Baarle Hertog-Nassau (Belgium & Netherlands)

I stumbled upon Baarle Hertog on a map. I mean, literally, I was zooming into the map at Antwerp searching for landmarks & places to see when I saw this black doodle like thing, on the map near the Belgian-Dutch border and zoomed into it..... and that's how I stumbled upon Baarle Hertog & Nassau. Google maps is the best way to explain how crazy this place border situation is. So yeah, ofcourse I wanted see this for myself. However, the challenge was public transport from Brussels (driving is just an easy 1:15hrs). Reaching here by bus & train combo on weekdays takes a bit over 2 hrs while in weekends, with reduced frequency it takes a bit over 3 hrs! 6 hrs travel felt too much for a day-trip and I kept postponing it, until, a friend of mine relocated to Eindhoven! So the trip became a weekend trip with a stop-over at Baarle!First of all, why this weird situation? Well, blame Godfried II van Schoten, the Lord of Breda in 1198 CE. Breda was between the Brabant and Holland (not the current region, the historic one!). So when the Count of Holland, Dirk VII tried to overpower and usurp him, he sought protection to Duke Henry I of Brabant and gave the city to him. Later the Duke gave back the city to Godfried, but kept the pieces of lands that were already cultivated with himself (something like a transaction cost!). These pieces of lands are what that forms Baarle-Hertog today! In course of time, the Duke lost control and the Nassau family took over and that's why the surrounding region is Baarle-Nassau!This is 'not' a parking slot, but  the border line, going through the streets!!!Much later, in 1648, after Maastricht Treaty, Godfried's lands came under Turnhout's administration and Nassau family's lands came under Netherlands. Then in 1830, when Belgium gained independence, Turnhout became a part of Belgium and thus Baarle Hertog too! Drawing a border at this point was impossible and till 1974, there was this 'hole in the border', between boundary stones 214 & 215, when it was finally closed off. In 1967, a so-called, representative boundary stone 214-215 was placed in the centre of this city! Only 1995, this crazy border enclaves were drawn and the international border lines/enclaves were made official, on paper! It was then a plaque was placed on the ground in the city depicting the boundary lines.....Today this crazy border lines go everywhere - through buildings, offices, shops, houses and more! There is a front-door policy in place where the building belongs to country in which its front door is located. However taxes of shops are the peak of craziness where they have to work out the taxes of both countries depending upon the goods placed on either sides of the border. The task of police is pretty crazy too, esp when the laws of the 2 countries don't match. For eg., the legal age of drinking in BE is 16 and NL is 18!!!One of our stops was the Town-hall and the police room in it, has both Belgian and Dutch police, The meeting/ceremony room in the building has a diagonal line that passes through it (can you see it in the pic above?)! Esp., during weddings care has to be taken that both parties are on the correct side of the border line in order to make the ceremony, valid! Our next stop was De Biergrens, an alcohol shop, which has the border line running through it. Unlike the houses that belong to the country where its front door is located, this belongs to both countries and has its front door in one country and its storage access door in another! I have no clue how they manage their taxes, it should be crazy!!!There was another shop which is in Netherlands, but the moment you step out of the door, you're in Belgium! There was a cafe, Restaurant Den Engel, whose wall almost blends with the borderline! At this point you'd also see the civic crests (official symbols) of both the towns. The town has a so-called 'Belgian' church and a so-called 'Dutch' church!Houses belong to the country where its front door is located. But here is a house with 2 numbers on it as well as an art gallery with 2 numbers on it. Then there is a very unique apartment with 2 doors on either sides of the border with its own number on it - well, NL has a 2 levels policy while BE allows 3 levels, so the apartment has 1 extra door in BE that leads directly to 2nd level. So basically ground floor is NL, 1st floor is BE and 2nd floor again in NL!!! Well........Another of our stops was the Hof van Baarle vineyard, which has a whole, small Belgian enclave in it while the rest of the whole vineyard is Dutch! This is located a bit away from the city centre. The region is marked with Belgian flag in the 4 corners of the enclave. All 4 flags are in the midst of the whole vineyard!!! This vineyard cultivates 9 types of grapes and has its own cellar where its fermented. One of its redwine is aptly named  Enclaves Rood! This has been aged in wooden barrel. Its absolutely delicious. Neither too sweet nor too dry, with 11% alc it was perfect and yummy! The best part - this wine has Protected Geographical Indication. With limited production, its almost impossible to even buy this wine elsewhere! That's one more reason to visit Baarle.Another place that's located a bit away is the Dodendraad. During WWI, remember how Belgium & Netherlands stayed neutral and bit by bit Belgium was occupied by Germany till Ypres? Well, at that point too, this enclave situation existed. But the enclaves were closed-off with a straight line for fencing purpose. Now, what is that?To prevent the Belgians from fleeing into Netherlands, Germany put up an electric fence along the border. But there were many ways in which Belgians fled into Netherlands (though many died trying to escape) and one of the way is this 'passeursraam'. This is a foldable wooden frame which could be inserted between 2 wires and opened up, leaving a insulated opening for people to escape safely. At this point of time, electricity was new and many people didn't even know how fatal it can be! Electricity line was brought here from Antwerp and there is an Old Switch House in the Dodendraadpad (Dead Wire Route). Btw, don't miss visiting the tourism office to mark where you're from! It was there that I came to know that someone from Chennai had already visiting Baarle-Hertog-Nassau!For its absolutely weird border line scenario that's been alive since 1198 CE, I'm amused that its still not recognized by UNESCO or EHL. I hope they receive atleast the European Heritage Label to recognize this medieval craziness that's still alive!To Get There:On Google Maps: Baarle Hertog Nassau Tourism Office, Town Hall, De Biergrens, Restaurant Den Engel, Art Gallery with 2 numbers, House with 2 numbers, Hof van Baarle vineyard, Death Wire and Old Switch House on Dodendraad routeWhile exploring the town centre is very much possible on foot, seeing the vineyard or dodendraad are possible only by car/bike. It is possible to hire bikes here. There is a dedicated 40km cycling route which can be taken to explore the border crossings 25 more times, in the outskirts of the town including the vineyard. There is also a dedicated 38km cycling route called Dodendraadpad (Dead Wire Route) that crosses the sites associated with the World War.{ "@context": "", "@type": "TouristAttraction", "name": "Baarle Hertog", "alternateName":"Baarle Nassau", "address": { "@type": "PostalAddress", "addressLocality": "Antwerpen", "addressCountry": "Belgium" }, "touristType":"Cultural Tourism", "image": "", "description": "A very unique locality in Netherlands, close to Belgian border. There are 22 enclaves of Belgium set-up in a very quirky, haphazard manner, thanks to the borders decided by the land-ownership in the 12th C" }

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