'De Pungelaer' – Baarle-Hertog, Belgium - Atlas Obscura

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'De Pungelaer'

A tribute to smugglers and the Butter Wars.  


Besides people and events, monuments can also be dedicated to a profession, usually, these are inspiring professions. In Baarle there is one such monument, except it is dedicated to the life of smugglers. 

This is not too strange for the twin city of Baarle Nassau and Baarle Hertog, as a strange border situation has been present since the 11th-century. This made the region a smugglers’ paradise. 

Today, the borders are mainly touristic and not enforced since both countries are part of the European Union, but before that, the borders were policed and abused by those trying to get items or people from one jurisdiction to another. 

Perhaps most notable is the “Butter War,” a period in which many smugglers took butter from the Netherlands to Belgium because of the price differences. In the Netherlands, people preferred margarine, and butter prices were low. In Belgium everyone used butter, and thus prices were high due to the demand, with prices being two or three times just across the border. This led to many people smuggling butter both on foot and in cars, sometimes resulting in wild car chases across the area. 

The statue commemorates this past, as well as the 1,000 year anniversary of the current situation. It was created in 1992 by Constant Grooten, but was officially installed and unveiled four years later by Sjaak Mulders en Mon van Casteren, two border security guards who drove around in armored cars and spread caltrops during the height of the Butter War.

Know Before You Go

The statue is freely accessible, but do not try to smuggle things.

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