This tripoint between Czech Republic, Germany and Poland is located in the middle of Lusatian Neisse river (Lausitzer Neiße), at the mouth of a shallow brook, which also forms the border between Poland and Czech Republic. The bordering municipalities are Hrádek nad Nisou (Czech Republic), Zittau (Germany) and Bogatynia (Poland).
How the tripoint came into being
In this part of Europe, the borders of the respective countries changed many times. Over the centuries, new countries have been founded and others have ceased to exist.
The border between Germany and Poland we know today was established at the Potsdam Conference in 1945, in the aftermath of World War II. The Oder-Neisse line was drawn and all German prewar territory east of the Oder and Neisse rivers was given to Poland (except for Königsberg/Kaliningrad, which became part of the Soviet Union and still forms an exclave of Russia nowadays).
This is how Bogatynia became part of Poland. For centuries, the town was called Reichenau in Sachsen and was predominantly German. It was the only part of the Free State of Saxony on the eastern bank of Neisse river. Following the Potsdam Agreement, the new Polish administration took control of the town. In 1947, it was renamed Rychwald and later received its present name Bogatynia, a calque from the German Reichenau (German “reich” and Polish “bogaty” both mean “rich”). The massive Turów power plant and coal mine is located within city limits.
From 1945, the border between East Germany (the territory administered by the Soviet Union, became the German Democratic Republic in 1949) and Poland has been the Neisse river. However, there was still a political dispute about the lawfulness of the border, as the Potsdam Treaty was only signed by the Allies of World War II, but not by Germany. When the GDR ceased to exist in 1990, some people argued that Germany should claim the territory that was part of Germany in 1937, but then allocated to Poland by the Allied troops in 1945. The Treaty on the Final Settlement With Respect to Germany (also called Two Plus Four Agreement), signed in 1990 by West and East Germany and the four Allied nations, made all of the countries recognize the border line along Oder and Neisse rivers.
Between Czech Republic and Poland, the border is defined by a small brook that flows into Neisse river. The brook is called Ullersdorfer Bach in German, Oldřichovský potok in Czech, and Lubota in Polish, respectively. This border dates back to 1849, when it became the border between the Kingdom of Saxony and the Austrian Empire. It has not changed since, except for the period between 1938 and 1945.
Therefore, the mouth of the river forms the tripoint between the countries.
Public access to the tripoint
The area around the tripoint was inaccessible during the Cold War, as the border between what was then East Germany (GDR), Czechoslovakia and Poland, was heavily secured and patrolled. Even though all three countries were then part of the Eastern Bloc, it was not possible to visit the tripoint. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the German reunification, the tripoint area became more accessible again. In 2004, when Czech Republic and Poland joined the European Union, and more importantly in 2007, when these two countries joined the Schengen zone, the tripoint became an important symbolical place of unity, peace and friendship between the neighboring countries.
In order to strengthen cross-border cooperation between the municipalities, Hrádek nad Nisou, Zittau and Bogatynia formed a community partnership in 2001. Activities include joint cultural events, workshops, conferences and spontaneous aid in emergencies.
There have been plans to build a circular bridge across Neisse river that would connect all three countries and surround the actual tripoint. However, such plans have not been realized yet.
How to get there
The tripoint is a bit hard to find, unless you use a GPS navigation device. The easiest way to reach the tripoint is to drive from the Polish side of the border, from Bogatynia, towards the border crossing with Czech Republic. Just a few hundred meters before the crossing, take a right onto an unpaved road with plenty of potholes. You can park your car 100 meters from the tripoint.
It is, of course, also possible to access the area from the other two countries, but it would require a longer walk to get to the mouth of the river, where the tripoint is located.