My first time visiting a three country border was when I visited Aachen, the westernmost city in Germany. It took me a few hours on a train to get there but I didn’t care, I wanted to go there to see the city and to see where Germany, Netherlands and Belgium meet, just to be able to run from one country to the other.
Three Country Border is know in German as Dreiländereck and, for my surprise, it isn’t in Aachen. It is pretty close to it but you will have to get there. The point where the countries meet is located in the dutch province of Limburg, in a small city called Vaals. This is why the hill you have to climb to enjoy this meetings of border is called Vaalserberg and it’s the highest point in mainland Netherlands. So, when you visit Dreiländereck, you are also visiting the highest dutch mountain.
This Three-Country Point, known in German as Dreiländerpunkt, used to be a four country border between 1830 and 1919. This happened because Neutral Moresnet used to exist in the as well. If you are asking yourself what is this place, I’m here to explain it to you.
So, Neutral Moresnet was a small Condominium between what used to be the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Prussia. It came to be after the fall of Napoleon, when the Congress of Vienna was redrawing the map of Europe, this is where some problems started to appear. On the area that was later called Neutral Moresnet, a zinc mine used to exist and none of the two kingdoms wanted to give up control over it. This lasted until after the First World War when the territory was annexed by Belgium.
You can still see some traces of this small territory on the name of the road that leads to the Three Country Border in Netherlands is still called Viergrenzenweg, four borders road in dutch.
Now, lets go back to the three country border.
Up there in Vaalsberg where Germany, Netherlands and Belgium meet, you’re going to find one of the most popular tourist spots in the area. Because of that, there are a lot of things to do there. The first one that you see if you arrive in the area through the main road is Wilhelminatoren, a wooden tower located in Netherlands that has a great view from Aachen and the dutch territory. From there you cannot see Belgium because of the dense forest that surrounds the area.
A few meters later, you are going to see a 34 meters high tower located in Belgium, 6 meters from Germany and 20 meters away from Netherlands. This tower is where you can have the best view from the are where these three countries meet. From the top of Koning Boudewijntoren, named after King Baudouin of Belgium, you are going to be able to see the Belgian city of Gemmenich. On the dutch side of the tower, you are going to be looking at Vaals and Wolfhaag. If you are lucky and you get there on a really clear day, you can try to see Maastricht, located a little over 30 kilometers away from the tower. On the german side, you are going to see Aachen on the horizon. The easiest place to recognize on this side of the tower is the Aachen Hospital, a huge block of modern looking buildings.
Also, at the border between these three countries, you can find the Labyrint Drielandenpunt. If you are a big fan of mazes and labyrinths, you are going to love this one located on the dutch side of the border. If you want to enter the maze and get lost, you have to buy a ticket from 5 euros. It takes you almost 45 minutes to find the center of it and leave, beware of that. There is also a restaurant, a playground and something that I believe it was clay pigeon shooting.
For me it was pretty cool to walk along three different countries without having to show a passport or even care about anything. Thethree country border is just a line on the floor and, if it wasn’t for my cellphone company telling me about the fact that I was moving from one country to the other while I looked for a place to have a beer, I don’t think i would even realize that I wasn’t in the same country.
Everything felt like same and this is what I like about the policy of open borders across Europe. You can easily walk from a country to the other without worrying about visas, currency or anything else. On Dreiländereck you can understand better the concept of an open Europe.
How can you get to Dreiländereck?
If you are in Aachen and wants to see three country border, you can do as I did and take a bus from the city center in the direction of Vaals and stop at Reutershag and walk there. The hike is a little less than 3 kilometers and you are going to be walking inside the forest that surrounds the border and it is pretty cool to arrive there like this. You can also walk or cycle from the center of Aachen or take a car. There are places to park it there and it might be the easiest way there.
If you are leaving from Vaals, you can take your car or take bus 149 that will leave you almost there. From the Belgian city of Kelmis, the only option is a car.
When it comes down to walk back from Dreiländereck, I would advise you all to walk until Vaalser Straße or Maastrichterlaan, first in German then in Dutch. This street is where the bus to Aachen passes through. I advise you to walk down the hill because this is what I did and I loved the small streets that lead to where you can get the bus. I had to stop everywhere to take pictures as you can see on the ones below.