European enclaves are perfect destinations for travellers in search of cultural curiosities – five locations for a unique experience of Europe –
The last enclaves of Europe are prime spots for explorers looking for cultural marvels.
Vitali Vitaliev, author of Passport to Enclavia – Travels in Search of a European Identity, uncovers Europe’s forgotten enclaves: parts of one sovereign country totally surrounded and landlocked by another sovereign country. In the book Vitaliev highlights how each of these enclaves combines the characteristics of two or more separate European nations, which results in many wonderful quirks and makes them fascinating destinations.
Here he reveals the last four remaining European full-scale enclaves and one pene-enclave:
A unique town located in the North Brabant province in the southern Netherlands that contains a Dutch (Baarle-Nassau) and a Belgian municipality (Baarle-Hertog). A cluster of 22 Belgian and eight Dutch enclaves with a border that zigzags all over the place, it is so confusing that houses on the same street (and even next door to each other) can be in different countries. Each house is marked with a Dutch or Belgian flag.
Many of the restaurants, pubs and shops straddle the international border. The locals don’t really consider themselves Dutch or Belgian they are ‘Baarlenaars.’ The town, which has a population of approximately 9000, is the ultimate example of cross-border co-operation.
This one-street, picture-postcard German village stretches for over a mile along the right bank of the Rhine and is fully surrounded by Switzerland. It is 7.62 kilometres square with a population of approximately 1400 and in reality is a suburb of Schaffhausen the Swiss canton that surrounds it. Economically Swiss, it is not part of the EU.
Restaurant Waldheim is right on the border so you can order your drinks and food in Germany and consume them outside at one of the tables that are in Switzerland. The walking trail near Restaurant Waldheim will take you cross border too.
3) Campione d’Italia
An Italian municipality in the Lombardy region, which nestles on the banks of Lake Lugano. The lake and the surrounding mountains separate this comune from the rest of Italy. Despite being Italian, it isn’t in the EU and the currency is the Swiss Franc. Campione is exempt from EU VAT and the municipality takes advantage of this by operating Europe’s largest casino: the Casinò di Campione.
Attributes of both Swiss and Italian culture sit side by side everywhere in this 1.6 kilometre square municipality. The church of S. Maria dei Ghirli boasts l4th century frescoes and the ancient St. Zenone church is now a municipal museum and home to Campione’s art gallery.
A town in the Austrian state of Tyrol that’s lost in the Bavarian Alps. Jungholz is actually a pene-enclave as although fully surrounded by (and only accessible from) Germany it is connected to Austria at one point: the 1636 metre high Sorgschrofen mountain peak. The ski resort town has less than 300 residents spread over seven square kilometres and is Europe’s wealthiest spot, having three big banks (hence the world’s highest concentration of capital). It is a living model of unified Europe. Kleinwalsertal, another Austrian pene-enclave in Germany, lies less than 50km away.
A small Spanish (actually Catalan) cobbled-street town in the Pyrenees, which is surrounded and landlocked by France. This is the oldest enclave in Europe and was founded by the ancient Romans.
The present-day Llivia, which lies within the French département of Pyrénées-Orientales, is actually the result of a little historical blunder. Llivia remains fully Spanish in its law, taxes, justice and economy, and fiercely Catalan in its politics, language and ethnicity. Out of all the remaining European enclaves, it has assimilated the least traits of its host country. It allegedly has the highest number of sunshine days in Europe.
“The enclaves’ wealth of geographical and historical anomalies along with their idiosyncrasies of every day life make them captivating destinations,” said Vitali Vitaliev. “The enclaves are all mini-models of unified Europe without any intervention from Brussels!”
Vitaliev, in his witty and inimitable style, gives further inspiration to travellers by describing Europe’s other pene- and former enclaves/exclaves in the book.