Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Twin Towns: Baarle-Hertog (BE) & Baarle-Nassau (NL)

In my continuing quest for history and culture, I spend idle moments googling (an addiction we all think is normal) and discovering a plethora of sights and places, when I ran into this interesting website about the twin towns in the border of Belgium and the Netherlands.

The twin towns and border pole (grenspaal) between Belgium and the Netherlands.

These twin towns are said to be the most remarkable village in the world as there are 30 loose puzzle pieces of land tangled seamlessly with each other and under two sovereignty - Belgian and Dutch.

Baarle-Hertog, the Belgian municipality has 22 loose bits of land in Baarle-Nassau, the Dutch municipality. Baarle-Nassau in turn has 8 loose bits of land in Baarle-Hertog. These bits and pieces of land are called enclaves.

Here is a description of the sister towns I found from their official website:

“No where else in the world is known of a municipality so extremely interwoven with a municipality of the neighbouring country. This tangle is most visible in geographical respect. But in social, cultural, and economic terms, as well as in the public area, there is a great deal of interaction. Examples are - amongst many others - the mixed (Belgian-Dutch) organisations, the joint international library, the joint cultural centre, common public provisions such as drinking water, gas and sewerage, firms with both a Dutch and Belgian address, and so forth. Typical too is that one, so to speak, at a single glance can observe 2 towns hall, 2 fire services, 2 churches, 2 police services, and double provisions for electricity and telephony.”

Veilinghuis means auction house, with the flags of the two countries.

I looked tired here with my noticeable eye bags and dark circles, and straight out of the bed hair... but still enjoying my Westmalle.

Not so good news: Apart from its interesting history and facts, the twin villages didn’t really impress me a lot. Dutchman was teasing me a bit, “Valt het tegen?” [Was it disappointing?], and I must say he was spot on.

Here’s the good news: Both Baarle towns are open on Sundays! So I checked out the shops and surprisingly Dutchman didn’t mind being my bag lady for the day - holding my bag whilst I do my fittings. Usually he would complain and say he is not my personal maid and moreover he isn’t gay, lol.

Later we had some Belgian frites. The dutchman was grumbling again saying they were not the real thing. He said the Belgian frites are larger in cut and their mayonnaise has a sour twist, which obviously were missing. He actually prefers the Dutch fries called “patat” and the sweet Dutch mayonnaise but since he was in a Belgian shop and in Belgium territory - actually just a few feet away from the border ha-ha, he was expecting the real Belgian frite experience. Hmm, interesting logic I might say...

We then had light dinner in this popular cafe along the main street by the border of the two municipalities and I ordered a cold beer for myself – Westmalle. Yummy.

Nevertheless, it was a nice day to be out and about.

Travel Period: September 2007
Destination: Baarle-Hertog (Turnhout), Belgium

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