Republic of Heist-op-den-Berg

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Republic of Heist-op-den-Berg
Republiek Heist-op-den-Berg
Hèstse Republiek

Flag of Belgium.pngNovember 2011 -

VlagHeist.png
Flag
SchildHeist.png
Coat of Arms
LocatieEuropa.png
Location of Heist-op-den-Berg (darkgreen) within Europe and Belgium.

Motto Locus indivisibilis est
Capital city City of Heist-op-den-Berg

Official language(s) Dutch, Heists

Demonym Heistenaar (Dutch), Hèsteneir (Heists), Hestian (English)

Government Unitary parliamentary directoral constitutional republic
- Schouten Luc Vleugels (CD)
Katleen Vantyghem (VH)
- Secretaris BPA Eric Verbist (CD)

Legislature Schepenbank

Formation November 26th 2011

Area 91,76 km² (191th) (0% water)
35.49 sq mi

Population
(2017)
Density

1 (43.418)
473/km²
1,223/sq mi

GDP (nominal)
- Total
- Per capita

GDP (PPP)
- Total
- Per capita
(2014)
US$2.15 billion (160th)
US$51,231 (15th)

(2014)
US$1.95 billion (171st)
US$46,363 (17th)

Currency Euro (EUR)

UTC +1 (summer +2)

National Day September 12th
National Animal Swan (Cygnus olor L.)
National sport Ice skating >br> Kubb

Calling code +32 (together with Belgium)
ISO 3166 Code HE / HEB
Proposed internet TLD .he

Topography
HeistodBerg.png

Heist-op-den-Berg, officially the Republic of Heist-op-den-Berg (Dutch: Republiek Heist-op-den-Berg) is a micronation located in Flanders. It consists of two enclaves fully surrounded by the Kingdom of Belgium. Its capital city is the City of Heist-op-den-Berg, the most populated settlement in the country.

The Republic currently has a surface area of about 92 km² (36 sq mi), one and a half times the size of San Marino and almost half the size of Liechtenstein. It is ranked 191th out of 207 independent countries globally in terms of landmass. Compared to other micronations, Heist is ranked 15th out of 41 countries.

Hestians regularly call their country "Groot-Heist" to make a clearer distinction between the country and the capital.

History

Micronation

The first idea to form a micronation arose after yet another intense dispute between the Federal governments of Flanders and Wallonia after the 2010 general elections. This election was held on June 13th 2010. The majority of the votes in Flanders went to NVA (New Flemish Alliance) a centre-right and quite conservative party. In Wallonia, people voted mostly for PS (Parti Socialiste). Both parties have very opposite goals and values resulting in a stalemate for a very long time.

In the end, this debacle would turn out to be the longest governemnt formation ever in the world. The new government, Di Rupo I, was sworn in on December 6th 2011, 589 days after the elections took place.

As a reaction on this arduous way of ruling a country, the Republic of Heist-op-den-Berg was created, purely as a brainstorming exercise and some sort of Utopia. It would benefit some advantages from its small size and buy itself out of the Belgian territory by taking over its part of the government debt. The oldest still existing proof of this micronation is a political map of the municipality of Wiekevorst dating back to November 26th 2011. Since there’s no older evidence left to demonstrate this, November 26th 2011 is considered to be the date of independence.

It was plausible that the original idea started some months before the map was made. However, in July 2016, an envelope was discovered bearing the flag of the Republic. After a minor investigation and a great deal of luck, it could be dated at exactly October 1st 2010. Its contents revealed some sentences in which the Belgian government was clearly criticized for being absent (apparently due to the elections mentioned earlier) and incompetent. There's not enough evidence to prove that the Hestian Republic existed already, but it is clear the idea is much older than previously thought.

The original claimed territory was equal to the Belgian commune of Heist-op-den-Berg, with a surface area of 86.46 km² and about 40,100 inhabitants. Throughout its existence, the little Republic made a total of eleven annexations so far. These areas were implemented smoothly and successfully throughout the years, resulting in a surface area of 91.76 km² and more than 43,000 inhabitants (as of 2016). An twelfth claimed piece of land though, named Elzenhoek, still is subject of a dispute between the Republic and the Belgian government. (see also: Annexations worth mentioning)

The objective is to establish a state based on the principles of the Republic of San Marino.

Heist-op-den-Berg

Heist-op-den-Berg was first mentioned in a charter dated September 12th 1008. In this document from the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II, gives permission to the Prince-Bishop of Liège and the Count of Loon to collect taxes from peasants using land between the Grote Nete River and the Dijle river to feed their livestock. This included the "land van Heiste". Shortly after the independence was proclaimed, the newly formed government came to an agreement to use the date of this document to be its National Day, rather than November 26th.

