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Cross 10 Borders In 10 Minutes: Baarle-Hertog / Baarle-Nassau 📍
The border switches practically every block in this Belgium/Netherlands town (📍Bonkers Borders Series)
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Where To Cross 10 Borders In 10 Minutes:
Baarle-Hertog, Belgium / Baarle-Nassau, Netherlands
In the middle ages, nobles fought over every inch of land. It made a mess of a map. Luckily, most of that’s over. Except in one village in Europe, where they didn’t seem to get the memo. In Baarle, the country you’re in changes not just from street to street, but from house to house even on the same street.
Baarle is a village near the border between Belgium and the Netherlands that’s known as the world’s most complicated border. The village of about 9000 people is split into at least 26 tiny pieces of land: some bits are Belgium, some bits are the Netherlands. Most bits are the size of a few blocks, some as small as a couple houses. That means residents of Baarle can go between the Netherlands and Belgium dozens of times just on their way to work. There are actually seven Dutch pieces that sit inside Belgian pieces, who in turn sit inside Dutch land. So basically a country in a country in a country. Called “counter-enclaves,” there’s currently only one other example of that in the world, outside of this village (note: Nahwa).
The craziness started in the 12th century, when two noble lords traded and swapped land between them. Most of the stories involve lots of drinking. Apparently, the lords didn’t want to let go of particular tax-paying lots of land so they created a swiss cheese-looking map over time. Belgium and the Netherlands inherited their respective territory and went back and forth for a long time over the exact boundaries. (that last bit of land – a piece of grass – was apparently only finalized in 1995).
The crazy lines make Baarle a very unique place. There are houses and stores with border lines going through them, so the rule is that you are part of the country where your door is located. That makes thing fun too, bc apparently residents have been known to move their doors to lower their taxes. Some shops on the same street are in different countries. (show diff house numbers+signs). When each nation adopted different rules to combat the spread of COVID, it meant some stores could stay open while the next door over had to be closed. (this store moved their shelves!). When there were different drinking hours, some restaurants just moved their tables over a few feet to keep the party going. There’s also different drinking ages, so I guess 16 year olds move their tables over too. (also fireworks)
There’s 2 mayors, 2 tv networks, 2 mail services, and 2 garbage pick-ups, each serving their parts. But they don’t double up on everything: the library is both Dutch and Flemish and the police forces share the same station.
Baarle often comes up as an example of how to share tight boundaries peacefully, with leaders of places like Israel/Palestine seeing what they can learn from it. Im not sure how helpful it is at solving international conflict, but if I was 16, I’d definitely use it as an example of great places my family should move to.
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