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Happy No-Border Birthday! Schengen celebrates 20 years

Thirty years ago it was signed, and 20 years ago today it went into effect: The European agreement that wiped out land borders for travelers throughout most of Europe, and also had the side effect of making a tiny town in Luxembourg into a world famous name: Schengen. The Schengen Agreement is, still, far better known than the town.


Originally including only the three Benelux countries, France and Germany, it now includes all of the European Union except Britain, and several non EU countries such as Switzerland as well. The practical effect has meant the end of long lines at border crossings, faster movement in an out of airports, and no train stops in the middle of the night to check passports.


But for some people, I included, it has also signaled a loss. It used to be possible to relive a trip by going through the stamps in your passport, each with its own memory.


Now, for outsiders, we get one on arriving and one on leaving...and sometimes even that can be a bit confusing! In 2009, we spent 3 weeks in Spain, but our only passport stamps were at Munich on the way in and Frankfurt on the way out. Last summer, you'd think we'd been to Barcelona and Zurich for the summer, but we were only in Barcelona for an hour on the way to France, and in Switzerland for a day on the way out.


So, whether you're nostalgic for the good old days, or curious what it looks like now, click HERE for a view from the Telegraph (UK)


Border crossing into Germany, then and now.


Photos: Wikimiedia (Doco, right  and  BrokenSphere below).



The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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I don't share the nostalgia for border crossings, having experienced some of the worst crossings in the world in the late 80's


And while Schengen  said it wiped out land borders for travelers throughout most of Europe, I've still experienced controls in those countries . On one such occasion ,I took a bus from Brussels to Paris and the bus was stopped twice in France.  ID was checked and people questioned. Even bags were inspected for people from Romania and Bulgaria.

If you want a thing done, ask a busy man.

Last edited by Travel Rob

Interesting, given the history of prejudice against Romany, that those countries were singled out. At the time they were not yet Schengen members, either, although they are now in the process of joining, leaving only Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and UK out among EU members. The non-EU members of Schengen are Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

From a historic perspective, I think it's still a little early to know if this was all good for Europe or not.  The border crossings are definitely easier and faster, and I, too, miss the passport stamps no longer on my pages.  For me the greatest convenience is the common currency -- not having to change money so often, usually at a loss.  Of course, some would argue that the Euro is the greatest weakness of the EU (will it survive?), so I'm not sure in the long run how this will all play out.  Time will tell.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

Another part of the agreement is of interest to US travelers. We can only spend 90 days in the Schengen country for every 180 day period,without having to contend with Visas . I haven't heard too much about the consequences of overstaying the 90 days ,until I saw this comment online about getting a $500 fine for overstaying.

More info on the 90/180 day rule

If you want a thing done, ask a busy man.

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