The charter of Henry II, the second most important document of the republic. Heist is mentioned as "Heiste" on the third line.
During the late 13nd century and the first half of the 14nd century, the Land of Heist was the epicenter of a permanent struggle of power between three parties: the Prince-Bishopric of Liège , the Duchy of Brabant and the Berthout family.

Officially, the Land of Heist was property of the Bishops of Liège. Internal problems and the distance between the two cities made it impossible for Liège to rule their exclave properly. For this reason, The Berthout family, already possessing some pieces of land and a castle in Hallaar were vasals of Liège and controled the area. It's obvious they wanted to enlarge their territory and influence within the Land of Heist, eventually claiming it for themselves.

Meanwhile, John II and later on his son John III made serious efforts to incorporate the city of Heist. The fact the Land of Heist was at the heart of the Duchy of Brabant but no part of it wasn’t their only motive: Heist-op-den-Berg was as wealthy and populated as the city of Malines, incorporating it would be economically beneficial. Consequently, Heist-op-den-Berg changed ownership almost every few years. The bickering culminated in a deadlock between 1333 and 1337. During those four years, Heist-op-den-Berg belonged to no one and was an autonomous area. The situation was so complex that the French King had to mediate and in the end decide which party received all rights on Heist-op-den-Berg. The King gave all rights back to the Prince-Bishopric of Liège.

During the 16th century, Heist was part of the Lordship of Mechelen, one of the Seventeen Provinces. Heist again was granted a special status, and formed a special Lordship with a considerable amount of autonomy, together with Gestel, situated in an exclave. However, taxation for Heist was far higher compared to the citizens of Malines, possibly because Malines didn't want Heist to become too (economically) powerfull and independent. Philips the Second sold the Lordship to Knight Gaspar Schetz in 1559, thus the exclave came in possession of this wealthy and noble family until 1726.

From 1630 onwards, the special status of Heist was further expanded. Heist was known as "Land ende Vryheyd van Heyst-ten-Bergh" (Land and Freestate of Heist). It had permission to form its own court. The Council existed out of seven men. The head of this semi-independent Freestate was a Schout, a term restored to its former glory after the indepence in 2011.

The special status, together with the long tradition of being a privileged state came brutaly to an end during the French occupation in 1794. Heist was downgraded to a municipality in the "Departement des Deux Nèthes" (Departement Twee Nethen) and extorted by the French. About thirthy years later, Belgium became an independent country but didn't restore the status of Heist, despite the many brave Hestians who fought against the French.

When the Political structure of Belgium stabelized, Heist regained some of its former recognition. The city became the capital town of an electoral and judicial district (kanton) bearing the same name. After the municipial reform of 1976, Heist was reunited with its surrouding historical towns and villages, excluding Gestel. It did receive a fourth and fifth new village: Schriek and Wiekevorst.

Government and politics

Political Structure

The Council of the Republic (Dutch: Schepenraad) is the legislature of Heist-op-den-Berg. Every six years, free elections are held in each borough of the Republic. Hestian people that have the right to vote and are older than 18 are obligated to choose one man and one woman from the voting lists. These two people can be from the same political party or two different parties.

On the right, the House of Vogt, the seat of the Council of the Republic and the spire of the second tower of Berg. On the left the police headquarters.
The active political parties are subsequently allocated over the sixty seats of the Council, following the D’Hondt method and an election threshold of 3,5%. Political parties receiving an even amount of seats divide these seats equally over male and female politicians following the number of votes they got. Parties with an odd amount of seats allocate their remaining seat to the politician with the highest number of votes that isn’t yet in the Council. However, because of the equality of male and female politicians, the final composition needs to be 30/30 if possible. Politicians for the remaining seats are therefore chosen from the smallest party up to the largest party. Making it compulsory for the winning parties to ensure a balance between sexes.

After forming coalitions, the winning party has the right to choose one Schout from its members of the Council. This is mostly the politician with the most votes in total. Afterwards, the largest party of the opposition can choose its Schout, but again is obligated to choose someone from the opposite sex. These Schouts are de jure head of state and head of government at the same time. However, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Political Affairs is de facto head of government and has a function comparable with the function of Prime minister in other countries.

