If you want to experience international travel without ever leaving your home, you might want to consider living on Pheasant Island. This island has the distinction of belonging to one country for half of the year and another country for the other half.
Located on the Bidasoa River between Spain and France, Pheasant Island is not exactly a busy metropolitan center. In fact, it has no permanent human population. Despite its name, it doesn’t even have any pheasants. It is approximately 660 feet (200 meters) long and 130 feet (40 meters) wide. Its only permanent structure is a monument to commemorate the Treaty of the Pyrenees, ending the Thirty Years War in 1659. It was this treaty that created Pheasant Island’s unique bi-national dependency.
Under the terms of the treaty, Pheasant Island is part of the nation of Spain from February 1 to July 31 each year. On August 1, it becomes a French possession through January 31. Since unrestricted access to the island is prohibited yet remains an attractive destination to juvenile delinquents, trespassers face prosecution by Spain or France, depending on the time of year of the offense.
Despite the island’s small size, it has a bit of a reputation for being a nexus for royal matchmaking. Louis XIV met his future wife Maria Theresa of Spain on Pheasant Island in 1659. Their son, Louis XV, met Mariana Victoria of Spain, who was intended to be his wife. The meeting between the two failed to bring about the marriage hoped for by the two sets of parents.
Just as Louis XV’s marital prospects shrank on the island, the island itself is also dwindling away. The island is about half the size that it was just a couple of centuries ago. As the rapid currents of the river rush by, the island of two nations is slowing being eroded and swept downstream to form part of other countries.
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