“Hi, why don’t you come over to Belgian side of the bar”. I overheard this sentence a few years back in a small town. Was the speaker joking? His tone was serious enough.
For quite sometime I have been trying to come up with a way to explain this weird town on this earth which I visited a few years back. It is something like ‘a child belonging to two mothers’. And none of them is a step mother.
Okay, let’s try.
It is a Dutch town in the Netherlands. But it is also a Dutch town in Belgium.
It is a Belgian town in Belgium and is also a Belgian town in the Netherlands.
I hope you are not confused as yet. 😀
Some more ?
Baarle-Hertog Vs Baarle-Nassau
It is a piece of Belgian land completely encircled by Netherlands and vice versa.
Ahaa ! Now I can see you are perplexed indeed. 🙂
Baarle is a quiet town that is part of two countries and is located at the Dutch-Belgian border. NL part is called Hertog and Belgian part Nassau.
Well, this reason was not compelling enough for me to go there.
But when I was told by a colleague, the complexity of the place and how a door of your house can decide how much taxes you have to pay, it was a just matter of time when I would visit the place.
An embossed map of Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau on a footpath.
In Baarle, two is THE number. Because the community is made up of two different countries, duplication has become a way of life. There are two civic governments, with two elections for two mayors and also at regional and national level.
There are many other TWOs that make it more interesting.
Two police forces enforcing two different sets of law but sharing the same building. And there are two income-tax rates, two electrical systems, two phone systems, two school systems, and two tennis clubs.
Infrastructure and maintenance costs that are shared between the two Baarles include civic services like garbage, sewage, fire, and public transit. The cost of cultural centre is shared, but the centre itself is divided.
It does not end here.
There are two postal services. If you mail a letter from one country to another (which is actually across the street), the letter will take a longer route out of Baarle to Amsterdam or Brussels, as the case maybe, before returning to Baarle. 🙂
So, you can save yourself several days’ delay by simply walking to the nearest mailbox in the other country and mailing from there. But hey ! Don’t forget to put the right stamp! 😛
Fortunately now you have a single currency but earlier times both currencies made their rounds. And all this for a population of less than 9000 (75% NL and 25% B) !
Okay, if you think this is also not that appealing. Read on….