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Borders Only Exist on the Map

Updated on February 15, 2020

The people in the region around the border triangle of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium hardly think about crossing borders. On a bike tour, many do not even know which country they are cycling through. There is a lot to discover around the three-country point.

A lot of history, a lot of identity, a lot of Europe: The three-country point lies in the city forest of Aachen, southwest of Aachen. Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany collide there. People speak German, Dutch and French - and still understand each other.

It's easy to cross borders at this place - especially by bike. “It has become quite normal to be traveling in different countries. The borders have long been open, ”says Daniel Moselewski, 29 years old. Together with Henning Schendekehl, 35, he came from Aachen to the three-country point on a mountain bike. "I only know from my childhood that there were turnpikes and snakes at the border. If you drive through the forest now, you don't even know whether you are in Germany, Belgium or the Netherlands, ”says Moselewski.

So it is in many places in the region, which is named after its rivers Euregio Meuse-Rhine. No sign, no stone marks the border. Only the number plates on the cars give a clue: the Dutch have yellow with black letters on the vehicle, white with black letters stands for a German license plate and the Belgians have red letters on a white background.

Pay, chat - no problem. "It is easy to communicate. Most Dutch speak German, ”explains Schendekehl. And the Belgians anyway. The Belgians? Yes. This part of East Belgium is German-speaking. 75,000 people live in the 850 square kilometer region. There is a separate parliament and a prime minister.

The capital of this small member state of the Belgian Kingdom is the 18,900-strong Eupen. There René Janssen is chairman of the cultural association Chudoscnik Sunergia. The association organizes one of the largest music festivals in the region, the Eupen Music Marathon. Around 8,000 visitors come to the tranquil Belgian city every year - "more than half of them from Germany," says Janssen. This is also due to the fact that the borders no longer play a major role in people's minds. “We are just 20 kilometers from Aachen city center. There is a national border in between, but no cultural border. We feel closer to Germany than the rest of Belgium, ”says Janssen.

Eupen is easy to reach by bike from the three-country point. Broer van der Tuin, Renate van der Laan and their son Joeri van der Tuin also go there. You cycle through the region around the border triangle for 14 days. Her route takes her to Monschau in the Eifel, a low mountain range south of Aachen, to Spa in the Belgian Ardennes and to Maastricht in the Netherlands. They came to the border triangle because they wanted to climb the highest mountain in the Netherlands: Vaalser Berg. It is 327 meters above sea level. For the Dutch, the hilly area is something like the Alps for the Germans. "It is something special for us to drive up the Vaalser Berg," says Broer van der Tuin. They come from the small community of Westerland in the north of the Netherlands. "We are five and a half meters below sea level there," he adds.

On the steep climb to the highest point in the Netherlands, even sporty mountain bike riders sweat. Especially when, like the Tuin family, you are traveling with luggage. "We have a tent, chairs, a table and some clothes with us," says Renate van der Laan. All in all, each of the three 15 kilograms of luggage strapped onto their bikes. The climb becomes a real challenge.


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