19 Apr 2023
So you’re on your way to 30 year and you’re coming from the northeast. From Hamburg or further north in Germany or you got off a ferry from Sweden.
You could stay on the autobahn all the way to Venlo, but what if you crossed the border to the Netherlands earlier?
Well, you could make a stop in Vesting Bourtange. A fortress 2 kilometers from the German border in the province of Groningen. This is a real gem. Originally built in the 16th century, it is a star-shaped fortress with a little town in the middle. By the 1960s it was very deteriorated, but then the decision was made to rebuild it as an exact replica from the 16th century. And here it is: complete with gates, guardhouses, canons and moats. A really nice place to visit.
If you continue to drive south you could make a detour to Borger where you can find the largest ‘Hunebed’ or dolmen in the country. In and around the town you can find 10 more and there is also an info centre (Nationaal Hunebedden Informatiecentrum).
Or you can visit the city of Zutphen, with a historic city centre and a beautiful church (St. Walburgskerk). A really special place to visit is the church ‘Librije’ (library). This is a ‘chain-library’ dating back to 1564. All the 750 books (all from the 16th century or earlier) are chained to prevent stealing. It used to be a public library without supervision. The frustrating bit is that you can’t open any of the books.
A little further south Nijmegen is a really good place to stop. One of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, it still has many historic sites.
If you want to visit a castle, there are several close to the German border worth a visit. From north to south you can look for:
- De Fraelylemaborg in Slochteren (Friesland).
- Kasteel Doorwerth (in Doorwerth) west of Arnhem
- Kasteel Doornenburg (in Doornenburg) southwest of Arnhem, near the river Waal.
- Huis Bergh (in ‘s Heerenberg) on the German border near Emmerik
- Kasteel Wijchen (in Wijchen) near Nijmegen
- Kasteel Hernen (in Hernen) also near Nijmegen and really close to Wijchen.
A little to the north of our site are the Kasteeltuinen van Arcen (in Arcen). There is no castle there anymore, but the very large gardens are very beautiful.
Very close to the site is Venlo. It is a really old (Roman) city, but much of it was destroyed in WW2. What’s left is a 15th century church (St. Martinuskerk), the ‘Alt Weishoes’ (old latin school) from 1611 and the beautiful renaissance Cityhall (Stadhuis).
If you come from the south of Germany there are also some nice options for a brief, or a longer stop.
In the very south of the Netherlands is the beautiful and very old (Roman) city of Maastricht. There are some real gems to be found here. Over the river Maas stretches the St. Servaas bridge from the 13th century. A lot of the medieval city walls are still standing, with the oldest surviving city gate in the country, the Helpoort (Hellgate). There are two awesome churches: Sint Servaas Basiliek and Onze Lieve Vrouwe basiliek (Basilica of Our Lady), both of which started construction around the year 1000.
Maastricht is built near de Sint Pieters berg (St. Peter’s mountain) which is (or was) a hill made of marlstone. This stone has been used as building material for ages and a lot of the hill is gone by now. What’s left is riddled with passages (20.000 of them). Some of these can be visited on a guided tour which is surprisingly interesting (Grotten Sint Pietersberg)
Near Maastricht is the town of Valkenburg. Although it still has two city gates standing, a church from the 13th century, a ruined castle from the 12th and a marlstone mine (which can be visited, Gemeentegrot) from Roman times, it is also really really touristy. It is a charming place though, it just can get very busy.
The province of Limburg has a lot (!) of castles, but only a few are open to the public. Luckily one of those is Kasteel Hoensbroek (in Heerlen) which is really worth a visit.
For 800 years the White village of Thorn was a independent principality ruled by 33 abbesses of royal descent from the secular Abbey of Thorn. The abbey was a place for young ladies of noble birth to dedicate their lives to God (and avoid getting married). Their independence ended in 1794 when the place was conquered by the French. The village is very charming, with mostly white houses and a beautiful abbey church.
Also a very nice town to visit is Roermond, closer to our site. It has two beautiful churches. The Onze lieve Vrouwe munsterkerk from the 13th century and the St. Christoffel kathedraal from the 15th.