Baltic Border Tour 2015
A tour along the EU borders

Baltic Border Tour August 2015

This trip started with a long preparation.
First I looked at EU borders of the Baltic states that can be visited in a long weekend. Preferably with a direct flight from Eindhoven on Friday morning to a central location not too far from an EU border and Tuesday evening back. That was not easy. The result was a flight on Friday from Amsterdam to Tallin and back from Vilnius through Riga to Amsterdam on Tuesday afternoon.
Then I figured out which borders I wanted to visit. Borders which are formed by a river for example are less attractive than borders over land. I ended with:
- Estonia Russia (EE-RU),
- Latvia Russia (LV-RU),
- Latvia Belarus (LV-BY),
- Lithuania Belarus (LT-BY),
- Poland Belarus (PL-BY),
- Lithuania Belarus (LT-BY) and finally,
- Poland Russia (PL-RU).
A piece of that last boundary I had previously visited in spring 2015. By then this part was extremely difficult.
Once I had decided that I wanted to go, I've mapped out a journey using places that are not too difficult to reach. Such a trip is always a race against time. It resulted in a route that I have adapted several times.
Then I started to approach the involved Border Guard Services and asked for permission to enter the border area and photograph the border markers. In addition, I added a detailed map with the exact spots and an approximation of the time that I wanted to be there.
The Estonian Border Guard didn’t respond on my e-mail, they did however when I sent a reminder. The head of the department responded that it was all right. The rules were clear and easy: I could not walk on the sand strip and if there was no sand trip, I had to have a look on my GPS to determine where the state border was. When I stumbled upon a Russian border post, I had illegally cross the border and that is not allowed. He wished me success during my endeavours. This gave some opportunities.
The Latvian Border Guard organisation sent a form that I had to fill out. The sender, Head of National Coordination Centre, sent the form in Latvian and he recommended me to go to the Latvian embassy to help me filling it out. I made an appointment in The Hague and a friendly Latvian lady helped me. It turned out that I only had to fill in my name, address and date of birth. And the reason for the stay at the border: Within three minutes I was back out there at Koninginnegracht in The Hague. A few days later I received an email a digitally signed license in Latvian to enter a number of border areas. The second permission.
The Lithuanian State Border Guard Service reacted a bit later. Again, I had to fill out a form and return it by mail. I immediately did it and almost two weeks later I received the happy e-mail that I would get a permission. This permission I had to pick it up myself in the neighborhood where I Lithuania came from Latvia. I had to go to the former nuclear plant of Visaginas at Lake Druksiai.
Poland finally was a bit more complicated: a license was not required. I had to keep 15 meters distance from the border, I was not allowed to walk on the inspection paths and at the border PL-RU I could it was not allowed to photograph. I knew all this already, nothing new so far. Remarkable however was the message that I had to call the regional offices of Border Guards when I was near the border to announce myself. I had some doubts: would they extra monitor me or would they just leave me as they knew I was there? In the first case it would be better not to call and quickly hit my shot. I e-mailed about it with Arthur Kroc, he thought they would not hinder me because they just want to know who is in their backyard. He was wrong, alas.
When I got all the permits, I booked the flights, hired a car and booked a few hotels. I wanted to spend my time as effectively as possible. Moreover, the areas where I would stay are very sparsely populated: it would not be easy to find a hotel once I was there. Finally, I made a detailed scheme for the whole trip and I entered all destinations (to the narrowest country road) to my portable navigation device. This resulted in a very tight time schedule: both visiting time and travel time were planned to the minute. Looking back, this was a very good choice. It saved me a lot of searching. In most cases, I drove to the right spots in one go!

Besides the stories and the pictures on this website, this study tour gave me lots of usable contributions for my geographical border studies that I make for the University of Groningen.

I want to thank the State Border Guard Services of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland for your kind support.
Without your cooperation and your full support this study was not possible.
The friendly people on strategical and tactial level on the Headquarters who supplied the permission,
the good-willing and always helpful Border Guard Officers in the field,
...thanks for all!
I hope you will allow me to come back once again at the borders of your beautiful countries...