Sunday, May 24, 2015

[The Life of Shaun #512] Baarle

Being a geography geek, I've wanted to visit the twin villages of Baarle-Hertog/Baarle-Nassau since I learned of them.  They are, as the sign says when entering, "30 Enclaves, Two Countries, One Village".  So a few weeks ago, I popped over to visit my friends Lottie and Rob, and to meet their newest son, Flip, with a side overnight trip to the "most remarkable village in the world"™.

Baarle lies a few kilometres inside the Dutch border from Belgium, but several tracts of land, varying in size from a single house to many city blocks, are Belgian.  Nested within some of these blocks of Belgium are further blocks of The Netherlands.  The story of how this came to be is, unsurprisingly, very complicated.  The essence is that various blocks of land belonged to two separate aristocrats, and when The Netherlands and Belgium separated, the aristocrats did as well, and their lands became Dutch or Belgian with them.  The village now lives a double life: two police forces, two post offices, two churches, two school systems, two of every municipal service.

This has allowed the village what must be called a rather robust tourist trade, considering that, outwardly, the village is not so different from any other small town in this corner of Europe.  The enterprising towns have done a solid job dressing up the village for visitors.  The border is demarcated throughout the town, and every house number is done on a plate including the appropriate tricolour so you are always aware of which country you're in.

I knew that, once we'd taken photos straddling countries and of borders winding through the town, we'd pretty quickly exhaust our options in Baarle.  Fortunately, Lottie and I have quite a lot of fun doing very little together.  And so it was: town explored, photos taken, outdoor cafe selected, wine ordered -- it was a fantastic weekend.


Baarle's high street, with the border dividing it between The Netherlands and Belgium.

Lottie and I, both being foreigners.

Tax law states that a household pays taxes based on which country the front door is in.  Not sure how this family does it...

The border even cuts through the church - er, liquor shop.

We wondered why our chosen cafe had plenty of seats, whereas many of the others were packed, and then we noticed the sun.

However, our seats came with a vastly superior view.

Eventually we gave in, though.

For the evening, Lottie booked us into an amazing hotel.  Here we are waiting for The Four Man Band to come on stage to sing some of their repertoire of "nearly 80 songs".  This was followed by drinks with a dozen Bulgarian migrant workers who reside in the hotel, as one does.  Well, as we do, at least.

On the way out, we went to look for enclave H12.  Per satnav, this is it!

Map of Baarle, showing the nested enclaves.

Shaun H. Coley ~ Kentish Town ~ Camden ~ London NW5 ~ UK ~
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