We had heard about Llívia a couple of years ago and it sounded fascinating: a small town situated in France, completely surrounded by France, but belonging to Spain — an enclave, in other words. Indeed, Llívia is officially part of Cerdanya, in the province of Girona, which is part of Catalonia, a community of Spain, yet it is situated within the French department of Pyrénées-Orientales.
Driving into Llívia is pretty straightforward nowadays, along a Spanish-maintained road, which cuts through French territory for about one-and-a-half kilometres. Things weren't always so simple and disputes over rights of way where the Spanish road crossed French roads were not infrequent; neither were the accidents at such junctions! Now, however, roundabouts and bridges make things safer.
Coming back out of Llívia is rather more problematic, as there seem to be no signs to direct one to the French roads. It takes a bit of working out (or a very good map), to realise that one must take the left fork, just before the bridge, in order to be able to continue one's journey in the French fashion.
It would be pointless to reiterate the history and description of Llívia, as there are several sites that already provide plenty of information. Here are just a few:
- Llívia, a little piece of Spain in France
- The bordermarkers of Llívia
- Llívia enclave trip report
- Ajuntament de Llívia
I have put a few photos of our visit to Llívia in this Picasa album.
Now, if you think Llívia is a peculiar case, consider that of Baarle Hertog-Baarle Nassau. This isn't just an enclave, but a whole mosaic of 22 Belgian enclaves in the Netherlands, with 7 Dutch enclaves (called sub-enclaves) located within the Belgian enclaves, and one Dutch enclave within Belgium.
Well, it took almost 160 years to sort the the mess out, so you're not alone! The first border commission was set up in 1843, but it was not until 1995 that the borders were finally correctly indicated and agreed upon.
The most important thing in the life of a Baarle-Hertog-Nassau-type person seems to be the front door, as its position determines the nationality of the house (though not necessarily of the inhabitants) and services and taxes are based on that. Businesses, of course, often have more than one entrance (their version of a front door), so register more than one address, obtaining the best of both worlds.
The "front door rule" was instigated because many buildings in Baarle Hertog-Baarle Nassau are situated in more than one country (some shops actually paint the borderline on the ground, so that customers know just where they are at any given moment) and some way was needed to regulate the situation. Houses not only carry numbers, but also little flags, to show their designated nationality.
We visited Baarle Hertog-Baarle Nassau some 30 years ago, when we bought a book, published in 1979. The book indicates "just" 21 Belgian enclaves, but that number seems to have increased at a later date: perhaps this had something to do with the 1995 finalisation of the borders.