Visiting Orsbach, near Aachen, Germany: largely surrounded by Dutch territory, windswept fields and invisible borders

Flag of Germany
Flag of Germany | Source
A wheat field shortly before harvest near Aachen and Orsbach, Germany
A wheat field shortly before harvest near Aachen and Orsbach, Germany | Source
Summer wheat fields near Aachen and Orsbach, Germany
Summer wheat fields near Aachen and Orsbach, Germany | Source
Map location of Aachen, in Germany's Nordrhein-Westfalen
Map location of Aachen, in Germany's Nordrhein-Westfalen | Source

Open to the skies and enclosed by a border

Orsbach lies within the boundaries of the City of Aachen. This village, surrounded by often windswept fields, is in a unique location. The locality, belonging to the North Rhine - Westphalia (German: Nordrhein-Westfalen ) state of Germany, is surrounded approximately 270 degrees by territory of The Netherlands.

The regularly windswept nature of the fields surrounding Orsbach is underlined by the Vetchau windfarm, just visible in the main photo, above.

Geographically, Orsbach forms part of the Plateau of Bocholtz (named for nearby Bocholtz, in The Netherlands).

Neighbouring villages and towns — all of which are in The Netherlands — include Vaals, Lemiers (partly in Germany and partly in The Netherlands), Mamelis, Bocholtzerheide, Bocholtz.

Historically, Osbach was close to the point where the defensive Siegfried Line (interestingly, in German, known as the Westerwall) met the Dutch border. Dating from before World War Two, concrete objects known as Dragon's Teeth may still be seen in the vicinity of the village. On foot in the area, one can readily see, however, that in defensive terms the winding nature of the border between Germany and The Netherlands and the sloping land near the Bocholtz Plateau makes the legal boundary between the countries secondary to local geographical and geological features.

The Siegfried Line / Westerwall saw little action during the 1939/40, so-called 'Phoney War', prior to the Blitzkrieg, 1940. But in 1944/45, the district saw some intense fighting, during the wane of the Nazi German régime. (In any case, when strolling beside the fields at this peaceful, German village, with the winding and invisible German-Dutch border in close proximity, one might almost choose to emply the word 'phoney' to describe the locality's unusual, administrative state of affairs.)

A Medieval fortress (German: die Burg ) in Orsbach is not open to the public, but may be hired out for special events.

September 25, 2012

Also worth seeing

Lemiers , Germany / The Netherlands (distance: 1.6 kilometres); a moated castle lies on the Dutch side of the border, marked by a stream known as the Senserbach. The Dutch side of the village also has an old, stone chapel.

Dreilaendereck , Vaalserquartier, Aachen, Germany / The Netherlands / Belgium (distance: approx. 6.5 kilometres); this point where the borders of these three countries meet has a monument on a wooded hill known as the Vaalserberg, and an observation tower.

Aachen , Germany (distance: 7.7 kilometres); sights in Downtown Aachen include the historic City Hall (German: Rathaus ) and the Cathedral (German: Dom ).

...

How to get there: Lufthansa flies from New York Newark to Duesseldorf, where car rental is available. A46/A61/A44 lead to Aachen. A rail service links Duesseldorf (distance: 91 kilometres) to Aachen. From Downtown Aachen, bus 37 serves Orsbach . Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate 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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