How Germany Annexed Czech Territory... in 2016
While nobody was paying attention, Germany took over a bit of Czech territory
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
Last year, when nobody was paying attention, Germany got a bit bigger. In the previous century, the central European country waged two wars to increase its territory. But some time in the past months or years, it gained about 500 square meters (5,382 sq. ft) without a single shot being fired. All thanks to the Kirnitzsch, a small river that forms part of Germany's border with the Czech Republic. As someone noticed in April 2016, it changed course – to the advantage of the Germans.
The Kirnitzsch flows in the south-east of the German state of Saxony, in a picturesque, hilly area nicknamed Sächsische Schweiz (Saxon Switzerland), also the name of a National Park on the border with the Czech Republic.
As reported by the German magazine Der Spiegel, the change in the course of the river was noted by Rolf Böhm, who regularly wanders the area and keeps the local maps updated. Last April, he noted that a small loop in the course of the Kirnitzsch no longer existed – on a stretch where the course of the river marks the border between both countries.
Setting an administrative border in a river may seem like a good idea, but over time, rivers change course. Leaving governments to ponder: does the border follow the river, or stay as it was? The latter option is the preferred one for the U.S. states whose border runs along the Mississippi: zoom in on the map, and you go see little enclaves and exclaves on either side of the Big Muddy, marking its ancient course, and the present state borders (see also #178 and #208).
Judging by the firmness of the ground on the Kirnitzsch's former course, Böhm suspects the straightening to have happened as far back as 2013, when the area was last flooded. An oxbow is all that remains of the former riverbed. As a result, Germany has gained – and the Czech Republic has lost - an area of about 18 by 28 meters (60 by 90 feet).
Strange Maps #792
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