The Confusing Borders of Lake Constance


Behind me is Lake Constance. It is a big lake, near the Alps, in the middle
of Europe. This bit of me is in Germany, and this bit
of me, on the other side of that sculpture, is in
Switzerland. …they took down the border fence and they
replaced it with sculptures. A few miles away behind me, over that horizon,
is Austria. And all three countries have a shoreline on
Lake Constance. And if you look at a map, you will notice that something is missing: the lines that denote
where the international borders, the lines that I’m standing on right now,
stop at the lakeshore. Lake Constance is a condominium, which is a fancy way of saying that it belongs
to more than one country. But no-one is entirely sure who. We are used to the idea that the Earth is
divided up, and different countries
own different bits of it. Which is kind of a strange idea when it’s
put like that, but since most of the world agrees on it,
we stick with it. Laws, taxes, rights and responsibilities change
at formal, defined lines. Okay, there are international waters, and Antarctica’s a special case, and okay,
there is that one bit of Africa where two countries both don’t want to claim
it, but generally: each bit of the world is owned by one particular
nation. And sure, sometimes borders get complicated
because of treaty glitches or land disputes, but this isn’t one of those: it’s just that
no-one ever bothered to actually put down in an international treaty
where the borders are. According to Austria, over there, Lake Constance is a true condominium, shared equally by all three countries all
the way across. If you’re on the lake, you are simultaneously
in Germany, and Austria, and Switzerland. Switzerland is not happy with that: according to them, the border runs straight
down the middle of the lake. And Germany is basically like, [shrug]. No-one really has a problem with this. If there are any legal issues, they’re settled on a case-by-case basis. So if you’re wondering what happens if someone
gives birth in the middle of the lake, and what citizenship their kid would have, or what would happen under salvage laws if
someone pulls up sunken treasure for the middle of the– I mean, the answer is: [shrug]. We’ll sort it out when we have to, and in the meantime no-one’s really going
to mind. The only people that this lack of defined
border does affect are cartographers, map-makers: there is no option on most digital maps for
[shrug]. Computers and people
don’t know where to draw the line.

100 thoughts on “The Confusing Borders of Lake Constance

  1. If you're wondering why my coat looks ridiculous, it's because there was about a 30mph wind blowing off the lake, and it was either freeze to death or accept a certain loss of dignity…

  2. As a german "¯(ツ)/¯" really reflects our government, in terms of how much it cares about us, so i can confirm, that this is very much correct!

  3. I seriously didn't know that 🙂 i live in Germany amd always asked myself why the borders aren't shown on any maps. Now I know, thanks Scott 😉

  4. Where I live if you find treasure in a lake it’s yours to keep. As long as it’s not reported stolen or missing. Anything found a international borders would be yours to keep.

  5. I bought a Michelin road atlas of western Europe last week. It shows the Swiss border for Lake Constance. It also shows Kosovo as a province of Serbia, and ignores the concept of Northern Cyprus.

  6. Wow, didn't know that. What if i live an a Houseboat … do I have to pay Taxes ? … and do I have to pay them to three Countries at once … or to none?

  7. 1:50 remember that in these three countries, ius sanguinis is used, which means that the child gets the citizenship of its parents. Ius soli (citizenship by birthplace) is used primarily in anglo-american countries

  8. If someone is born in the middle of the lake then their nationality is the last country that your mother stepped in

  9. I’m Swiss, live on Lake Constance and i’ve never heard anyone argue about which part of the lake is theirs. Germans come across to Switzerland and we travel to Germany, no big deal.

  10. During the second world war the swiss set up anti tank obstacles in the lake since they feared that the germans may cross it with their “schnorkel” which allowed tank to drive underwater

  11. 1:47 The child gets the citizenship of the parents since none of the countries gives citizenships just because youre born there

  12. As a german the attitude towards this lake is disturbing to me. Since when do we go "meh…not my business right now" ? Could we implement the same attitude to weed legalization and certain speed limits i recently may or may not have obeyed?

  13. I live very near to the lake of Constance, but I have never heard about any problems regarding this "bordersless" situation. Austria Germany and Switzerland are very similar countries and all are part of Schengen area. And the laws are although very similar. So in reality if you are in Austria Germany or Switzerland makes no difference.

