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  • Wolfgang Fobo

Enclaves and Exclaves

Aktualisiert: 1. Aug. 2023

Enclaves fascinate me, in a similar manner that non-countries do. Somehow I see in enclaves an irregularity in geography. Why is this piece of land not part of its surrounding? It gets even more bizarre if there is an enclave within an enclave - a so called counter enclave, which to my knowledge exist twice.

There are exact definitions what exactly makes an enclave, or an exclave, Wikipedia may provide you with that. For me, and for the sake of simplicity, I call them all enclave.


Not many Germans will know that there is a bit of Germany fully surrounded by Switzerland. It is called Büsingen. And there you pay with Swiss francs.

The other oddity in Switzerland is named Campione d'Italia and belongs to Italy.

Italy in Switzerland: Campione d'Italia

The Spanish have a village in France which is called Llivia. Just across the border, but no sign or marking where does Spain start again.

Proud Catalans they are in Llivia

Better known are the 2 enclaves that Spain has in Africa: Ceuta and Melilla.

Melilla and its mighty fortress

Ceuta seemed to be a bit more lively than Melilla. But also has massive fortifications.

The massive fortress in Ceuta

While the Spanish claim that Ceuta and Melilla were always Spanish and certainly will not be returned to Morocco (which did not exist when the 2 areas were conquered some 500 years ago), they see it very different when the talk is about Gibraltar, the British spot at the South tip of Spain, easily to be reached from Algeciras - you can just walk in.

You have to cross the airfield when walking or driving into Gibraltar (this is UK driving on the right side, by the way)

But once in Gibraltar, you immediately feel like being in the UK. Of course I took the ropeway up, and there are the monkeys, a hot spot for tourists.

I kept a safe distance from these beasts, but if you insist you can have a monkey set on your shoulder. Not my thing.

My journey to the enclaves in 2019 continued with an exotic one, Oecusse. That is part of East Timor, surrounded by Indonesia, on Timor Island. A very remote spot of land, but with an airport that would honor every major city. A beautiful but empty airport at Pante Macassar, their main "village"., One flight daily from Dili, the capital, and this flight I took. Was lucky because you cannot make a flight reservation, you just have to show up one hour prior to departure, and only when you have paid your ticket you can be sure to get your lift over to Oecusse, in an 19 seater.

The Main Street in Pante Macassar. Loneliness as a tourist guaranteed. So if you need peace of mind, want to write a book or prepare for an exam, Oecusse might be the right place

To my surprise, Pante Macassar was exceptionally clean. I managed to get my landlord showing me around by car, and I was shown some other "White Elephants", like a modern Cable Stayed Bridge with almost no traffic, leading nowhere (they dreamt of a golf course for rich Chinese, but so far it remains a dream). Or a 5 star hotel in the middle of nowhere, closed, no tourists. Or a high dam meant to store water for irrigation purposes. What it stores now are the stones that the river transported over the years, and in rainy season the high dam now functions as a waterfall. Official language is Portuguese (that almost nobody speaks), you can manage with English. Funny place indeed, you pay with USD, and there is even an ATM that provides you with USD should you need.

My two highlights in 2019 however were the 2 counter enclaves that exist. The first one is at the border area between Belgium and Netherlands, called Baarle Hertog. I took a car from Brussels and drove to this unimpressive village - not much to see there except the funny borders. One minute you are in Belgium (the enclave), and then all of a sudden you are again in the Netherlands (counter enclave), and within a couple of minutes you can countless times cross a border. The door of your house defines in which country you live. So just look at the house number, and you know where you are. Because the house numbers have a different design. Or you look at the ground.

Move the table and chair a bit to the right: Where else can you sit in one country while eating in another one?

The other counter enclave is located in the Emirates (UAE). I took a car from Dubai Airport direction East, towards Mahda, which is an Omani enclave in UAE. And just inside of Mahd there is a spot of land called Nahwa which belongs to the UAE. Perhaps 50 inhabitants live there.

Nahwa. Just a few dwellings. You can reach Nahwa from UAE without showing your passport (when passing through Mahda which belongs to Oman)

Mahda, the Omani enclave that you need to pass through, has not much to show, I just drove through.

Oman has another exclave, located at the Northern tip of the Arab peninsula. Called Musandam. You can reach Musandam from Dubai in a day trip, and I did it the way most tourists do, an organized tour, by bus, and in Musandam then on a boat that leads you through the picturesque scenery of rocks and sea. Even you have the opportunity to snorkel. For that tour however you need your passport, as this is a formal crossing into Oman territory.

Cruising around the Musandam peninsula, a day trip from Dubai

I have to make a temporary halt here. More enclaves will be added, once I have visited them. Again, I use this term enclave arbitrarily also for exclaves, or semi-enclaves. There are even countries fully surrounded by just one other country, like San Marino or Lesotho, but for me they do not count. What interests me are the separated spots of a territory belonging to the main territory, and no island. My journey will continue with Kaliningrad, Nakhichevan and Cabinda. And there are many more...


I published a separate blog about this exclave that belongs to Azerbaidzhan, but for the sake of completeness here a short note.

Nakhichevan you can only reach from Azerbaidzhan by air (or from Turkey overland, provided the Azeris let you in). Upon arrival at the airport of Nakhichevan you have to prove that you also will fly back to Baku, and when leaving Nakhichevan you have to prove that you did not enter overland from Turkey.

Nakhichevan is claimed to be Noah's land, and this building is claimed to be Noah's tomb

Everywhere you see propaganda: Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan! (Presently still partly under Armenian control...). An old conflict that is kept alive

Jungholz and Kleinwalsertal

Closest to my home, these 2 exclaves that pertain to Austria and are situated close to Oberstdorf can only be accessed from Germany, as there is no access from the Austrian side.

Jungholz is a relatively small area, and as I was there in summer, the place was almost empty of tourists, seems that Jungholz comes to life in winter, when skiing is possible

Kleinwalsertal is much bigger than Jungholz and full of tourists, as you can go there hiking

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