All over Aachen there are bicycle route signs pointing to Dreiländereck, meaning Three Countries Corner, where the borders of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands all come together.
The distances are of course in kilometers, so on this first sign it's only 5.2 kilometers away (just over three miles). The same sign points to the town of Vaals, in the Netherlands, which is only 4.0 kilometers away.
I had no idea what to expect up there, and I thought I might be the only person or at least the only cyclist up at Three Countries Corner, but in fact there were thousands of people on bicycles, all wearing lycra, because it happened to be the day of the Tour Version of the Amstel Gold Race, a huge Dutch bicycle event in which about twelve thousand people took part.
The Tour Version is the one for amateur cyclists, not to be confused with the Race Version, which is for professional racing cyclists and takes place a day later. (Sergey Ivanov won the Race Version in 2009, in case you've been wondering.)
The one I saw was the eighth edition of the Tour Version, and they offered a choice of six different distances to be covered: 65 km, 100 km, 125 km, 150 km, 200 km or 250 km. The cyclists I saw all came up the hill from the Belgian side, rode past the Three Countries Corner and tower (or stopped for a rest) and then continued back down on the Netherlands side.
The Tour Version is not a race, but rather "a tourist performance ride". Each cyclist has a number, so that afterwards all twelve thousand participants could be listed on the website with their times, photos and sometimes even videos.
Amstel by the way is a brand of beer. For this reason you have to click on a button saying you are at least eighteen years old in order to enter the website about the Amstel Gold Race.
GPS 50°45'16.27" North; 6° 1'15.01" East
At the Three Countries Corner there is a tower which you can climb for a small fee (or take the elevator, which is what I did), to have a look out over the three countries.
There are also two or three restaurants on the site, as well as snack bars and a labyrinth made of hedges. All these facilities are on the Netherlands side, but the people who work there speak all three languages.
GPS 50°45'16.27" North; 6° 1'15.01" East
The place where the borders of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium come together is also the highest point in the Netherlands (Hoogste Punt van Nederland) at the dizzying altitude of three hundred and twenty-two and a half meters above sea level.
GPS 50°45'16.27" North; 6° 1'15.01" East
By the way, the lowest point in the Netherlands is at 6.76 meters below sea level in the town of Nieuwerkerk aan den Ijssel.
The point where Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands meet is not far away from Aachen. This point is 322 m (1056 ft) high and is therefore the highest point of the Netherlands. On top you find two watch towers to have a great view over the region. Around are restaurants and playgrounds as well as forests for hiking.
Around the city you'll see many commerical bakery stores where they sell this famous spiced cookie called Printen. These are not traditional bakeries. The real ones are not in the center of town and usually close to grocery stores. These are the places you MUST find! The pasteries are amazing. It will totally make your german experience to taste one of these treats! I wish i could be more help where to find a german bakery, but they are all over the city, so it shouldn't be too difficult to find. BUt i had to warn not to be fooled in to thinking you are having the German experience with these silly Printen shops. They are nice to pick up cute gifts for friends and family back home tho.
This mural is actually a block from my friends house. I looked around to find some info to who and why this was painted. I was unsuccessful. Most residents here can tell you the entire story of Aachen's History with this mural. At about 1 block long it is quite a mural.
It is located on Peliser strass.
In the woods around the Three Countries' Corner there is a nature trail with texts in all three languages, German, Dutch and French.
The station in the photo is about "Nature in Equilibrium" and is equipped with a platform mounted on springs so the children (or whoever) can try to keep their equilibrium on it -- and discover if it is easier to keep their equilibrium when more people are on the platform.
Elisabethhalle, a swimming pool constructed in Jugendstil, dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century. I especially like the vaulted roof, the charming changing cubicles, and the statue of Neptune. People weren't at all surprised to see visitors just dropping by to take pictures. A pity we couldn't spend more time there...
The Carolus Thermen Bad Aachen is a large spa facility. The pools at the spa are filled with the same, mineral-rich thermal water, heated by underground volcanoes, in which Charlemagne used to bathe. Fortunately for modern bathers, the Carolus Thermen Bad Aachen has retained the therapeutic benefits of the thermal water without the rotten egg odor that must have plagued Charlemagne and others in the past.
While not within the Aachen city center, the Carolus Thermen Bad Aachen is easily accessible from the city center by bus. On my second day in Aachen, I took the bus there and back without a problem. There is a bus stop near the entrance.
At the reception area, you receive a chip coin with which to pay for all services or other expenses at the spa. The chip coin has a band that goes around your wrist. When checking out of the spa at the end of your stay, the chip coin is read and the amount you have to pay is determined.
On the first floor, there are some big pools in which people are wearing bathing suits. After I swam around in the pools for a while, I asked one of the attendants where the sauna area was. He told me it was upstairs. In addition, he told me something like: "It sounds like you are not from Germany. Before you go to the sauna area, I just want to let you know that clothes are not worn there."
Before visiting Germany, I had heard that Germans were generally more comfortable with nudity than most people of the world. In the sauna area of the spa, I was soon to learn this fact firsthand. After entering the sauna area with my bathing suit, an attendant addressed me in German. When I replied in German that I only understood a little of the German language, he told me in English that I would have to take off my bathing suit. Yes, nudity is strictly enforced! Throughout the sauna area, both men and women are together and completely naked. If you want, you can cover up with a towel while walking. For the most part, though, everyone seemed very comfortable with being completely nude.
The entire sauna area is extremely clean and well-maintained. Outside the saunas themselves, there are showers -- including overhead buckets of cold water that you can pour over yourself by pulling a string. The sauna area also has its own pool and a sunbathing area with lawn chairs.
If you have time after sightseeing in Aachen, you may want to take time to relax at the Carolus Thermen Bad Aachen. More information can be found at the website link included with this tip.
Traveling around this part of Europe means
Traveling around the borders of three countries :
- named Netherland (Vaals and Maastricht)
- named Belgium (Eupen/Raeren)
- named Germany (Aachen, Eifel, Monschau)
Always a pleasure to visit those places - during all seasons - by a Honda 4x4 car, motorcycle
(Paneuropean or Goldwing) or Camper (this we don't have yet ) LOL
Monschau is a small town in the Eiffel hills near Aachen and no matter how many times I have been to Aachen, I still haven't managed to make it there due to not being a car owner (you can get there by bus from Aachen, it just takes too long for just a daytrip to the city). Look at its official site to see why it merits a visit with its half timbered houses by a stream in a valley (http://www.monschau.de). There are also several pages by VT's Belgian members in particular.
Lindt Chocolate factory - this has a factory outlet shop that sells chocolate at much better prices than in the shops.
This is 5 minutes walk north of Ponttor, behind the Abeitsamt building
This is a suburb of Aachen, not far from the centre - 30 minutes walk or take bus 44 (or Nederlands bus 37 that goes through to Heerlen) from centrum. It is a quiet leafy place, a nice place to walk about and check out the Schloss
We found this church not far from the Cathedral in Aachen and we were impressed with it's contrasting simplicity: just above the entrance a statue of St Michael killing the dragon and very few icons inside. The walls recall the mediterranean whiteness of buildings bathing in the sun... (see also the detail of church interior!)