As we were driving back from the Drielanden punt when as is often the case, Himself asks if we can take a few of the smaller roads back to our holiday house. I have to admit that the border here goes back and forth a bit so I’m not entirely certain if we were in the Netherlands or (I think, Belgium) when we came across this delightful little castle, nestled into the green countryside. In case you were wondering, not it’s not on fire, they just had a large bonfire burning out the back and the smoke was billowing out quite distance. I love that its so “castle-like” but on a semi-miniaturized scale. Wow, a what building… I’d love to live there…
July 19, 2015
July 18, 2015
After exhausting the rest of the family in the Labyrinth on the Belgium side of the Three Country Point of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, the next item on our agenda is lunch.
It’s rather difficult to feed hungry kids when we don’t have anything with us and they were stuck in the maze for longer than anticipated.
Now they were ravenous and although Himself and I looked longingly at the bigger and more sophisticated restaurant close by, the kids spotted some play equipment further up and then the snack bar around the corner next to it, pretty much narrowing down our dining options to one.
A very short wait later, food was going into two grumbling children, improving their mood considerably and Himself and I could relax under the sun umbrella.
One of the things we ordered is a typical Dutch / Belgium item called “bitterballen” which literally translates as “bitter balls”.
In fact they aren’t bitter, rather it’s a slow cooked concoction of meat and spices, the meat is then drained and shredded, mixed with a very stiff white sauce, rolled into balls, and then repeatedly dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and deep fried.
They are a delicious snack and my mother had an old Dutch recipe for it and used to make them when I was a kid in New Zealand so it’s been a favourite my whole life.
Annoyingly it’s a recipe that I haven’t found back and my father got rid of a heap of things after she died of cancer more than twenty years ago, it could be with things he stashed away in the loft or he might have gotten rid of it with other things at that time.
One day I will do some investigation to find a recipe that sounds familiar to the one my mother used and try to make these at home. In the meantime most bars and many cafés have them on their menu so we can just order them when we fancy some. We made this trip some years ago and Kiwi Daughter had just discovered that she rather liked bitterballen more than she thought… needless to say, lunch was a hit with both kids.
That drawing of the highest point in the Netherlands is rather a large exaggeration of the reality…
July 17, 2015
The “Drielandenpunt“(Three Countries Point) in the Netherlands, where the countries of Beligum and Germany meet the Netherlands also has an extra attraction: a “labyrint” (labyrinth, maze).
The Kiwidutch children and I have seen a little of it when we took the lift up to the top of the Boudewijntoren Observation Tower on the Belgium side and the kids were keen to investigate further.
The shop and entrance building to the labrinth/ maze has an amazing roof that’s in the shape of a butterfly, (best seen I admit on the postcard that I bought and photographed) and inside the maze, a warren of dead ends, bridges and false trails to make the project harder going for the participants.
I looked in at the beginning, saw that there are not only dead ends but also water “gates” along the trail to catch the unweary. These are grills in the ground that spout up shoots of water from the base, woebetide anyone standing directly over it as they spout up regularly without warning.
It was never the idea that I would be attempting to negotiate the maze myself, it’s far too much for me to manage on crutches so I’d arranged with the friendly lady in the shop that I could take a quick look at how it looks at the beginning and then take the short-cut to the centre to wait for the rest of the family at the centre.
This short-cut isn’t available to members of the public entering the maze, instead it is actually the exit path once you have finally found your way to the centre.
I just happen to have a staff member take me along it both ways to save myself a long wait outside the maze, now I can wait in the shade in the centre and shout directions to the rest of the family as they struggle to get there via the pathways in the hedges.
I would like to say that the rest of the family reached the centre of the maze unaided. Sadly there was a certain amount of lifting Little Mr. over and above fences in order to find the quickest way to the centre and these tactics increased as their frustration levels rose and the time being taken to negotiate the way got longer and longer.
It’s become startlingly clear that patience is not a strong point in my family, but I have to admit that the sight of my small son popping up over the metal fences around the maze was rather funny. Eventually, (more than forty minutes later than we had anticipated) we were together in the centre and could take the short-cut to the exit. The kids were rather sick of the sight of the maze by then and any ideas of becoming jungle adventurers were stoutly quashed.
July 16, 2015
The triangle where the borders of the Netherlands,Belgium and Germany intersect is called the “Drielandenpunt Vaals”.
The point is also located near the summit of Vaalserberg on the border of the municipalities of Vaals (Dutch Limburg), Plombières and Calamine (both in the Belgian province of Liege) and Aachen (in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia).
