How Germany Annexed Czech Territory... in 2016

While nobody was paying attention, Germany took over a bit of Czech territory

A map of Germany, with an arrow pointing to the Kirnitzsch River.

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). 

Image taken here from the article in Der Spiegel. Many thanks to Till Vallée for pointing it out. 

Strange Maps #792

Got a strange map? Let me know at strangemaps@gmail.com.

What if Middle-earth was in Pakistan?

Iranian Tolkien scholar finds intriguing parallels between subcontinental geography and famous map of Middle-earth.

Could this former river island in the Indus have inspired Tolkien to create Cair Andros, the ship-shaped island in the Anduin river?

Image: Mohammad Reza Kamali, reproduced with kind permission
Strange Maps
  • J.R.R. Tolkien hinted that his stories are set in a really ancient version of Europe.
  • But a fantasy realm can be inspired by a variety of places; and perhaps so is Tolkien's world.
  • These intriguing similarities with Asian topography show that it may be time to 'decolonise' Middle-earth.
Keep reading Show less

Coffee and green tea may lower death risk for some adults

Tea and coffee have known health benefits, but now we know they can work together.


Credit: NIKOLAY OSMACHKO from Pexels
Surprising Science
  • A new study finds drinking large amounts of coffee and tea lowers the risk of death in some adults by nearly two thirds.
  • This is the first study to suggest the known benefits of these drinks are additive.
  • The findings are great, but only directly apply to certain people.
Keep reading Show less

Why San Francisco felt like the set of a sci-fi flick

But most city dwellers weren't seeing the science — they were seeing something out of Blade Runner.

Brittany Hosea-Small / AFP / Getty Images
Surprising Science

On Sept. 9, many West Coast residents looked out their windows and witnessed a post-apocalyptic landscape: silhouetted cars, buildings and people bathed in an overpowering orange light that looked like a jacked-up sunset.

Keep reading Show less
Politics & Current Affairs

America of the 1930s saw thousands of people become Nazi

Nazi supporters held huge rallies and summer camps for kids throughout the United States in the 1930s.

Scroll down to load more…
Quantcast