  14. 1:50 the Baby wouldn't have the Austrian citizenship I guess because we have a law that you don't get it just because you're born there

  15. NEIN – DAS IST NICHT RICHTIG ! ! ! Der Bodensee ist International – das bedeutet jeder Anreihnerstaat hat Landesrecht bis 25 Meter Wassertiefe, auf der Linie wo du stehst geht es im Rechten Winkel bis auf 25 Meter Wassertiefe – danach ist der See wie die Meere nach der 3Meilen Zone International, früher gab es die Butterschiffe auf dem See die im Internationalen Steuerfrei verkauften. Das Fischerei Recht über 25 Meter nennt sich auch Hoher See.
    NO, THAT'S NOT CORRECT ! ! ! The Bodensee is international – that means every Anreihnerstaat has state law to 25 meters water depth, on the line where you stand it goes in the right angle up to 25 meters water depth – afterwards the lake is like the seas after the 3Meilen zone international, formerly there was the Butter ships on the lake sold in the International Tax Free. The fishing right over 25 meters is also called high seas.

  16. The international name for the "Bodensee" (how you called it "Lake Konstanz" ?) sound´s really , sorry not your fallt,
    sounds really stupid.
    its not the Lake of Konstanz
    Sounds really really wired.

  17. NEIN – DAS IST NICHT RICHTIG ! ! ! Der Bodensee ist International – das bedeutet jeder Anreihnerstaat hat Landesrecht bis 25 Meter Wassertiefe, auf der Linie wo du stehst geht es im Rechten Winkel bis auf 25 Meter Wassertiefe – danach ist der See wie die Meere nach der 3Meilen Zone International, früher gab es die Butterschiffe auf dem See die im Internationalen Steuerfrei verkauften.

    NO, THAT'S NOT CORRECT ! ! ! The Bodensee is international – that means every Anreihnerstaat has state law to 25 meters water depth, on the line where you stand it goes in the right angle up to 25 meters water depth – afterwards the lake is like the seas after the 3Meilen zone international, formerly there was the Butter ships on the lake sold in the International Tax Free.

    Über 25 Meter greift auch das Fischerei Recht Hoher See. Es stören sich sehr Wohl Fischer an der Mündung Rhein die jetzt zu Deutschland gehört.

  18. See, there's a certain beauty in this. There's no real reason to actually draw lines and there's an actual effort in resisting to regulate everything. Especially for us Germans. So this serves as an example that not everything HAS TO be regulated. We need much more 'meh' in international relationships!

  19. because all the people around the lake speak German. also germany was the dominant power at one time and before that the austrian empire. so it belonged to the strongest.

  20. those case by case decisions are paid for by the citizens. it's not very funny when there are thousands of euros spent on simple things made complicated because of idiocy

  21. Until you all agree I'm taking my hords of Knights to the Lake and claim it for myself… I'll call it the "Lake of Uknown, who the f..k knows" 🤣😂😂

  22. 2:09 Most cartographers here in the area of Lake Constance (or Bodensee like his real name is) are using the swiss borders. But only because they just want to draw something and dont want to look stupid….

  23. I mean germany and austria is in the eu. While the swiss are "part of the schengen project to some extent" meaning that for the majority of the lake the laws are mostly the same.

  24. Why is it called "Lake Constance"? Makes no sense at all. I'm from Switzerland, we call it Bodensee. So do the Germans and the Austrians.

  25. I know that many people don’t like to hear that, but there is no big difference between Germans, Austrians and the Swiss. I mean we’ve even been a united „country“ for many years.

  26. The Lake Constance area was populated by the Gernanic tribe of the Alemans in the past. The dialects spoken there today are very similar. Thus, there is a strong sense of community in the region. Together they saved the lake from becoming a dump for industrial and domestic waste in the 70s. Today the water of the lake has drinking water quality. Quite an schievement. People there cooperate – no borders needed.

  27. austria wants the lake equally because else they would have just a little bit of it… germany doesnt care because its the middle of europe and the lake belongs to europe (to all) any way… and swiss is the only one wanting to stay away from europe… poor guys…

  28. so the only problem is switzerland that is creating the probleme, cause they are the only one whos bitching around

  29. why does people have to own counties and why does counties have to own anything including water, lakes, oceans and River

  30. Point Robert's, Washington, USA has an interesting border. They are connected to Canada but not the rest of mainland USA. The 49th parallel cut them off and left them isolated from the rest of the USA.

  31. I'm guessing here, but I imagine Austria, Switzerland and Germany follow mainly Jus Sanguinis before Jus Soli, so giving birth in the middle of the lake wouldn't be an issue

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