I must admit to being quite a map geek, or perhaps more accurately, a geography geek in general. Which is why one of my favourite Christmas presents this year was the excellent book Maphead: Charting the Wide, Weird World of Geography Wonks, by Ken Jennings. The book is fantastic, running through many oddities about the wonderful world of maps.
The book talks about this amazing Youtube video, for example:
One of the other fascinating things the book discusses, is the little town of Baarle-Nassau – sitting in the Netherlands (or Belgium, we’ll come to that). Zoomed out, there doesn’t seem to be too much that is strange about the town, sitting near the borders of the two countries: However, if you zoom in, you see a weird mess of grey lines (indicating national borders):
It’s made up of no fewer than twenty-six separate pieces of Belgium sitting, thanks to a complicated series of medieval treaties between two warring dukes, in the middle of the Netherlands. Some of these little bits of Belgium have little bits of the Netherlands inside them, leading to an impossibly intricate border that divides some village homes in half between the two nations. Your nationality depends on where your front door is, and residents have been known to ’emigrate’ by moving their door every time the tax laws change. When bars and restaurants in the Netherlands close, landlords just move their tables onto the Belgian side of their establishment and keep on serving.
An aerial photograph of the area (yellow lines show borders) highlights just how weird the situation is. Little bits of some fields fall into a different country than the remainder of that field:
There are some other strange borders, perhaps most notably the Northwest Angle and Point Roberts, but I think this is the weirdest. And most interesting.