1.Land-locked Countries

Is geography important? Here’s a question for you to answer.

What have the following countries got in common: Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, Iceland and Madagascar?

Quite easy if you can picture them on the globe--they are all islands. Australia is so big that it’s almost a continent by itself, so you don’t think of it as an island, but of course all of these nations are surrounded by sea.

Now how about this question...

What have these five nations got in common? Slovenija, Botswana, Kazakhstan, Paraguay and Liechtenstein. A bit more difficult to answer, but of course you’ve already read the title of this article. Yes, they are all landlocked. In other words, in contrast to the first five countries whose coastline forms their border, the second five have no coastline at all. If you are a Slovenian or a Paraguayan, you have to pass through somebody else’s country if you want to go to the beach.

Liechtenstein is even more of a geographical phenomenon; it is ‘doubly landlocked’ because the countries that surround it--Austria and Switzerland are also landlocked. Lucky old Liechtensteiners. There is only one other country in the world in a similar position, Uzbekistan, which is surrounded by five other landlocked countries. Go and have a look at the map if you want to know which.

So how do countries become landlocked? If you are Swiss or Nepalese, you have probably never thought things could be any other way. Switzerland’s mountains, like the Himalayas, have formed a natural boundary for thousands of years. But there are borders and there are borders. Where one country ends and another begins is not something that is fixed for all time.

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