Visiting Holset, The Netherlands: the undulations of history in South Limburg

Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
Holset's old church
Holset's old church | Source
The Schneeberg, near Holset
The Schneeberg, near Holset | Source
Map location of Vaals (Holset's municipality)
Map location of Vaals (Holset's municipality) | Source

Over 2000 years are recorded

Technically, Holset, in The Netherlands, is part of Vaals. But the contrast between it and the town of Vaals is rather great. While Vaals itself is a built-up area which is physically contiguous to the German city of Aachen and almost functions as a suburb of that city, Holset is very different. The setting of Holset is very rural and is situated in the undulating hill country for which South Limburg is well known.

Thus, the Holset area is ideally suited for walking in hill country which is far from typical of the flat scenery stereotype associated with the topography of The Netherlands. While the Maas River on the other side of the Province has sometimes proved susceptible to flooding, yet in principle Limburg — especially South Limburg — does not share the geographical history of several other Dutch provinces of a proportion having been reclaimed from the sea. In South Limburg in general the sea is remote.

Some history

Holset has an old stone church, named for Lambertus of Maastricht, the site of which is reputed to have early Christian associations from about the year 360.

But Holset's recorded history goes back centuries further than this. In Roman times it appears that Holset was the centre for a pagan cult.

Holset's church was in the past also known as a place of pilgrimage for those who believed that a visit could assist in healing from skin diseases. Not only did many people congregate towards Holset, but even two centuries ago its population was much larger than today's which stands at about 160.

The distinctive tower of the stone church dates from 1736 and the building was restored in the 19th century.

Linguistic note

Interestingly, in the local Limburgs dialect, the consonants in the place-name have been transposed. Thus, standard Dutch has: HOLSET . But Limburgs has: HOSELT .

When I visited Holset and got talking to some people there, it became apparent that they were German visitors, speaking their language. But I reflected that it was clear also that the transition between the local Limburgs dialect and German is less that the transition between standard Dutch and German.

Also worth seeing

Mamelis (distance: 3.8 kilometres), in hill country near the German border, has an imposing monastery on the St. Benedictusberg.

Mesch (distance: 29 kilometres), first place in The Netherlands liberated by Americans toward the end of World War 2; Mesch has some picturesque stone buildings.

Lemiers (The Netherlands and Germany; distance: 1.3 kilometres by road to the Dutch side, but 8.5 kilometres via a road route to the German side) has a moated castle adjoining the Senserbach marking the Dutch-German border, and a picturesque, Medieval, stone chapel.

Orsbach , Germany (distance: 10 kilometres by road, but much shorter for hikers) has a Medieval castle, which may be seen from the exterior. (Although not open to the general public, it can be hired for private functions.)

Drielandenpunt (The Netherlands, Germany and Belgium; distance: 5.2 kilometres), at which the borders of three countries meet, at the wooded Vaalserberg , is a local landmark.

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How to get there: The nearest large city to Holset is Aachen, Germany. Lufthansa flies from New York Newark to Duesseldorf, where car rental is available. A46/A61/A44 lead to Aachen. The German railroad company Deutsche Bundesbahn (DB) links Duesseldorf to Aachen (distance: 93 kilometres). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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