View Full Version : Baarle (Belgian and Dutch Enclaves)

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008, 09:33 PM
Europe and perhaps the world’s most famous enclaves are the municipalities of Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog. These are located on the border between The Netherlands and Belgium south of the Dutch city of Tilburg. Baarle-Hertog consists of 22 Belgian exclaves surrounded by Dutch territory. These cover a total of 2.34 km² and have a population of about 2,200.

Baarle-Nassau consists of eight Dutch exclaves, seven of which are embodied within the Belgian exclaves of Baarle-Hertog. These enclaves within enclaves are known as counter-enclaves. The eighth enclave is situated in Belgium just south of the border, north-west of Ginhoven. These cover a total of 0.15 km² and have a population of about 130 engaged mostly in agriculture. Tourism has become the major economic activity in the village areas with increasing numbers of people attracted to Baarle by the complexity of its borders. To make the enclaves’ borders more visible to the visitor, metal disks have been fixed to form dotted lines on the roads. The boundaries on the footpaths have been delineated by grey stones with inset white crosses.

In 1198 the Lord of Breda (Godfried Ivan Schoten) made a land deal with the Duke of Brabant to help defend Breda against threats by the Count of Holland (Dirk VII). The Duke granted Godfried the loan of Breda as a feudal tenant and the territory of Baarle was added to Breda. However, the Duke retained many cultivated areas for himself because of the taxes these generated. From that moment, Baarle was divided in two different parts - Baarle of the Duke of Brabant (in Dutch - Hertog van Brabant) and Baarle of Breda. The people started talking about Baarle of the 'Hertog' and Baarle of 'Breda'. The latter became known as Baarle of 'Nassau' when Engelbrecht van Nassau became Lord of Breda in 1404. And so it is that this strange situation remains in Baarle. Even the Westphalian Peace of 1648, Napoleon in 1795, the independence of Belgium in 1839, two world wars and the European Union haven’t been able to change the situation in Baarle.


Enclave H22 photograph (Source: Jan Krogh’s Geosite)

Boundary Houses
Baarle’s intricate enclave situation developed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries when the area was primarily used for agriculture with many of the parcels relating to paddocks and crops. Since then, the Baarle landscape has gradually changed to be more urban and former fields have been replaced with houses, fences and roads. This often occurred without regard to the actual boundaries between Baarle Hertog and Baarle Nassau. It appears that it was often easier to establish developments in an orderly fashion rather than to fit the convoluted enclave framework. Today many of the properties do not align with the borders but rather conform to more sensible and practical street designs. It follows that many properties are bisected by what are now international boundaries leading to a range of potential administrative problems. In these cases, a practical outcome has been to allocate nationality based upon the country in which their front door is located. This, however, has lead to homeowners blocking doorways and opening new ones in order to seek some advantage from the alternative jurisdiction. And there are those who exploit the ambiguity of having their front door positioned so as to be divided by the frontier.


Photograph showing house divided by international boundary


H13 and H15 detail showing houses dissected by international border. The nationality of houses cut by the border is determined by the location of their front door. (Source: Whyte)

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Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008, 11:25 PM
I have read about this one a while back and it is astonishing how such an oddity can exist. Of course, should Flanders and The Netherlands be united in time, it would cease to be an enclave/exclave construct, but the political reality dictates otherwise. :P

Baarle is probably positively the only place in Europe, or probably the world, where you might drink your coffee in one country, but throw your wrappers away in a wastepaper bucket in the other country: