The Dutch remember you, oh Neutral Moresnet

Vaals Travel Blog

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Thanks to an intruiging tip-off about a small independent country that once existed in the east of Belgium, today Neutral Moresnet blossomed and died for me.

Being in Vaals for a conference, this morning I took the chance to visit Drielandenpunt (Three Land Point) for myself. This is the point where the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany all meet up. For over 100 years (from 1816 and 1919) it was the Vierlandenpunt (Four Land Point), as the tiny state of Neutral Moresnet also touched on the border.

Neutral Moresnet was a country of only 1 square mile, formed in 1816 after bickering between Prussia and the Netherlands over a zinc mine. Neither country would let the other claim the valuable resource (there were only two zinc mines in Europe at the time, the other was in Bristol), so they created a new country around the mine.
The population of Neutral Moresnet was only 256 in the beginning, but rose to 4,668 over its 100 year existance, with workers attracted to the mine and to the exemption from military conscription.

The country was officially a condominium, shared between Prussia and the Netherlands until 1830, then Prussia and Belgium after Belgian independence. Dr Wilhelm Molly, the chief doctor for the mine, was a strong advocate for Neutral Moresnet, and worked tirelessly to build a future for the country after the mine, first attemting to start a local postal service (vetoed by Belgium), then a casino (vetoed by Prussia) then even managed to get Neutral Moresnet declared the world capital for Esperanto. Unfortunately the peace settlement after WWI changed all that, and in 1919, after a noble 100 year history, Neutral Moresnet was absorbed into Belgium.

Despite being long gone, Neutral Moresnet is still remembered by the Dutch. The roads leading up to Drielandenpunt are named "Route des Trois Bornes" (Three Land Road) in Belgium, "Dreil√§nderweg" (Three Land Road) in Germany, but "Viergrenzenweg" (Four Borders Road) in the Netherlands. 

As an aside, the highest point in the Netherlands, Mount Vaals, is also at Drielandenpunt. It is 322.7 metres above sea level.
Adrian_Liston says:
Belgium is exhausting - always so much to do!

Are you free this Saturday for a visit to Kortrijk?
Posted on: Dec 13, 2009
lamadude says:
Wow, you're a man of action :-) I mention something and a couple of days later you go to check it out?

Too bad that doesn't work for Kortrijk! Come on, how long have I been asking? You really should come see it, it's only an hour away! You can see it in one afternoon! I guess they don't have science conferences here?

Thanks for the card btw, found it in my backpack today, what a pleasant surprise! :-)
Posted on: Dec 10, 2009
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Vaals
photo by: LoLaV