The current Drielandenpunt Vaals ran along five different borders from 1815. However, there were never more than four boundaries come together simultaneously, as various States came and went.
The border triangle was a four-country point from 1839 – 1919. Netherlands, Belgium and Prussia (later Germany) being joined here by the mini-state Moresnet.
Af the end of World War I there were several border corrections between Belgium and Germany when Moresnet (a neutral country) was annexed to Belgium. Since then, the four country point Vaals become a three-point meeting point.
The first tower on the Vaalserberg was built of wood by a group called the “Highest Point of the Netherlands Foundation” in 1905 and they named it the “Wilhelminatoren” (Wilhelmina Tower) after the former Dutch queen Queen Wilhelmina.
There are also accounts that prior to First World War a woman from Gemmenich took up a regular spot here with a wooden cart that sold lemonade from the top side and, hidden from sight under a tarpaulin, other stronger drinks.
In 1924 on the Dutch side a wooden hut was built that sold soft drinks, sweets and postcards.
In 1928 the new symbolic Drielandenpunt was opened, and the collection of old landmarks were relocated near the memorial to the highest point in the Netherlands and in 1930 the municipality of Vaals took responsibility for the creation of a new access road to the Vaalserberg, making the Drielandenpunt accessible by car. The oldest border poles are from the Vrije Rijksstad Aken (former free city of Aken). These stones from 1340 can be recognised by the German eagle emblem on them. Of the 180 original stones only about 18 are left in the forest of Aken.
The symbolic three country corner is considered by many tourists as the real three country corner, but in fact the real one is located some 50 m further. The confusion is increased by the fact that two of the three border markers once stood on the real three country corners. The real three country corner at Vaals is today marked by a pole from 1926. In that year two original poles were placed to the symbolic country corner, the Belgium one is a copy of the one donated by the Dutch tourist bureau in replacement of the one the disappeared from Moresnet and around the real pole, the position of each of the four nations is still marked out on the ground.
The one below looks like but isn’t…
This one IS the real three country point… complete with original markings and metal lines set into the ground…
Two of the other original ,markers incorporated into the not-real marker point…
July 15, 2015
A few years ago Family Kiwidutch visited the Tripoint (‘Het Drielandenpunt’) in Vaals.
This is a tripoint where the borders of Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands come together.
With a height of 323 meters, “Mount Vaals” is also the highest point of the Netherlands (excluding the Caribbean Netherlands).
The kids and I have been up the tower, with Himself who is scared of heights remaining below, and as we emerge from the lift coming out we see two men out motoring with their dogs.
The doggies are of a small type, maybe terriers? (Sorry, I’m a cat person so fairly useless with dog types) and they each have their own wicker basket on the back of the motorbike.
The baskets are slightly different shapes and one has a wire and cloth shade roof attached. The dogs look very content and comfortable in their baskets, cool and with a view. Later in the day when we went back to where the car was parked we spotted another “touring” dog, this one doing an outing with a cycling couple and attached in a special carrier to the back of the man’s bike. Some might wonder why this dog isn’t getting some exercise with it’s cycling owners, but you need to know that many Dutch hobby cyclists can cycle 40, 60, 80 or 120 km per day if they want to do some weekend touring. Obviously even for a very young and fit dog these kind of distances are too far for just a lead. Due to allergies we are a pet-less family and so small encounters with animals like this always gets our attention. It’s nice to see that it’s not just us who like to go out as a “whole family”.
July 14, 2015
When visiting the Boudewijntoren Observation Tower in Belgium a few years ago, I managed to convince Kiwi Daughter to join Little Mr and myself on the upper viewing platform.
Himself’s severe dislike of heights keeps him firmly on the ground, content to look up and wave to us from below.
This tower might be situated in Belgium, but only by a matter of meters as the tripoint of Belgium, Netherlands and Germany is about ten or fifteen meters further.
We are however treated to an excellent view over the three countries, the railway and horses that I zoomed in on are in Germany, the other observation tower is in The Netherlands and we spy a maze close by in the Belgium area.
The landscape is the least built up (for the Netherlands at least) and on this beautiful day we have a long view out towards the horizon.
I’m rather confused by my zoom lens: I can bring the “Wilhelmina Uitkijktoren” (Wilhelmina Observation Tower) and a farmhouse located a long way into the distance right up close and in clear view, but have limited success getting Himself into focus at the bottom of the tower. With my limited knowledge I make the most of the camera’s capabilities and enjoy the view with the children. There are also several viewing telescopes on the platform which both kids take a lot of enjoyment in using. I’m rather surprised that there are not many people on the platform at all, aside from a few small groups coming and going, we have these amazing views all to ourselves.