After the inauguration of the two Schouts, ten Secretaries of State (Dutch: Staatssecretaris) are chosen, these will represent the executive government. The ten possible secretaries are:

  • Secretary of State for Foreign and Political Affairs (Staatssecretaris van Buitenlandse Zaken en Politieke Aangelegenheden (BPA))
  • Secretary of State for Internal Affairs and Civil Defense (Staatssecretaris van Binnenlandse Zaken en Civiele Bescherming (BCB))
  • Secretary of State for Finance, Budget, Information and Relations with the National Bank and Post Office (Staatssecretaris van Financiën, Begroting, Informatie en Relaties met de Nationale Bank en Postdienst (FIR))
  • Secretary of State for Education, Culture and Justice (Staatssecretaris van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Justitie (OCJ))
  • Secretary of State for Territory, Environment and Agriculture (Staatssecretaris van Leefmilieu, Natuur en Landbouw (LNL))
  • Secretary of State for Health and Social Security (Staatssecretaris van Volksgezondheid en Sociale Zekerheid (VSZ))
  • Secretary of State for Trade and Relations with the Municipal Councils (Staatssecretaris van Handel en Wisselwerking met de Gemeenteraden (HWG))
  • Secretary of State for Communication, Transport, Tourism and Sports (Staatssecretaris van Communicatie, Transport, Toerisme en Sport (TTS))
  • Secretary of State for Industry and Crafts (Staatssecretaris van Industrie en Ambachten (INA))
  • Secretary of State for Labour and Cooperation (Staatssecretaris van Arbeid en Samenwerking (ASA))

After this appointment, the names of the remaining 48 members of the Council are written down and collected in a special box. From this box, thirty members will be chosen randomly to act as five small municipal councils and one city council. The powers of these municipal councils are very limited and purely executive (e.g. coordination of waste collecting, maintenance of local roads and plant beds,…) the distribution over political parties and the amount of men and women per council is not important.

The size of the council is related to the amount of citizens in the municipality. Gestel is an exception, receiving by law two council members. The City of Heist-op-den-Berg has the biggest municipal council consisting of twelve members, Booischot has five members, Itegem four and Schriek three. Hallaar and Wiekevorst both have two council members.

Political Parties

All but two parties active in the Hestian political landscape changed its name after the independence. Gemeentebelang ceased to exist before the September 2012 elections.

Current structure of the Schepenraad.
Color Old name New name Position
     Open-VLD PDL (Partij van Democraten en Liberalen) Centre-right
     NVA (Nieuwe Vlaamse Alliantie) VH (Verenigd Heist) Centre-right
     SPA (Socialistische partij) SVV (Socialisten voor het volk) Centre-left
     CD&V (Christendemocratisch & Vlaams) CD (Christendemocraten) Centre-right
     E.T.A. (Eén tegen allen) E.T.A. (Eén tegen allen) Centre-left
     Vlaams Belang E! (Eenheid) Far-Right
     Groen MP (Milieupartij) Green politics
     PVDA+ (Partij van de Arbeid) PVDA (Partij van de Arbeid) Far-left
Gemeentebelang Centre-right

Elections

In 2011, no elections were held. In stead, a provisional Council was set up using the same amount of seats and the same distribution as the municipal council before the independence.

On July 15th 2012, the first elections for the Hestian Schepenraad took place. An old monastery on top of Berg was solemnly inaugurated as the new Council building. It's name was changed back into "Voogdijhuis" or House of Vogt, the name of the building that was previously located on the exact same spot and served as the centre of legislature in the 18th century, when Heist-op-den-Berg was de facto independent. Moving was necessary to accommodate all sixty members of the Council, whereas the old town hall could barely comprise the previous 33 politicians.

Christendemocraten and Verenigd Heist came out as the first and second biggest party of the country respectively. Despite efforts of Verenigd Heist to form a coalition, it was CD who, together with the liberal party and Socialisten voor het Volk formed the new government, with VH acting as the opposition. As prescribed by the Hestian constitution, CD had the right to choose the first Schout. They chose Luc Vleugels, a politician from Wiekevorst. Verenigd Heist provided a female second Schout: Katleen Vantyghem from the City of Heist-op-den-Berg.

Party Provisional Government Elections of 15-07-2012
Votes / Seats % 33 % 60
CD - 29,50 19
CD+VH 32,72 13 -
VH - 26,97 18
PDL 13,14 4 10,44 6
SVV - 12,16 8
SVV-MP 14,76 5 -
MP - 3,88 2
PVDA 0,69 0 1,27 0
E! 13,38 4 6,79 4
E.T.A. 5,49 1 5,82 3
Local parties 2,53 0 3,16 0
Gemeentebelang 17,31 6 -
Total votes 29469 30876
Turnout % 94,98 93,04
Invalid% 3,53 3,65

Foreign relations

Heist-op-den-Berg acknowlegdes all UN countries, but has more intimate diplomatic relations with following microstates and micronations:

Flag of Andorra.svg.png Andorra
Liechtenstein
Mahus.png Mahuset
Monaco
Flag of Nedlando-Khorasan.png Nedlando-Khorașan
Flag of San Marino.svg.png San Marino
Saugeais
Flag of Seborga.png Seborga
Flag of the Vatican City.svg.png Vatican City

The Hestian government currently does not recognise these countries, regions or territories:

Flag of Abkhazia.png Republic of Abkhazia
Flag of Russia.png Crimea being part of the Russian Federation
Flag of Somaliland.png Republic of Somaliland
Flag of South Ossetia.png Republic of South Ossetia
500px-Transnistria State Flag svg.png Transnistria

Administrative divisions

Further information: List of Hestian wards

Municipalities of Heist-op-den-Berg.

