Borders and Boundaries

This small town is in two countries

And its border is marked very, VERY clearly.

THERE ARE TOWNS across Ireland which suffer from a county identity crisis.

It’s not rare to find county flags changing colours as you drive down a main street or road in the weeks leading up to a match.

But, spare a thought for the residents of Baarle.

The small town of around 9,200 people is in the south of the Netherlands but, because of a number of historic treaties, land-swaps and sales, as well as the 1843 Treaty of Maastricht, 2,500 of its inhabitants are Belgians. That is because 26 pieces of the town still belong to Belgium.

Confused? The map doesn’t exactly clear things up.


To make things easier on the ground, the border is always marked. ALWAYS.

PastedImage-16732 Giorgos Vrachliotis Giorgos Vrachliotis

On one side is Baarle-Nassau, the Dutch side and the other is Baarle-Hertog, the Belgian side. In total, there are 22 enclaves, along with the main section, called Zondereigen and three sections nearer the Belgian border.

There are also six Dutch areas inside Belgian lands, making the whole place even more confusing.

Here’s what the areas look like:

1024px-Baarle-Nassau_-_Baarle-Hertog-en.svg Wikimedia Wikimedia

Aside from the constant on-street reminders, house numbers are labelled with flags to remind people what side of the myriad borders they are on.

3374975261_9493a54b20_z David O'Leary David O'Leary

The borders are rigid, too. They pass through car parks:

Google Map

And cafes:

Baarle-Nassau_frontière_café Wikimedia Wikimedia

And even this one house:


The house has two addresses, one for each side.

Movement between the two towns is free, but there is one major difference. The sale of fireworks is much more strictly controlled in Holland than it is in Belgium, meaning there are many fireworks shops in the Belgian parts and Dutch people flock there around New Year to stock up.

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