Two of our more athletic members decided to take advantage of the freedom of movement afforded by EU membership to criss-cross some Continental borders by bike. Words and photos by Geoff Saunders
In spring 1945, when my father crossed from Holland into Germany, no one checked his passport. So 71 years later, when my wife, Virginia, and I crossed the same border in very different circumstances, we were delighted to have the same experience.
Following the Brexit vote we set off for a ‘biking without borders’ visit to Europe. After an overnight crossing to the Hook and a train to Maastricht we pedalled east along quiet Sunday tracks. Then at Lemirs a gap in a hedge, a small marker and a plank bridge led us unseen into Germany.
A short further ride brought us to Aachen, Charlemagne’s former capital of a united Europe. The beautiful cathedral, dating from those times, should not be missed.
From Aachen, the Vennbahn leads south using a former railway awarded to Belgium under the Treaty of Versailles. It’s quite a curiosity, weaving in and out of Germany, leaving ‘islands’ stranded within Belgium. You can imagine how it facilitated smuggling in past times, and how difficult it would have been to check passports. No such checks now!
This well surfaced cycle path has German and Belgian signage and leads into the beautiful Eifel Mountains, ascending at a comfortable railway gradient.
Along the way delightful villages, like historic Monschau, offer good accommodation and excellent meals.
Descending from the Eifel, we left the Vennbahn to slip into Luxembourg at Vianden and followed the Sure river, weaving our way across the border bridges: coffee in Germany, lunch in Luxembourg.
Where the Sure joins the Moselle we turned north to Trier, an ancient city near the limits of the Roman Empire that united Europe for centuries.
Exploring Europe’s borderlands without need for passport or currency exchange was a delightful counter to the gloom of the referendum result.