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Belgium-Germany-Luxembourg day 2 (28 May 2024)

Friday 14 June
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Starting along the River Meuse, and the sight of Le Cheval Bayard, an abstract statue by Olivier Strebelle of the mythical horse Bayard leaping over the river. Among Bayard’s magical feats was the ability to adjust his size to his riders: the statue depicts him carrying the four adult sons of Duke Aymon. 

Over the Pont des Ardennes and onto Eurovelo Route 3 (the Pilgrim’s Route), which runs alongside the wide and slow Meuse to Liège. The route crosses the Meuse at Pont de Seraing (Seraing was where the major steel foundry was established by John Cockerill, born in Lancashire and later Belgian citizen). The cycle route is unpleasant here, crossing busy roads, and the route signs are difficult to spot if you don’t have a cycling computer for navigation. I find this is not uncommon: cycle routes and signing tend to disintegrate in town centres just when you need this most, maybe somebody should do a study.

At Vaux sous Chèvremont the route starts to follow a disused railway line, smoothly resurfaced and gradually climbing. The cycle route crosses local roads at various places, and road traffic has right of way, but I was impressed that often car drivers stopped to let me cross. I was grateful to refuel at the artisan Boulangerie Louise, adjacent to Ligne 38. I was hoping to have some of the wonderful tarte au riz (rice pudding tart), but none was to be found. Alas, the Eurovelo route doesn’t take you through Verviers, where this delicacy is a spécialité typiquement Verviétoise – a blunder on my part for not planning a detour. We need this in the UK urgently.

At Plombières, I took a short detour to visit Kelmis (La Calamine). From 1816 until 1921 this was a separate country, wedge-shaped and only 1.5 km x 5 km: the micro-state of Neutral Moresnet. This was once dominated by a large zinc spar mine operated by the Vieille Montagne company (VM), which continues as part of the multinational Umicore. The 1910 company building in Kelmis is now the Museum Vieille Montagne (MVM). This mine was exhausted in 1885, but the state continued, until swept away by WW1 and its aftermath.

Raining now, but continued the climb on the hairpins up to Trois Bornes/Drielandenpunt/Dreiländereck – the three-country point where Belgium, Germany and Netherlands meet, and is also the highest point in the Netherlands (Vaalserberg).

Descended again and into Aachen and to overnight accommodation. Terrible traffic at the inner ring road: Polizei on duty at junctions to prevent them jamming, but horns blaring out of impatience. Distance today 141 km, elevation 788 m (cycle.travel estimate 613 m).