There are three administrative layers in the Republic. These are:

  • Six municipalities (gemeenten) and one city (stad)
  • Boroughs (deelgemeenten) and hamlets (gehuchten)
  • Wards (kwartieren).

The highest layer corresponds to the original hierarchy used when the country was still part of the Belgian kingdom. The territory fusion of 1976 was abolished, upgrading the old six villages again to municipalities. Heist’s status became that of a city.

Boroughs and wards are the second administrative layer of the country. Every municipality has at least one borough but not necessarily a hamlet. The difference between these two is the presence of a parish church in a borough. In addition, one borough per municipality (the borough with the highest number of inhabitants) serves as the seat for the municipal council. Currently there are twelve boroughs and fifteen hamlets.

Wards form the smallest division of the country. It serves purely as a way to facilitate statistical measurements. The territory without the annexated areas, originally had 111 wards. Each ward has an average 200-500 inhabitants, although Vossekoten for example is uninhabited and Ganzenakker has more than 1,100. Their surface area is 0.2-1.5 km² (average 0.77 km²). People living in one of the 121 current wards generally form a coherent group based on their income, topography or other criteria.

Each ward has a number of characteristics, e.g. ‘rural, middle class, urban, multicultural, industrial,…’. The national postal code system ( SPGH) is linked to these wards and matching information so a company can easily send advertisements or other documents to the appropriate audience.

Municipality Surface area
(km²)
Population
(01/01/2016)
Density
(inh./km²)
Boroughs Hamlets Wards
CoACityHeist.png
City of Heist-op-den-Berg
29.15 17,449 600.38 4 2 35
CoAHallaar.png
Hallaar
6.90 3,581 518.99 1 3 6
CoAGestel.png
Gestel
2.47 195 79.08 1 0 1
CoAItegem.png
Itegem
18.46 6,227 337.32 1 4 25
CoAWiekevorst.png
Wiekevorst
11.27 3,672 325.75 1 4 16
CoABooischot.png
Booischot
11.59 6,870 592.75 2 1 21
CoASchriek.png
Schriek
11.89 5,374 451.94 2 1 17
Totals 91.73 43,418 473.34 12 15 121

Annexations worth mentioning

The ten current annexations enlarged the Hestian territory with about 4,97 km² (1,92 sq mi) and more than 400 inhabitants. The reason for annexation in the republic is not gaining surface area in the region, although this is an unavoidable consequence. This motive would clash with the conviction of having more advantages when you stay as small as possible. The only two legal arguments according to the Hestian laws are annexations based on historical sources or geostrategical improvmements.

Not all annexations were implemented directly after the independence. In two major territories, a referendum was held because of the significant population: Gestel and Dekbunders.

Sint-Gummarus-Wiekevorst

The outlines of the exclave as seen on Google Earth.
Although the people of Wiekevorst won't admit it when you ask them, they're very proud to own the only existing Hestian exclave to date. Before the village became a parish on its own, somewhere in the 18th century, people had to go to a little chapel in the neighbouring village of Herenthout by foot. Best case scenario, this journey took about an hour if the river Wimp was wadable. Otherwise, the necessary detour took another hour of walking.

The chapel is devoted to Gommaire (Sint-Gummarus) and is located in the village-centre of Herenthout. For Wiekevorst, this chapel always remained a very important cultural heritage site. They asked the Hestian government to use their diplomacy to prove its rightfull owner is Wiekevorst and not Herenthout, a task which was successfully executed.

In terms of surface area, Sint-Gummarus-Wiekevorst is by far the smallest annexation done in Hestian history: only 0,25 ha (0,0025 km²). It includes the chapel and 22 inhabitants divided over three houses and six flats. One narrow road for cars and a path for pedestrians is the only way to reach the chapel.

Because of its special status, Sint-Gummarus-Wiekevorst is a separate hamlet and ward at the same time.

Gestel and Elzenhoek

Gestel is the only annexated territory so far that received the status of municipality after being implemented in the republic. Gestel is the smallest, least populated but most pittoresque community of Heist-op-den-Berg. It is also quite remote, with it's only border to the republic (Itegem) only being about 350 meters (383 yds) in length.