September 22, 2014
I’m used to driving down green leafy streets before getting into a plane in New Zealand on a blue skied, tee-shirt warm summers day and stepping out in into the even hotter warmth of tropical Singapore.
We then later step into another plane and step out into a snowy winters day in the Netherlands where the temperatures are hovering around zero and the trees are bare, but this trip back from Greece in 2012 was very much a shock.
The difference is that when we fly from Singapore to Amsterdam it’s a fourteen hour flight that has already followed a ten hour flight from New Zealand and when you know you are making a trip from one end of the globe to the other you expect the seasons to be different.
A three hour trip from Greece seems by contrast far too close by for there to be such a vast difference, but vast difference there is. At the end of October 2012 we stepped into the plane in Greece in shirtsleeves, the evening temperature was still around twenty degrees, there was a balmy holiday atmosphere. By the time we reach Charleroi in Belgium it’s a total shock, it’s approximately 11:30 p.m. at night and temperatures are well below freezing.
Waiting for the shuttle bus at the bus stop outside the terminus is bone numbingly cold despite our coats, once the shuttle arrives and takes us back to the hotel we have to chip the ice of the windows before we can set off. We could have stayed the night in Belgium but facing sparce traffic after midnight was a nicer option than in rush hour the next day and Himself had had a nap on the plane, so he opted to drive straight home the same evening.
Back in The Hague Himself carries sleeping children upstairs to their beds. It’s been trying to snow already and whist we have the idea that it’s late summer, early autumn in Greece, just three and a half hours flying time north there is absolutely no doubt that it was cold, dark winter at home.
July 10, 2014
(Deepest apologies for the lack of photographs of yesterday’s post, I reloaded them and they are there now, Today hopefully back to normal…)
Welcome to my retrospective posts of our trip to Greece from the autumn of 2012. We have stayed the night at the Van der valk Charleroi hotel and now at the crack of dawn we are refreshed and heading out to the airport for our flight to Greece. It’s the first time I’ve been to an airport that seemingly has one carrier as it’s main user, it’s clear that Ryanair keeps this airport pretty much alive. Planes and airports fascinate me and I notice that many other passengers, both kids and adults also spend their time at the windows, taking photographs and watching the comings and goings of the aircraft. Soon it’s our turn and we are sitting on the misty runway waiting our turn to (hopefully) take off into sunnier skies…
Interesting building opposite the airport terminal…
July 9, 2014
Following yesterdays post, we arrive in the Belgium city of Charleroi (pronounced “char – le – wah) late on a Friday evening.
We find our hotel close to the airport: Hotel Van Der Valk, and having not yet had dinner, ditch the bags as soon as possible and head for the restaurant.
This turns out to be a bad idea, we are about to order and Little Mr is both starving hungry and almost falling from his seat because he is so close to sleep.
Luckily the waitress serving us is sympathetic to the situation and suggests that we go up to our rooms and she will organise that our food can be sent there as soon as possible.
We transfer to one of our two rooms and manage to keep Little Mr. awake long enough for the food to arrive and for him to eat at least three quarters of his dinner.
A quick brushing of teeth was possible as his eyes fall shut and he didn’t even wake when we put him into his pyjamas. I opted for a few fries rather than pasta and none of us were too long out of bed before that.
The next morning we are up with the larks and go down for an early bird breakfast. The kids are easy to please because there are croissants on offer, Himself and I go for a cooked breakfast and cereal. Our in-laws are there too, along with others who are likely to also be on the early flights and it’s not too long before we are heading towards the airport…
Apologies to readers for whom the photographs didn’t show up today… I have no clue what I did wrong but I reloaded everything and they seem to show ok this time.
July 8, 2014
We’ve found our Hotel, Hotel Van Der Valk just outside Charleroi, Belgium and get ready to settle in for the night.
The rooms are spacious and clean and we are pleased to have arrived after a long day.
We have two rooms booked but non-smoking rooms were only available on separate floors so Himself slept with Little Mr. in the room with the four-poster bed, partly because it was further away from reception and saved me some extra walking, and partly because it had a shower above a large jacuzzi bath.
I’m a shower person by preference and my foot injury makes it really hard for me to get in and out of a bath so was pleased to have the room that had a nice shower instead.
Himself loves a bath every now and again (we don’t have a bathtub at home) and as an exceptionally early riser he was the one most likely to take advantage of it anyway. Kiwi Daughter and I had no problem settling into our room, the bed was comfortable and we had everything we needed. All we need now is dinner…