‘It positively isn’t flat’: Netherlands mountain path proves an unlikely success | Netherlands

‘It positively isn’t flat’: Netherlands mountain path proves an unlikely success | Netherlands

The Netherlands, so the guidebook notes, has been “popularised as a flat land filled with cheese and clogs”.

Fans behind the Dutch Mountain Path, a 63-mile (101km) hike throughout seven wonderful peaks – two of that are produced from the spoil of outdated mines – merely ask, solely a bit tongue in cheek, that the world stops being so slender minded.

Rising from an area department of an annual competition celebrating mountain movies and tradition throughout the globe, the “alpine” stroll within the lowlands was first thought up in 2020 because the local weather penalties of journey turned ever-clearer and Covid made it tough to get to the extra conventional European summits.

The mountain path

“Which means not flying everywhere in the world to chase your large mountains but additionally to look in your yard,” mentioned Toon Hezemans, 60, one of many creators of the path in South Limburg, the southernmost area of the Netherlands, jutting into Belgium and Germany.

A route was devised and phrase of mouth did the remaining. It was a direct success. An estimated 17,000 Dutch and German copies of a information to the hike have been offered to this point. This November, an English-language model might be printed.

As to the potential challenge of the dearth of precise mountains in Europe’s flattest nation, Hezemans, an artist by career, questioned the very definition. “That’s a really attention-grabbing one,” he mentioned, mentioning a Hugh Grant comedy, The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill, However Got here Down a Mountain.

Within the film, Welsh villagers are livid when English cartographers declare that their “mountain” is in truth a hill because it doesn’t meet the 1,000ft (305 metres) threshold. The locals construct a mound on prime of the summit to cheat the system.

‘It positively isn’t flat’: Netherlands mountain path proves an unlikely success | Netherlands
The Dutch Mountain Path in south Limburg. {Photograph}: Judith Jockel/The Observer

For Hezemans and Andrew Davies, 65, his conspirator and the translator of the guidebook into English, that’s not what a mountain is about. “I don’t suppose you should take 1,000ft as a definition as a result of the phrase in Dutch is berg, which has a barely completely different definition,” mentioned Davies, who moved to the Netherlands from Manchester 38 years in the past.

“It will depend on the encircling,” insisted Hezemans, whereas overlooking the scenic valleys from a bench on the Eyserberg, a peak about 200 metres above sea degree. “This one within the Himalayas gained’t be a mountain. However you possibly can see the church steeple of the Vijlen, they name themselves the one mountain village of the Netherlands, and so they even have a soccer crew who lately performed within the worldwide mountain village soccer championship.”

With alpine individuals it’s, he mentioned, a matter of shared views. A mountain is within the eye of the beholder.

“OK,” he added, strolling on, “perhaps there aren’t mountains right here nevertheless it positively isn’t flat.”

South Limburg is the nation’s most elevated area, with deep(ish) valleys carved out by fast-flowing rivers and streams, and the path criss-crosses the borders with Belgium and Germany. You might be by no means greater than six miles from a world border.

The stroll, which Hezemans insisted can really be arduous at factors, begins at Eygelshoven railway station, close to the city of Kerkrade, with the primary aim being to succeed in the highest of Wilhelminaberg, about 225 metres above sea degree, a former spoil heap of the Wilhelmina coalmine, which was operational between 1906 and 1969.

After that, the walker heads to the foothills of Schneeberg, whose highest level is over the border in Germany and actually interprets as “snow mountain”. Its place within the Dutch Mountain Path is, Hezemans admitted, a little bit of cheat.

However the path’s depend of seven peaks doesn’t embrace Vaalserberg, the purpose the place the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany meet – and, at 322 metres above sea degree, the best level within the nation. “It’s too touristy,” mentioned Hezemans. “So we skip that and we go right here to the Eyserberg, the place we’re standing now. This has a really good meadow and alpine flowers blooming there.”

Subsequent up is Gulperberg (155 metres above sea degree): “That’s actually a mountain, with a statue of Mom Mary on prime, trying over the city of Gulpen – perhaps essentially the most mountainous mountain, with a cone form.” Then it’s Hakkenberg (a bit over 200 metres above sea degree), the place “the half-timbered homes within the valley make the ‘mountain expertise’ full”, in response to the stroll’s information. This peak didn’t have a reputation till Hezemans named it after a path to its prime.

A field seen from a shady road
The Dutch mountain path is being pushed in its place vacation expertise to Amsterdam. {Photograph}: Judith Jockel/The Guardian

The path then crosses into Belgium, the place, through the first world conflict, the border was marked by a 206-mile high-voltage fence, from Vaals to the North Beach, generally known as the “wire of dying”. The sixth peak is Voerstreek, which within the Nineteen Seventies was the scene of clashes between French- and Dutch-speakers over the world’s language.

“Tourism saved the world, as sooner or later they realised the battles weren’t serving to appeal to vacationers,” mentioned Hezemans.

The path’s closing summit is D’n Observant in Maastricht, a artifical spoil heap from the higher layers of Sint Pietersberg, which over the centuries was extensively quarried for its marlstone.

Hezemans admitted to being a bit bemused when potential walkers writing on a devoted Fb web page ask whether or not they need to convey ropes or wonder if they need to threat an outbreak of vertigo. “That I don’t get,” he laughed.

Passing by on her third day of the stroll, Esther Ruijtenbeek, 46, a textile designer, was simply over 30 miles into the path and mentioned she had two blisters in a single day and the warmth was proving a problem. However a Dutch mountain path? “I’m a bit sceptical maybe,” she laughed. “It’s good preparation for mountain mountain climbing.”

Leave a Reply