Zwillbrock, hiking along the flamingoes and visiting the Baroque church.

Springtime, 2019

My last trip was in February, a long time ago. Work took all my attention, but during the leisure days I tried to discover new places. I met a new group of friends and we go on hiking tours together or visit musea, a concert or any other interesting event. Through these people, I discover many treasures of The Netherlands. Still, on various occasions I go exploring on my own and enjoy the tranquility of the countryside.

A remarkable place is Zwillbrock (Zwilbroek for the Dutch), just a hundred meter over the border into the municipality of Vreden, Germany and very close to my hometown. People say, that the border here never excisted; it was centuries long a place where German and Dutch people mingled together. This tiny village is proud owner of the Church of St. Francis, a baroque church and former monastary with a long history. In 1651 the first church was built on these grounds, which became an escape for the Catholics from The Netherlands, who were banned in their own country. The St. Francis church is dating from the early 18th century and although rich in decor, still beautiful in simplicity. Nearly every Sunday at 16.30 there are performances in the church. Many musicians are eager to play in this historic intimate ambience!

Zwillbrock is also famous for The Zwillbrocker Venn, the most Northern breeding area for flamingoes in Europe and a birdreserve with more than 100 different birdspecies. The only time I saw flamingoes in the wild, was on the island of Bonaire (Caribbean). Never thought I would encounter those beautiful creatures again, so close to my home! The first Chilean flamingoes arrived in 1982 and until now nobody knows where they were coming from. A few years later, also European flamingoes joined the group. After raising their chicks, they will leave again until the next year. For more information, visit the Educational Centre at Zwillbrock Biological Station.

The best time to watch the flamingoes is from April till the summer. Sometimes they are gone in June already. There are different birdwatching stations and with my 60 x zoom camera, I can get some nice shots.

I hike the roundabout of a rough 7 km along the shallow lake and marshland, witnessing many black-headed gulls and other birdspecies. On purpose, I choose a weekday and walk for more than an hour, without encountering other hikers.

 

 

National Park Eifel, Germany

June, 2018

Since being back in the Netherlands, after living in Canada for many years, I fully enjoy the European culture and nature again. Flying in Europe is pretty cheap and by car you are in no-time in a totally different scenery. Even in the surroundings of my hometown there is plenty to discover. There are many castles, musea and cultural events. Lately, I am trying to improve my walking spirit again by extending every time the amount of kilometers (or miles, as we used to say in Canada). The new hiking shoes are waiting impatiently to get their first exercise. The last pair finally gave up after a 24 kilometer hike through the fabulous Eifel in Germany. I can’t recall I ever visited this beautiful area, just a three hour drive from my home. It’s the perfect spot to go hiking, with endless trails to choose from and overall very well assigned. From high hills to flat land, wild rivers to dreamy lakes; you can find it all. Be sure not to get lost in a village (like we did)………we ended up walking another extra 10 kilometer, as we were confused with the names of the villages! Our hike of four hours, became 7 hours!!! So glad the beer is always cold in Germany and every village has a pub (or two)……….

 

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From our lovely apartment, just outside Einruhr, you could reach the touristic town of Monschau within thirty minutes. Probably, in July overwhelmed with tourists, but now pretty peaceful. Wherever you go in this tiny town, you will hear water streaming. Monschau is famous for its half-timbered houses and the castle high up the hill.

During our short four day stay, we choose two hiking trails: the Waterland route and the Narcissen route (Daffodils route).

We started our first hike from the town of Einruhr around the Obersee, along the Urftsee dam and passing the Paulushof dam to Rurberg. From the Urftsee reservoir you walk via the Eifelsteig back to Einruhr.

Our second day hike started in the small town Höfen and from there we followed the path through the protected area of Perlenbach- and Fuhrtsbachtal. In springtime there seem to be plenty of daffodils all around the trail. Now, we enjoyed all other type of flowers, while the route guided us through the woods, along wild rivers and meadows. Another fabulous hiking day!

On our way back to the Netherlands, we decided to drive via the historic University town Maastricht, situated in the province of Limburg. It has a southern atmosfere and you will hear all kind of languages, while strolling over the famous plazas. Maastricht is more or less on the border with Belgium and Germany. Even Luxembourg is just a short distance away.

In Maastricht you can dream away by the river Maas, admire the impressive Basilica of Saint Servatius and visit the famous bakery ‘ Bisschopsmolen’ or ‘ Bishops Mill’. Here, you will find the oldest working water-mill of the Netherlands and in the store they sell the delicious ‘ Limburgse vlaai ‘. What a perfect way to finish this short outing!