The scenic environment is created by a great deal of original 18th and 19th century buildings. About two thirds of the village is surrounded by the Grote Nete river, which looks like it is embracing the houses. The river also is the reason why not a single busy or important road was layed close to or through the centre. Thus, the traffic in the village is limited.

On the other side, the originally claimed western territories were twice the size of the present municipality of Gestel. The Belgian authorities were neutral about the annexation of Gestel, because of the historical band with the "Land of Heist". Heist on the other hand preyed on two other Belgian hamlets south of Gestel, Elzenhoek and Kijfbossen. Both would increase the amount of natural borders dramatically. The quarreling led to the Elzenhoek impasse which is not solved to this day.

Dekbunders

Dekbunders is a northern ward in the country, it belongs to the hamlet of Herlaar in the municipality of Itegem. Before its annexation, it was part of Herenthout and bordered the municipality of Itegem and Wiekevorst.

The complex political structure of Northern Heist-op-den-Berg before the Dekbunders Referendum.
Heist had already incorporated Herlaar, a very sparsely populated area (34 inhabitants; 0,93 km²) for its property bordering the river Wimp up to its river mouth. This act was responsible for Dekbunders being fully surrounded by the Republic and only left accessible by a corridor road of 150 meters.

The complex political situation caused much annoyance among the 242 citizens of Dekbunders. On Saturday January 14th 2012, ambassadors of Heist, Belgium and the municipal council of Herenthout came to an agreement after a marathonmeeting of 11 hours. Herenthout would let go Dekbunders, a ward with very little economic value if a majority of its citizens would vote for a union with Heist-op-den-Berg in a referendum. This referndum would take place at the town hall of Herenthout on Sunday March 4th 2012. The most important condition the Belgian government asked was free access to a depot owned by a medium-sized retail store located elsewhere in Herenthout.

Because of the small amount of people, voting was granted to individuals age 16 and older in stead of age 18 and older. The turnout on the referendum day was high, thanks to the Belgian compulsery voting law and the fact the citizens were fed up with the situation. 59,57% of voters agreed with an annexation, 11,70% voted blank and 28,73% voted against.

Dekbunders was officially made a Hestian ward on May 1st 2012. A fourth hamlet was created in Itegem to comprise the already existing ward (formerly classified under the hamlet of Bernum) and the new ward Dekbunders. Ward Herlaar was renamed to Blikheide and the new hamlet received the old name of this ward. The annexation enlarged the territory by 1% and its population by 0,59%.

Prior to the fusion though, an administrative scenario was worked out, where Dekbunders would become an independent hamlet and the 17th ward of Wiekevorst. Herlaar would stay part of the hamlet of Bernum. When social investigations were carried out, local scientists found out that people of Dekbunders were much closer related to Itegem than to Wiekevorst. The scenario was therefore abolished and replaced by the current geopolitical structure.

Parishes

To the Catholic church, Heist is divided into twelve parishes. These parishes match the municipal borders, but don't follow the borough-hamlet division. For instance: the City of Heist-op-den-Berg is only divided into three parts in stead of five. The trend of empty church buildings also exists in Heist-op-den-Berg. Public opinion supports redesignation of these buildings for social or cultural purposes. Since church buildings are not owned by the state, it is up to the Catholic church to desecrate and alter these monuments. Sint-Gummarus-Wiekevorst has its own chapel, but isn't an independent parish.

Parish name Parish church established in...
Heist-op-den-Berg Early 14th century
Heist-Station 1922
Zonderschot 1966
Heist-Goor 1877
Wiekevorst
Sint-Gummarus-Wiekevorst
1754
1550
Hallaar 14th century
Itegem 1653
Booischot 1863
Pijpelheide 1889
Schriek 1500
Grootlo 1936
Gestel 15th century

State border

Detailed view on the southern state borders. (source: Google Maps)
The state border of Heist-op-den-berg had a total length of 65.066 km from 2012 untill mid 2016. In May and July 2016, some modifications took place and shortened the border 658 meters to its present length of 64.408 km. To the Kingdom of Belgium, Heist has a very strategical position, bordering two provinces (Antwerp and Flemish-Brabant) and three arrondissements. Adjacent Belgian municipalities include Herenthout, City of Herentals, Westerlo, Hulshout, Begijnendijk, Tremelo, Keerbergen, Putte, Berlaar and Nijlen.

More than 43% of the border, or 28.07 km consists of natural barriers, more specifically rivers and smaller streams. These waters are a natural protection for the small Republic and define the outline much better than meadows do. Notable rivers include the Grote Nete (11.69 km); the Wimp (7.64 km) and the Gestelbeek (2.29 km). Parts of these aquatic borders are subject of a dispute.

