Baarle-Hertog Travel Blog› entry 68 of 78 › view all entries
May 24th, 2009 – by: Adrian_Liston
Why is the border so screwed up? Basically this is the way all of Europe used to look. Feudalism cut and spliced Europe into tiny land fragments, all for sale to the richest bastard or free to conquest by a bigger bastard with a sword. Land was divided by sale or between sons during generational change, fused by marriages or purchases, gained or lost for arcane rights and taxation. Baarle was no different in being divided up between the Dukes of Brabant (“Hertog”) and the House of Nassau. What was different about Baarle is just how long the messed up situation has lasted. After the Belgian Protestants revolted against Spanish control of the Habsburg Netherlands in 1568, the Eighty Years’ War began.
Of course, people were living in Baarle the entire time, and houses had been knocked down and rebuilt over the past 500 years, so that today’s border has no respect for the town planning. The border runs down streets, across parks and even divides houses and shops. Your bedroom can be in Belgium while your kitchen is in the Netherlands. For taxation and residential purposes, each house is deemed to be in the country in which the front door is located, so there are 2,306 Belgians in Baarle-Hertog and 5,330 Dutch in Baarle-Nassau. Some were surprised in 1995 when the final borders came out and the shift of a couple of metres turned Dutch into Belgians and Belgians into Dutch - the typical response was to change the position of the front door to get back into your old country. This was not merely patriotism - the front door move had serious taxation and regulation effects. A new door could change income and sales tax and even the opening hours of shops.
So what does it mean for a town where a few unsuspecting steps can mean...
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