Put One Foot Wrong in This Town and You’ve Left the Country
At De Biergrens beer shop, you can walk in from the Netherlands through one door and walk out into Belgium through another. There are two telephones, one connected to the Belgian telecom system and one plugged into the Dutch. There are even two cash registers, at opposite ends of the shop — one in each country.
That’s par for the course in Baarle, a village about 65 miles south of Amsterdam that is sliced and diced by what is probably the world’s craziest stretch of international border. It zigzags up and down streets and right through the middle of stores like De Biergrens, and even people’s living rooms and gardens.
The bewildering layout dates from the 12th century, when wars and land spats kept morphing the dividing line between the holdings of rival noble families. When Belgium seceded from the Netherlands in 1830, those untidy lines hardened into a national frontier, but they left a number of enclaves: isolated bits of one nation’s territory surrounded by the land of the other. Today, Baarle lies within the Netherlands, but it has 22 Belgian enclaves that, in turn, have seven Dutch enclaves within them.
Confused? Baarle has a system to help. The border is marked on the town’s pavements with white crosses and metal studs. Outside Den Engel, a cafe, visitors can stand with a glass of wine in the Netherlands and lean over a white cross to drink it in Belgium. When closing times differed in the two countries, divided restaurants would move their tables to the Belgian side of the room when last call came on the Dutch side.
Addresses go by the voordeurregel, or front-door rule: If it opens on the Belgian side of a street, you live in Belgium, wherever the rest of the house may lie. (For easy identification, the national flag is usually painted next to the house number.) A shop like De Biergrens, with entrances in both countries, gets an address for each door.
The intertwined halves of the town — formally, the Belgian parts are Baarle-Hertog and the Dutch parts Baarle-Nassau — have separate town halls, churches and fire departments, but they recently merged their police departments. None of this bothers people at De Biergrens, which is slightly more in the Netherlands but sells mostly Belgian beer. “Yes, we have two addresses, two telephones and two cash registers,” said Karlean Vermonden, an employee. “But it’s not a problem. That’s just a way of life here.”
小镇互相纠缠在一起的两部分（以前，比利时部分被称为巴勒海托赫[Baarle-Hertog]，荷兰部分被称为巴勒纳绍[Baarle-Nassau]）各自设立市政厅、教堂和消防局，不过前不久警察局合并了。但是，De Biergrens啤酒屋一点也没觉得困扰，这家店在荷兰的部分稍大一些，但主要是售卖比利时啤酒。“是的，我们有两个地址、两部电话和两个收银台，”店员卡琳·弗蒙顿(Karlean Vermonden)说，“不过，这没什么问题。这就是这儿的生活方式。”