The southern border of the Republic is a protected historical landmark because of its special shape, also known as “het staartje” ("the little tail” in English). The curious shape already exsists on maps dating back to the second quarter of the 19th century. It consists of three wards: Kruisberg, Bollendijk and parts of Grote Lauwerijkens. It is a very lanceolate territory: 1800 m (1960 yds) in length and only 460 m (500 yds) at its widest point, comprising an area of 53,1 ha. The most remarkable feature though is the attachment point to the rest of the country in the village centre of Grootlo: it's barely 90 meters (100 yds) wide, about one quarter of the already narrow border between Itegem and Gestel. Articles in the constitution concerning the border declares that no annexation can be executed where this uniquely shaped piece of land could lose its features.

Demographics

The number of inhabitants on January 1st of each year was:
Demographicsgraph.png

2011: 40,379
2012: 40,678 - 0.7%
2013: 41,514 - 2.1%
2014: 41,967 - 1.1%
2015: 42,417 - 1.1%
2016: 42,770 - 0.8%
2017: 43,418 - 1.5%

Geography and Environment

Topography

Overall, Heist-op-den-Berg is a very flat country. It is situated on very robust geological rock formations, the London-Brabant Massif. This Paleozoïc material is so tightly compressed that plate tectonics can’t fold it further. The average elevation is about 10 meters above sea level (m.a.s.l.)

The three towers on Berg.
A much more recent phenomenon in the Hestian landscape is Berg, a central hill in the country. With it's 15 million years of age, it dates back to the Miocene era (5-23 Ma) and was originally a sandbank in a sub-tropical sea. The sand contained a lot of iron, which oxidized when it was exposed to the air during low tide. It formed a stable medium, layer by layer. When the sea level finally declined, a hill made of ferreous sandstone emerged about 40 meters above the surrounding landscape.

The hill gave its name to the republic (Heist-op-den-Berg literally means Heist-on-the-Mountain) and to the ward consisting of the historic centre of the City of Heist-op-den-Berg. It has a western and eastern top. The Basilica of Heist is built exactly on the western summit, at 44 m.a.s.l. and is visible from all municipalities except Gestel and the southernmost parts of Schriek.

Although the church tower is a tall structure, it is not the highest place of the Republic over all. The water- and observation tower, a structure from 1959, is built very near the eastern top of 48 m.a.s.l. The 32 m high tower is surrounded by a forest-like park, the Hoogbergbos. The observation platform at 72 m.a.s.l. can be visited freely on each Sunday. Also this tower is visible from almost every municipality.

Very similar to San Marino, Heist has a third tower on this hill, located about halfway the distance of the Basilica and the observation tower. It is a bell tower which belongs to the old chapel of the House of Vogt. Because of the low height and the fact that it is located in a small depression (41 m.a.s.l.), this tower only is visible from the surrounding municipalities during the winter months and all year long in the direct neighbourhood.

The current concerns about the climat change, rising sea level and the low elevation of Heist-op-den-Berg and the surrounding areas of Flanders were the reason for a cooperation between the Republic and de Federal government of Flanders. Together they ordered a scientific report about the physical consequences at three different scenarios in terms of global temperature increase and accompanying new sea levels. Two conditions were included, the first one being a lack of infrastructural actions, the second one the lack of a global climate deal. The first scenario, an increase of 1,5°C and the sea level of about 2,9 meters will most likely be a fact in about 100-150 years from now. When this situation will occur, the Republic will be spared but the new coastline will only be 10 kms (6 miles) from the town centre of Schriek. An increase of 2°C and 6,9 meters of sea level would be much more disastreous: Gestel, Itegem, parts of Hallaar and parts of Wiekevorst will be flooded. The last scenario, an increase of 4°C or 8,9 m of sea level will make the Republic unrecognizable. Berg will be a peninsula in a sea that previously engulfed all municipalities of the republic except the southern parts of Booischot and a very small eastern part of Schriek. About 85% of the current population will lose their houses.

Climate

The climate of Heist-op-den-Berg is called a Cfb climate, a temperate climate with mild winters and cool summers. The climate is influenced by the North Sea, which moderates the temperature throughout the year.

The weather is highly dependent on the type of air and the fronts which separate the different types of air. The most common airflow in Heist-op-den-Berg is southwestern maritime polar air derived from the Atlantic. It is damp and cold in summer and moist and moderately warm in the winter. Wind coming from the northwest often is stormy and causes squally, inclement weather. During summer, warm and dry continental polar air coming from Russia and Siberia flows to Western Europe causing hot and dry weather. The same air is very cold and dry during winter months. Warm maritime tropical air causes a lot of fog in winter and storm in summer. Continental tropical air is warm and dry.

