Bisected and Bilateral: Streets Shared By Two Countries, Part II (Europe and the Middle East)

Missed Part I (The Americas)?  You can read it here.

Today we complete our look at bilateral streets – roads where the border runs down the middle of the street; where, with a different country on either side of the street, crossing the road is a bilateral task.

Avenue de France/Avinguda d’Espanya (Le Perthus, France/La Jonquera, Spain)

Perhaps the busiest street shared by two countries down the middle is the 500 metre-long main street shared by the French commune of Le Perthus and the Catalonian parish of Els Límits (in the municipality of La Jonquera).  While both towns are small (Le Perthus has fewer than 600 residents; La Jonquera has about 3 000 residents but Els Límits parish has just 115 as of the last census), the Els Limits side is dedicated almost exclusively to business as specialty goods such as liquor and tobacco are much cheaper in Spain.  Even food is somewhat cheaper on the Spanish side (resulting in some large supermarkets along the street), though a fair amount of businesses can be found on the French side simply because of the hustle and bustle of the street.  Still, there is a great deal more housing on the Le Perthus side, and a trip up or down the street on Street View shows the difference in business density.  The road is maintained as France D900; the border is the kerbside along the sidewalk on the La Jonquera side as delineated in 1866.  Once leaving the main street, the border continues for a short distance along an alley known as Rue du Ravin/Calle del Arroyo de la Condesa (Creek Street; the border technically runs along the creek that runs under the street) before continuing eastward toward the Mediterranean Sea.

Baarle-Hertog, Belgium/Baarle-Nassau, Netherlands


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It seems to be a requirement by this point that every geo-blog must cover the mess of 24 enclaves and counter-enclaves of Baarle, a village divided since 1198 into a confusing array of parcels as a result of various medieval land swaps between the Lords of Breda and the Dukes of Brabant.  The village is surrounded by Dutch territory (North Brabant, to be exact), but the Belgian portions belong to the Flemish province of Antwerp.  Much like Stanstead, Canada and Derby Line, United States (as covered in Part I), the fragmented border cuts not only through streets but through businesses and houses as well.  Belgium governs electricity and telecommunications; the Netherlands takes care of gas and water.  With regard to this post, we’re specifically interested in the split streets (you can click on the various ‘Further Reading’ links for more specific details on the village itself), of which there are a couple dozen, including:

Grens, at the south entrance to the village some distance removed from the core of Baarle.  The Belgian side is densely packed with houses; the Dutch side is almost entirely farmland.

Molenstraat: Houses on the Dutch; restaurants on the Belgian side.

Turnhoutseweg and Gierlestraat, one of two occurrences in this list where the border turns down the middle of another street at an intersection.

Tommel (three separate sections) and Molenbaan (four separate sections), the other occurrence; this time in a rural part of the village.

Nieuwstraat/Neustraße (Kerkrade, Netherlands/Herzogenrath, Germany)

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The border is marked in red bricks in the middle of the street.

Just north of Aachen lies these twin cities of around 50 000 people, formerly divided along ‘New Street’ since the end of World War I, first by a wire fence which separated the two towns completely, and then 1968 by foot-high concrete barriers which permitted pedestrian crossings but kept automobile traffic separate.  With the formation of the European Union in 1993, the two sides removed the concrete barriers and converted the two-lane streets on either side into a single two-lane street with roundabouts at major intersections.  The excess lanes on either side were covered with greenery and new bicycle lanes, and the border was marked with a strip of red bricks down the centre of the road.  The simple acts of passing and navigating roundabouts are international actions.  And when a major football victory takes place involving either one of the national teams, you can be sure that one team’s fans will take to the street to let the other side know about the result.

Oude Bocholtzerweg/Dal Driesschenweg/Finkenhag (Gulpen-Wittem, Netherlands/Aachen, Germany)

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A ten-minute drive from Kerkrade and Herzogenrath in the middle of some farmland lies this rather nondescript entry on a gravel road marked by simple granite boundary markers and a homemade cross.

Lanaken, Belgium/Maastricht, Netherlands

It only seems fitting that the birthplace of the European Union has a few open-control divided streets of its own.  These aren’t incredibly long by any means; two are farm roads on the edge of the city with not much to them.  But one short stretch of the main connection between Maastricht and Lanaken features two Dutch houses across the street from a Belgian restaurant and auto shop.


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Lebanese?  Syrian?  Israeli?  That’s the conundrum of Ghajar, an Alawi village which straddles the border between Lebanon and the Golan Heights; an extension of the Blue Line separating Lebanon from Israel.  Prior to 1967, the village was Syrian.  That year, the Golan Heights came under the control of Israel, and in 1981 the villagers took Israeli citizenship.  Since then, the village has expanded north.  When the Blue Line was drawn up in 2000, it was found that the northern half of the village was on the Lebanese side, and thus the north half of the village was handed over to Lebanon.  Many on the north side have since taken up Lebanese passports as well.  But when describing themselves, the villagers remain Syrian and, most importantly, wish to remain undivided.  This creates a conundrum of a Syrian village split between Israel and Lebanon.  A fence surrounds the village, and villagers move freely in and around the town (and Israel in general), but some villagers experience travel difficulties when heading north into Lebanon.  In 2009 when international pressure mounted on the Israeli Defence Forces to withdraw from the north side of Ghajar in order to legally complete the Force’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon, villagers protested against such an action, as it was seen as another attempt to divide the town.  In November 2010, the motion to withdraw was approved by Israel, but the country’s security cabinet pledged to keep the current arrangement of free movement within Ghajar.

Do you know of any other examples of streets divided down the middle between two countries?  Let us know in the comments.

Further Reading

Chittenden, S. (2009).  Elections split Dutch-Belgian community.  BBC News, 30 April 2009.  Available at  Accessed 4 October 2011.

Geilenkirchen, P. (2011).  De Nieuwstraat: één straat, twee talen.  De Domaniale Mijn in Beeld.  Available at  Accessed 5 October 2011.

Gonzalez, D. (2008).  Ciudades divididas: Le Perthus y Els Limits.  Fronteras, 24 November 2008.  Available at  Accessed 4 October 2011.

Gonzalez, D. (2010).  Una cervecería en dos países.  Fronteras, 18 January 2010.  Available at  Accessed 4 October 2011.

Haaretz (2009).  Ghajar residents protest over planned Israeli withdrawal.  11 December 2009.  Available at  Accessed 5 October 2011.

Jacobs, F. (2006).  52 – The Enclaves and Counter-enclaves of Baarle (B/NL).  Strange Maps, 12 December 2006.  Available at  Accessed 4 October 2011.

Ravid, B. (2010).  Israel approves unilateral pullout from Lebanon border town.  Haaretz, 17 November 2010.  Available at  Accessed 5 October 2011.

Smith, B. (2011).   Baarle-Nassau/Baarle-Hertog.  Available at  Accessed 5 October 2011.

Special Borders (2000).  (02) – Kerkrade (NL) – Herzogenrath/Kohlscheid (DE).  3 December 2000.  Available at  Accessed 5 October 2011.

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