All over Aachen there are bicycle route signs pointing to Dreiländereck, meaning Three Countries Corner, where the borders of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands all come together.
The distances are of course in kilometers, so on this sign it’s only 5.2 kilometers away (just over three miles). The same sign points to the town of Vaals, in the Netherlands, which is only 4.0 kilometers away.
The signs mean no motorcycles or cars allowed, but free for bicycles.
I had no idea what to expect up there, and I thought I might be the only person or at least the only cyclist up at Three Countries Corner, but in fact there were thousands of people on bicycles, all wearing lycra, because it happened to be the day of the Tour Version of the Amstel Gold Race, a huge Dutch bicycle event in which about twelve thousand people took part.
The Tour Version is the one for amateur cyclists, not to be confused with the Race Version, which is for professional racing cyclists and takes place a day later. (Sergey Ivanov won the Race Version in 2009, in case you’ve forgotten.)
The one I saw was the eighth edition of the Tour Version, and they offered a choice of six different distances to be covered: 65 km, 100 km, 125 km, 150 km, 200 km or 250 km. The cyclists I saw all came up the hill from the Belgian side, rode past the Three Countries Corner and tower (or stopped for a rest) and then continued back down on the Netherlands side.
The Tour Version is not a race, but rather “a tourist performance ride”. Each cyclist has a number, so that afterwards all twelve thousand participants could be listed on the website with their times, photos and sometimes even videos.
Amstel, by the way, is a brand of beer. For this reason, you have to click on a button saying you are at least eighteen years old in order to enter the website about the Amstel Gold Race.
At the Three Countries Corner there is a tower which you can climb for a small fee (or take the elevator, which is what I did), to have a look out over the three countries.
There are also two or three restaurants on the site, as well as snack bars offering huge portions of Frietjes (which no one here would think of calling ‘French’ fries) and a labyrinth made of hedges. All these facilities are on the Netherlands side, but the people who work there speak all three languages.
The place where the borders of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium come together is also the highest point in the Netherlands (Hoogste Punt van Nederland) at the dizzying altitude of three hundred and twenty-two and a half meters above sea level.
GPS 50°45’16.27″ North; 6° 1’15.01″ East
My photos in this post are from 2009. I revised the text in 2019.