Okay, few have gone the whole hog and upped sticks to live on wheels, though there are those who grew up on the move. For rondreizende woonwagenbewoners - travellers who live in mobile homes, there are only a few doortrekkersterreinen - parking sites in Flanders. And these were only built as the result of the woonwagen being defined some years ago as een volwaardige woning - a recognised living unit in the Flemish regulation governing residential areas, de Wooncode - the "Living Code". It's reckoned that fewer than 2,000 people live permanently on the move in a woonwagen in Flanders.
This shortage of sites has meant that groups of travellers, especially from abroad, have found sites for themselves, resulting in headlines in the papers recently such as "Zigeuners moeten weide in Wingene verlaten - Gypsies must leave meadow in Wingene". Perhaps they were doing no harm, but with 250
foreign woonwagens camping in his field, it's not surprising the farmer went to court to get them moved on.
The charms of life on the road often find their way into song. As Henk Damen sings: In een woonwagen ben ik geboren, daar voel ik mij blij - In a caravan I was born, there I feel (myself) happy. And the next line happily ends with vrij - free, unlike those who live in flats where De een die kent die andere niet - The one doesn't know the other. Henk, being Dutch, means caravan when he sings about his woonwagen.
Many woonwagens are not built to be mobile. I've found one to buy for €42,000. It looks quite static with not a wheel in sight. One disadvantage is that it's sold zonder staanplaats - without a pitch. It seems to have everything else including twee ruime slaapkamers - two spacious bedrooms and een ruime badkamer - a spacious bathroom. That's a lot of space to squeeze inside its 13x8 metre walls.
Perhaps I'll stick to the occasional local trip in a woonwagen pulled by two magnificent Brabantse trekpaarden - Brabant draught horses. These giants make easy work of hauling the replica of a zigeunerwagen, and those aboard surely soon go along with Henk Damen's words that een woonwagen blijft voor altijd het liefste plekje voor mij - a caravan is always the dearest spot for me.