know, yet for someone who is less familiar with enclaves and freakish international frontiers, this book is a treasure. Vitaliev wrote about 59 locations where borders cut off pieces of land from their home countries (like Büsingen from Germany, Campione d’Italia from Italy and Point Roberts from the rest of Washington–all three places where I have visited). He also included other “curiosities” such as Yonge Street, which I suppose was noteworthy if only for its designation as the longest street in the world. Tristan da Cunha made it into the atlas because it is the most isolated inhabited spot on the planet.

The layout featured a map on the left page and the text on the right, however a few of the locations were spread over four pages. I used a magnifying glass to analyze the maps as the place names were printed in tiny font and it was not easy to locate the places Vitaliev was referring to. The atlas was generous in its photo content yet oddly none of them were captioned, so I wasn’t always aware of what I was looking at.

The best quotation comes from the description of the border of the multiply-enclaved Baarle-Hertog/Baarle-Nassau region of Belgium and the Netherlands. I had a chuckle over this likeness:

“The Baarle border resembles the electrocardiogram of a patient on the brink of a heart attack, thoughtlessly leaping across streets and squares, cutting through houses, offices and pubs, and even dissecting the rubbish dump.”

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