Fun With Enclaves and Exclaves: Baarle Hertog and Baarle Nassau
As I was going to stop off in Breukelen on my way driving back to Amsterdam after visiting Drielandenpunt — literally translated from Dutch for three land point — which is where the borders of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium meet, I realized that the towns of Baarle Hertog and Baarle Nassau were on the way; so I decided to stop off there.
Fun With Enclaves and Exclaves: Baarle Hertog and Baarle Nassau
At first glance, Baarle Hertog and Baarle Nassau seem like a typical quiet village which one would find in Europe…
…and yet simultaneously notice something which is immediately different: two different signs which herald the welcome of visitors.
When I found an available parking space on the cobblestone and brick street, I parked the rental car for the first time…
…the front half of the car was in the Netherlands; while the rear end of the car was in Belgium.
Another indicator of the uniqueness of Baarle Hertog and Baarle Nassau — which are parts of Belgium and the Netherlands respectively — is the hodgepodge of markings which permeate throughout the village…
…as well as flags which remind you which country in which you happen to be at that moment.
The markings of the borders are in at least three different forms: those on the concrete block sidewalks which resemble white plus symbols, with the initials of each country on either side…
…until the border reaches a street, where it becomes comprised of bricks, with the center line of bricks colored a light blue…
…and in some cases, the border between the two countries becomes a series of metal dots which were embedded sparsely in the street, as this type of border marker is not as conspicuous as the two other types of border markers.
On the right side of the photograph shown above, you can see three metal dots in the street — and at the third metal dot, the border turns left, as indicated by the metal dot in the street on the left side of the photograph…
…until the metal dots reach a white gore further down the street.
This photograph shows a close view of the metal dot in the street, indicating the border between the Netherlands and Belgium.
Because of a deal between feudal lords in the year 1198, Baarle Hertog and Baarle Nassau is arguably the most advanced border scenario in the world — and finding a border scheme as complex as this one is difficult to do.
Although the area is contained within the Netherlands some miles away from the actual border with Belgium, it is divided approximately evenly between the Belgian and Dutch sides.
Approximately 11,000 people reside in both Baarle Hertog and Baarle Nassau.
Living in an area which has so many enclaves and exclaves provides some unique challenges — such as what to do during the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic, for example.
“As European international locations start to ease their restrictions on public life at a assorted tempo, with some permitting companies to reopen whereas others stay on lockdown, the completely different guidelines are sowing confusion for vacationers and the many individuals who stay in border areas and repeatedly cross forwards and backwards”, according to this article written by Thomas Erdbrink for The New York Times. “And nowhere, it appears protected to say, are these divergent methods extra seen and perplexing than within the border-straddling city of Baarle-Hertog-Nassau, the place the foundations can differ from avenue to avenue, door to door and even inside buildings, with Dutch regulation in drive in a single spot and Belgium’s utilized simply a few steps away.”
Although the laws in Belgium are generally less restrictive than those of the Netherlands, Belgium was essentially locked down in back in March of 2020 due to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic — and fines were issued to anybody who ventured from their home or residence without a good reason or cause…
…but the Netherlands was considerably more relaxed with its restrictions during the pandemic, as dining establishments with the option to take out food, retail outlets, and authorized workplaces were permitted to stay open; and people were allowed to venture out on the streets as long as they distanced themselves from each other appropriately — although they were strongly advised to stay at home.
One of the first steps undertaken by Belgium after the country essentially locked down on Monday, May 4, 2020 was to issue new guidelines under which face masks became obligatory — and the penalty of not wearing a mask on the face was 250 euros, or approximately $270.00 in United States dollars.
Meanwhile, politicians within the Netherlands had been critical of the use of face masks, which only added to the confusion.
Authorities in Belgium responded to the current 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic by closing all crossings alongside its border of approximately 280 miles that the country shares with the Netherlands.
Checkpoints which had been long forgotten instantly reappeared because the police blocked anybody from crossing the border in either direction — and individuals from the Netherlands suddenly could not cross into Belgium for less expensive gasoline anymore as one of numerous results.
Another challenge is for those buildings which straddle both countries — such as the structure shown in the photograph above, which has two entrances into the same lobby: one in the Netherlands on the left; and one in Belgium on the right, which bypassed a building restriction in the Netherlands by having a second front door installed on the Belgian side of the border.
The number plaques which designate the address of the building are even different in each country: the ones shown above indicate that the address is in the Netherlands.
The building shown in the photograph above on a street named Loveren not only also straddles both Belgium and the Netherlands…
…but its lone entrance also straddles both countries — and has the flag of each country waving proudly on each side of the doorway.
Additionally, the lone doorway of that building also has a number plaque for each country…
…number 2 for its address in Belgium; and number 19 for its address in the Netherlands.
The plaque on the cobblestone sidewalk shown in the photograph above commemorates international recognition of all of the borderlines within Baarle Nassau and Baarle Hertog.
Within Baarle Hertog of the Netherlands are 22 enclaves of Belgium; and within Baarle Nassau of Belgium are eight enclaves of the Netherlands, which is why a haphazard hodgepodge of border markings exists.
Sometimes, even the border markings themselves can seem to inexplicably switch styles at the turn of a dime.
On one side of the border embedded within the cobblestone sidewalk is the crest of Belgium…
…and on the other side of the border embedded within the cobblestone sidewalk — and underneath the chairs and table of a café — is the crest of the Netherlands.
The crests of both countries — along with the border — are in the photograph shown above.
Even in parking lots, parking a vehicle while straddling two different countries is not difficult to do.
The Enclave Route is a route for bicycles which is between 40 kilometers and 50 kilometers in length on which you can cross the border 25 times — simply follow the hexagonal signs with the blue arrow. The flag on each sign indicates whether you are in Belgium or the Netherlands. A large bicycle on the sign indicates the long loop for adults; while a tricycle on the sign indicates the loop which is friendlier for children and is approximately 22.5 kilometers in length.
The Church of Saint Remigius is a prominent landmark in the Baarle Nassau and Baarle Hertog area.
The official boundary stone is located just outside of the Church of Saint Remigius.
Additional captions will be added for this and the remaining nine photographs.
Baarle-Hertog is comprised of 22 exclaves which are technically located within the border of the Netherlands…
…and Baarle-Nassau is comprised of eight enclaves.
I really enjoyed constantly hopping between the two countries. I spent perhaps a couple of hours in Baarle Nassau and Baarle Hertog; but you can spend an entire day in this patchwork of enclaves and exclaves — depending on just how interested you are in discovering some the strange anomalies and hidden little quirks which seem to be unique to this area, which is listed as one of the 13 most fascinating international borders in the world.
For more fun which I personally had with enclaves and exclaves, please read this article pertaining to my experience with Oman and the United Arab Emirates — as well as this article pertaining to my experience with the Vennbahn former railroad line, with which Belgium winds inside of Germany.
If you like borders in general, please read this article pertaining to my experience at the Four Corners area of the United States, at which I stood on four states at one time.
All photographs ©2018 by Brian Cohen.