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Saturday, May 13, 2017

The "Countries With Open Borders" Story

This map will give you and idea where the border
crossings may be.  The dotted red line is the border.
It was an ordinary day.  Crossing the border from Dutch Sint Maarten and entering French St. Martin.  Takes approximately two seconds to do so depending on the speed that I may be driving our Kia Picanto rental.  There are six places on the dual-nation island where you can drive from one side to the other and perhaps an unlimited number of crossings if doing so by foot.  And, not a single one requires you to stop and be checked.  My wife and I have been visiting the island for close to twenty years and during that time have crossed from north to south, or vice-versa, on at least four of those six roads.  
This sign is welcoming you into the Dutch side of the island.
It is an old sign that at one time was located on the road
from Marigot into the Dutch side at the new swing bridge.
The monument is on the right, directly before the sign. 
I have found that on two of the border crossings there are large obelisk-shaped markers that carry information about the border and the history behind the treaty that led to the division of the 37-square-mile island in the Caribbean Ocean.  The north side of the island belongs to the French Government and covers 21 square miles while the south portion of the island is a Netherlands Antilles territory and covers 16 square miles of the island.  
This old photo shows a dedication ceremony at the location
that is right before the sign pictured in the photo above.
In the distance to the right can be seen the sign welcoming
you into the French side of the island.
And, just how was the island divided.  All started on March 23, 1648 when the two sides agreed to divide the island and signed the Treaty of Concordia.  Seems folklore tells the story this way: Each side chose a walker who would meet and walk in opposite directions around the island and where they met on the other side would determine the border.  
This is the same location today.  Notice the tall monument
has a few new plaques attached to it for ceremonies that
were held to rededicate the border monument.
A line would be drawn from the original point to the final meeting point.  Seems the French walker chose wine as his stimulant during the walk while the Dutch walker chose Jenever (Dutch Gin) for his stimulant.  Well, the difference between the beverage's lightness was said to be the cause of the territorial differences. Only problem was the Dutch blamed the French walker for running.
This is another border crossing on the road
leading from Quartier-d'Orlean to the road
that leads to Philipsburg on the Dutch side.
Oh well, you knew there had to be a sore loser!  A few of the major differences might be:  The north side is said to have the tastiest restaurants and party beaches while the south side is more cosmopolitan and shelters the most animated casinos, bars and clubs.  Take your pick since both have fantastic beaches.  The two sides together feature some of the best vacation destinations in the world with: #5 best Caribbean Honeymoons, #6 best Caribbean Beaches, #6 best Island in the World, #7 best Family Vacation in the Caribbean, #9 best Winter Vacation and #10 Best Places to Visit in the Caribbean.  I made a stop at a few of the border crossings and took a few photos to share so you could see just how important the crossings might be.  
Border crossing on the far east of the island on the road
that leads from Philipsburg to Oyster Pond.
To the far east of the island is a small area known as Oyster Pond where there is a sign that welcomes you to the French side.  I didn't find a sign that welcomed you from the French to Dutch, but I didn't search very hard.  Going west on the island we crossed on the road that takes you from Quartier-d'Orlean on the French side toward the road that will lead you into Philipsburg, the capital of the Dutch side.  
This photo I found online and it show the border crossing
on the far west side of the island on the road that leads
from the Dutch Lowlands to Terres Bases on the French side.
That site has a monument with flags and plaques telling of the treaty.  A third crossing is found while entering the French capital of Marigot on mid-island after exiting the swing-bridge on the Dutch side.  That is perhaps the most decorated crossing point and has a monument with a plaque that tells of the Treaty of Concordia.  The final site that I have crossed is on the far west side of the island while leaving the Princess Julianna International Airport on the Dutch side and heading through the Dutch Lowlands to Terres Bases on the French side.  Again, all that is located there is a small sign.  The final site I have never crossed and haven't the slightest idea where it may be.  Check out the photos so you can see for yourself the importance of border control as you pass from the Dutch Side to the French Side and vice-versa.  If only all countries could be the same!  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

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