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When you cross the border, much is different.

The first thing you notice is that the signage is in another language: sometimes the words are off just by a few letters, sometimes they are nearly incomprehensible.

Even the motorway signs, although they have the globally accepted white colour on blue background, are just a tiny bit wrong. The familiar names of cities seem changed when written in a font that is ever so slightly rounder with the individual letters ever so slightly further apart. Or are they closer? You cannot tell, but the name of the city you were born in suddenly looks foreign.

There are much larger cues though than the writings on the walls.



The architecture of the houses varies substantially from what you are used to. The familiar styles are twisted - more brick and wrought iron, the imagery more nautical, the shapes more fragile and elegant.

This beautiful building is not that different to buildings in Germany:



Ignoring the modern writing on the window, the first name Frans is the clue that this is not Germany, which over here is spelled with a z at the end.



The detailed picture clearly shows holder (the windows) and newer (the writing and the female figure with the sun) styles existing side by side.

Close by is this building which is stylistically more radical and consistent:



Those beautiful, flowing windows? Something you don't see my side of the border. There might be one or two outliers, but the windows of the houses built in the same time period have much straighter lines. Is it because they're not efficient enough - too difficult to clean?





In this building, the green umbrella obscures the grand forms of the large window:



The name very firmly places you on the other side of the border, but the gable - stylistically very close to a Dutch (or Flemish) gable is another clue. While these can be found in different places all over Europe, they are near-ubiquitous in the Low Countries.





Writing this down, I've come to realize that my expertise in architectural styles is a little vague at best, so all mistakes are clearly my own.

And: While these houses in the Netherlands seem very different to what I'm used to, there are also striking differences between different German regions: slate shingles in the Bergische Land, red brick in the North, wooden balconies in the South.

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