Protected areas

Environment is a very important subject in Hestian politics. Local municipal councils try to implement green areas in each ward as far as it isn’t done yet and/or the environment itself is sufficient enough. Currently there are three Nature parks within the Hestian borders. About 3,5% of the national territory consists of land with nature development or –conservation as primary purpose. However, this figure will increase to at least 7,3% in 2018 due to projects in the Grote Nete Valley.

The Averegten National forest (Dutch: Nationaal Domein de Averegten) is the only protected forest area in Heist. The forest is old, at least 250 years, being already present on the maps of Count de Ferraris of the late 18th century. The park is fully located in the municipality of Hallaar and is a ward on its own. The surface area of 100 ha (250 acres) claims more than 14% of the commune’s surface. The forest serves as a recreational area for Hestians living in the city centre. There are three marked routes for cyclists and pedestrians, the longest being 3,3 km (2.1 mi). A bee hall, rose- and herb garden complete this versatile green domain. The main species of trees are birch, oak, beech, alder, elder, linden and hazel. Fauna consists of Roe deer, hares, rabbits, woodpeckers and many other species.

The largest protected area however is the Grote Nete Valley (Dutch: Vallei van de Grote Nete). The river runs through Booischot, City of Heist-op-den-Berg, Hallaar, Itegem and Gestel and has a total length of 8 km in the Hestian Republic. The current park includes 200 ha (500 acres) of bocages and polders. Between 2015 and 2018, major interventions will redecorate the landscape. The old dikes will be lowered, giving the riverwater a chance again to flood its original valley like it was almost a century ago, thus creating a wetland ecosystem, rare in Western Europe. The park surface will gradually expand to a total of 550 ha (1360 acres) in 2018. The first steps of this huge project are already completed. An old branch of the river, located in ward Ter Streien (Itegem) and part of the state border was reconnected to the present river. The newly created 12 ha island is a fully secluded bird nesting area.

The Heathland of Bruggeneinde (Dutch: Bruggeneindse Goren) is the smallest and least known park in Heist of about 10,5 ha (25 acres). Wet heathland is the original vegetation of a vast majority of the Hestian landscape before the land was turned into grasslands for agricultural use. Today, only the hamlets of Bruggeneinde and Goorheide in Wiekevorst contain parts of this historical landscape and only a part of the area is protected. The Hestian government has made an official statement that it will consider the possibility of declaring the Goorheide as part of the current nature park.

Created in 2002, the Speelbergen forest is the most recent protected area. It is the main property of a non-profit organisation that tries to strengthen the green belt around the city centre. The forest has a surface area of 7,6 ha and one loop of 0,9 km for hikers. The forest accompanies the very well known Peredreef, a lane full of pear trees with an exuberant blossom in May.

Some smaller, non protected areas include the castle parks of Itegem (76,4 ha), the Hoogberg forest in the city centre (5,6 ha) and the Klein-Scherpenheuvel park in Wiekevorst (0,7 ha). Also Herlaar has a forest of about 29 ha, but this consists of Scots pines with a very low biodiversity.

Biodiversity

Key plant species include:

Key animal species include:

Infrastructure

Roads

Main article: Roads in Heist-op-den-Berg

The Road network of Heist-op-den-Berg is well developed and very dense. This isn’t a surprise since Heist is part of one of the most densely populated areas in the world. In 2015, the total road network had a length of about 850 kilometers (530 miles), equal to more than 920 kms/100 km².

The most important roads are called IC roads, smaller roads don’t have a name or number. The total length of the primary road system is about 80 kilometers.

Railways

The Republic of Heist-op-den-Berg has currently two railway stations: Heist-op-den-Berg and Booischot, 4 kilometers away from each other. Both stations are part of the Belgian railway line 16, connecting Lier with Aarschot. Line 16 was officially opened on June 10th 1864. It was property of the private company “Grand Central Belge” until it was nationalized in 1897. Already in 1871, the line was modified into a double tracked railway and from 1981 onwards it was electrified. The total length of the railway line within the Republic is about 9,5 km (5.9 mi), only fifty meters shorter than the network size of Liechtenstein making it the sixth smallest railway system in the world.

Heist-op-den-Berg has signed an agreement with the National Railway Company of Belgium (NMBS). They are responsible for the maintenance of the line on Hestian territory, locomotives and a stable service towards its citizens. Stations and platforms are owned and provided by the Hestian government.

The old and current station building of the City of Heist-op-den-Berg.
Booischot station only has a platform and no station building. Heist-op-den-Berg got a standardized station building in 1865. These buildings had a high central part and two lower wings on both sides: a short one and a long one. These lower wings had arches, containing a door or a window. The more arches the long wing had, the larger the capacity and thus the importance was. The Hestian station had six arches and for this was a station of medium importance.

