March 12, 2012

A Puzzled Village

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:27 pm by newsurroundings

My car always knows where I am, even when I don’t.  When I cross into another country, the navigational system will tell me, “You’ve crossed the border”.  Well, today it went crazy, telling me every few meters that we had crossed the border.  I was in the village of Baarle, going from Belgium to the Netherlands, back into Belgium, then into the Netherlands again, back into Belgium, and on and on.  You get the idea.  How can that be?

It turns out I was in a most unusual place.  Baarle-Hertog is in Belgium and Baarle-Nassau is in the Netherlands.  That doesn’t sound so unusual until you realize that parts of the Netherlands are completely surrounded by Belgium, which is in turn completely surrounded by the Netherlands, which borders Belgium.  What?

Map

This map, showing the enclaves, makes it a little clearer.  The orange sections are Dutch territory and the green are Belgian.

As you walk around town, you’ll see the border markings.

You’ll see that the border goes to the middle of the road, up a little ways, and then across.

If you’re not sure what country you’re in, you can look at the house numbers with the flag representing their country.   The border may run down the middle of a house, so they have a “front-door policy”, meaning the placement of the front door determines which country the house is in.

house number with the Belgian flag

So, how does this town function?  Well, they have two of almost everything- two mayors, two town halls, two post offices, two fire stations.  It’s the only place in the world where police forces of two countries share the same office space.

auction house with two coats of arms

One town in two countries- I never thought I would see that.