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Visiting the Vaalserberg, Vaals: in rugged hill country which hardly conforms to stereotypes of The Netherlands

Updated on May 14, 2013
Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
Vaalserberg, Vaals, The Netherlands
Vaalserberg, Vaals, The Netherlands | Source
Aachen clinic viewed from the Vaalserberg
Aachen clinic viewed from the Vaalserberg | Source
Dutch-German border between Vaals and Aachen
Dutch-German border between Vaals and Aachen | Source
Map location of Vaals, Limburg, The Netherlands
Map location of Vaals, Limburg, The Netherlands | Source

Topography that the country is not usually reckoned to possess

These scenes of rugged, rolling hill country — some of it heavily wooded — are not particularly reminiscent of the image of The Netherlands which many people have.

But these photos are actually from a rather special and distinct part of The Netherlands, known as South Limburg (Dutch: Zuid-Limburg ). In contrast with so much of The Netherlands which is indeed flat and even below sea level, South Limburg has undulating land contours.

As well as being the highest point in the European Netherlands (1), it is also where the borders of The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany meet, although for the latter countries the Vaalserberg is not remotely their highest point (2)(3).

The woodland in and around the Dutch side of the Vaalserberg is known as the Vijlenerbos; this woodland at the Valserberg contains some burial mounds believed to be between 3500 and 5000 years old. There are various trail route around these woodlands.

Interestingly, the Vaalserberg used to be known as the Hubertusberg; the name recalls Hubert, who lived in the 7th and 8th centuries and is sometimes referred to as the Apostle to the Ardennes: a toposemantic link with the south, in what is now Belgium.

But today, in the name of the hill, the topnonymic reference is linked to the nearby town of Vaals, rather than evoking a traditional, religious personage. In fact, even in the Downtown area of Vaals, a road leading toward the hill from the main east-west artery, Maastrichterlaan, visibly begins to slope upwards (I have supplied a photo, right, showing the junction of Maastrichterlaan with Kerkstraat , with its conspicuous incline, to the left); thus, the name Vaalserberg is demonstrably apt.

Panoramic towers on the Vaalserberg offer excellent views over great distances in the three, surrounding countries.

February 16, 2013


(1) This requires further definition. Until recently, the Vaalserberg, at 322.7 metres, was the highest point in The Netherlands, period. But with the incorporation of Saba in the former Netherlands Antilles as an integral part of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, the mountain on Saba, known as Mount Scenery is now, at 877 metres, formally the highest point in The Netherlands. Thus, regarding the Vaalserberg, one thus needs to say that it is the highest point in the European, or Continental, Netherlands.

(2) These are, for Belgium, the Signal de Botrange , at 694 metres, and for Germany, the Zugspitze , at 2962 metres.

(3) This point is known in Dutch as the Drielandenpunt .

Also worth seeing

Holset (distance: 5 kilometres) an old, stone church building, at a locality reputed to have Christian associations from over 1600 years ago.

Lemiers (distance: 5.3 kilometers) this village on the Dutch-German border near Vaals has a moated castle and an old chapel.

Mamelis (distance: 7.7. kilometres) has a conspicuous abbey built upon the wooded Sint Benediktusberg.

Aachen , Germany (distance: 8.3 kilometres); its ancient Cathedral associated with Charlemagne and an historic City Hall are often visited.


How to get there: The nearest large city to Vaals 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 Bahn (DB) links Duesseldorf to Aachen (distance: 93 kilometres). Check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information is advisable, as is also referring 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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