The old station building was demolished in 1972 due to outdated criteria. A new concrete and steel structure was erected one year later.

Economy

Debt

Culture

Flags

Heist uses two different flags to identify itself internationally. The national and civil flag is a tricolour flag featuring three vertical bands coloured blue, white and green. The stripes are equally wide, the used proportion is 2:3. The used colours symbolize the air, the swan and the hill of Heist-op-den-Berg on the coat of arms. The flag was officially created in 1980 and not changed after independence.

The merchant flag features a centered white cross that extends to the edge and divides the flag into four rectangles. The top ones are blue and green, the bottom ones green and blue. The proportion is 2:3.

Heist-op-den-Berg has no war flag since it has no army to fight one. The sovereignity of the state is provided by the Belgian Armed Forces.

Motto

"Locus indivisibilis" is Latin for "individible place" and is a direct reference to the turbulent four years (1333-1337) in the early 14th century. A detailed description of these historical events can be found under "History".

Language

People in the Hestian Republic all use Dutch as their mother tongue. For official documents, events and communiciation to citizens, AN (Algemeen Nederlands) is used and still is the only official language of the republic.

However, in general Dutch in the Northern part of Belgium is very sensitive and very well known for hundreds of dialects with dozens to several thousands of active users. Heist-op-den-Berg is no exception. All Hestian dialects are part of the Brabantian dialect group, known for using ‘gij’ instead of “jij” or “je” as second person singular.

The table below contains the verb “to be” in Dutch and Brabantian dialect:

Dutch Brabantian Translation in English
Zijn Zen To be
ik ben Ik (‘k) zen I am
jij bent gij zijt you are
hij/zij is hij/zij (z’) is he/she is
wij zijn welle zen we are
jullie zijn gelle zè/zijt you are (pl.)
zij zijn zelle (first e = schwa) zen they are
u bent u zijt you are (polite form)

The Hestian Republic can be divided into four major language groups:

In the north, people of Wiekevorst and Itegem have very similar dialects in terms of pronunciation, some words may vary. Sint-Gummarus-Wiekevorst and the hamlet of Herlaar form an exception, using the dialect of Herenthout which strongly influences the language of Wiekevorst too.

The second group is the City of Heist, Hallaar, parts of Booischot and the northern parts of Schriek. Compared to the northern dialects, this variation is vocally very distinctive, and less recognizable in the vocabulary which is practically identical. For instance: strawberry, in Dutch “aardbei” would be pronounced as “jetsbees” in Heist and as “jerbees” in Wiekevorst and Itegem. Also, words containing the sound or vowel “ee” in the northern dialect is pronounced as “ei” in Heist.

Due to the special geographical status of Gestel, also this community has its own dialect, strongly influenced by the vocabulary used in the neighbouring Belgian municipality of Berlaar. Nevertheless it is the third dialect group of the republic. Gestel citizens will ask “jèbeijze” if they want strawberries.

The southern parts of Schriek are the most divergend of all dialect groups In the Hestian republic. Citizens in these regions are influenced by dialects of towns like Keerbergen and Begijnendijk. The word “strawberry” is pronounced as "jeirbeijze".

To summarize the differences:

Dialect group “Strawberries”
Northern group jerbezen
Central group jetsbezen
Gestel jèbeijze
Southern group jeirbeijze

Kubb

Gallery

Media

  • Sunset in Heist-op-den-Berg Featuring: the observation tower (beneath) / ward Berg (beneath) / the Hoogberg forest (beneath/east) / the other two towers (west) / aerial view on the municipality of Hallaar (north) / aerial view on wards Vijfstraten (southeast) and De Boekten (south) / small parts of the IC 1 (south) / ward Slagvelden (northwest) / the Grote Nete valley (northeast).
  • The three towers of Heist-op-den-Berg
  • At the northern state border Featuring: an 80m (260 ft.) high Belgian TV antenna / the river Wimp, also the state border / the IC 5 and IC 5 border crossing / the rural hamlet Wimpel.
  • HeistLeeft A Belgian newsagency focusing mainly on news out of the little Republic.
  • Nature development project in Itegem Poplar trees growing on the shores of the Goorloop stream in Bernum are cut down in favor of multiple endemic species.
  • Hof van Riemen Hof van Riemen is one of many historic fortified farms in the Republic. It's located south of the city centre. The farm is at least 550 years old and there's archaeological proof that the area surrounding the farm was Heist-op-den-Berg's first human settlement. Now used as a restaurant.
  • http://www.meteo.be/meteo/view/nl/27484519-Klimaat+in+uw+gemeente.html