De 4 Vaargetijden - Are you going on a barge cruise through Belgian Limburg?
20 May 2020

Are you going on a barge cruise through Belgian Limburg?

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Noty tells…

Soon we will be allowed to invite guests on board again, yay! It’s quite nice in our home port of Oudenaarde. However, I now know every blade of grass by its first and last name. Do you recognize that feeling?

De 4 vaargetijden gemeerd te Maasmechelen

Does it it itch to book a summer vacation?

I am the ship’s dog of a floating vacation home for 8 people in Belgium! In my previous blog I already told you about what a barge cruise in Belgium actually is. With my 6 years of boating experience I can help you choose a nice route. The major assets of Belgium are the coast, the Ardennes and Limburg. Today I’ll take you to the green province of Limburg.

What can you do in Limburg this summer?

See you after the bike ride!
  • Cycling in the cycling paradise along the nodes network

Biking, biking and more cycling! That’s to be expected in the cycling paradise, isn’t it? After all, this is where they invented the network of bicycle knotpoint. By the way, did you know it was developed by a mining engineer? Those miners don’t have as good a nose as I do. The tunnel system was very extended. There were also many floors up to 200m deep… and it was dark there, too. No, you don’t want to get lost! That clever gentleman started numbering all the intersections. He put those numbers in a map. Then all you need are arrows pointing in the right direction. It worked very well! Using the same system on a flat map is of course a piece of cake.

Thus began the junction system in Limburg. Meanwhile, it is in use in almost all of Belgium and many of our neighbouring countries. That’s something the mining engineer can be proud of!

OK, so there are nice bike paths. Many are even car-free, along the towpaths or old railway lines. The landscape is sometimes slightly sloping. With me in the bike trailer boss Olga prefers the flat roads. Why could that be? I only weigh 21kg and that trailer maybe 10kg…

With all that biking you deserve of course a place to have a drink or a snack. You can always take that with you in your pannier and sit somewhere on a bench. There are a lot of benches with a view of the nature or at the waterfront. Luckily the cafés will open again soon. Find a spot at 1.5m of the other visitors and enjoy!

In normal times you can borrow the cycling maps on board. According to my boss Olga it’s not allowed now. Too bad, huh? But you can also map out a route online. You can still get a label to attach to your bike on board!

My secret tip for cycling? From our mooring in Neerpelt it’s a nice bike ride to the abbey of Hamont Achel. Good for a Belgian trappist beer or a visit to the abbey!

  • Walking in the national park Hoge Kempen

If I may choose, I’d much rather go for a walk! I don’t like sitting idle in the bike trailer. Do you also like walking in nature?

With a barge cruise you get a different area to wander every day. That’s a big advantage. I sure like different smells every day. Boss Olga takes pictures everywhere… I’ll have to wait patiently. I’m her favorite model, I guess. Then I stand among the flowers, the pheasants or at a nice view…

From the mooring in Neerpelt you can also follow the walking junctions of the Bosland network. On the other beautiful areas there are loop-shaped walks set out.

Mijn geheimtip om te wandelen wandelen? Oei dat is moeilijk! Er zijn zoveel mooie routes. Je kan ureMy secret tip for a walk? Ow! That’s hard! There are so many beautiful trails. You can walk for hours until even my dog feet get tired. Connecterra is my favorite: with some climbing you have beautiful panoramas. The entrance gate is near our mooring in Maasmechelen. It’s lovely paddling (or a little swim?) in the clear water. The fish are nibbling your paws! With a bit of luck you’ll see deer or wild boar… For so much beauty you have to pay a penny.

Connecterra, with my friend Joska
  • Swimming in Belgian Limburg

During your canal cruise, the water is never far away. It is literally at your feet. Fat fish swim in it. No chlorine stings in your eyes. Lovely to swim! As a dog you look for a place on the bank where you can walk in and out of the water. Splash and cool down…

And for people? Too bad, but they’re only allowed to swim in bathing water with lifeguards on duty. Do boss Olga & Maurits and the cruise guests never swim? Yes, they do! When it is safe at the berth, boss Maurits hangs out the swimming ladder. This way they can swim directly into deep water. When a ship comes in sight, they swim back to the boat. With a little common sense a lot can be done!

My secret tip for swimming? I already told you: In the Hoge Kempen National Park, near the gateway to Connecterra, there are beautiful large lakes with crystal clear water… Don’t tell anyone!

Are there sights in Limburg?

Oops, I was so excited to tell you all about what you can do… Yeah, there’s a lot to explore and experience as well! The greenery, the peace and quiet, the cozy towns and the friendly people of Limburg, with sweet dogs (!) you will find everywhere during your summer vacation. You get that for free with your cruise through the canals.

So where does your hotel dock? And are there any free activities?

Mijnhistorie Maasmechelen
Maasmechelen, old mineshafts.

Shall I start at Maasmechelen? That’s our base. I know it best!

  • You cross the street and you get to Maasmechelen village. This outlet center is the shopping paradise on the old mine grounds. Not for dog’s feet!
  • A little to the left and between the old mine shafts you can see the entrance gate Connecterra. For walking and/or swimming…
  • At the tourist office, with a nice sweet lady, also starts a walk through the garden district. This district in Eisden was built for the workers of the mine. There is an original miner’s house and much more.
  • Take a bike and you’ll discover the heathland of Maasmechelen. Especially in the summer those undulating purple fields are very pretty to see. And for throwing sticks and digging holes…
  • Nearby is also the river park Maasvallei. Literally border area between Belgian and Dutch Limburg. The river boulders form a special biotope with beautiful views and ferry crossings.
  • Excursion to Oud Rekem. This village with castle and city allures has been chosen as the most beautiful in Flanders. Nice to stroll through the streets. Yes, there are also many cafés …
Bree, city walking tour

I’ll take you a little along our itinerary. After Maasmechelen the next berth is Bree. You might know it from Belgian tennis player Kim Clijsters?

  • So the first task is: find the statues of Kim and her training center.
  • The entire Kempen region with its sandy soil was rather poor. Lots of heathland and flocks of sheep. (Of course I like those sheep… after all, I am a real shepherd! ) Bree was granted city rights in the 13th century. The city was walled in at the time. With the billygoat riders around that was no luxury. If you follow the city walk, you’ll find out more about the turbulent history.
  • Do you like museums? The city museum in the old town hall and the carriages museum are nice local museums. There is also a coffee roaster. I didn’t like the gentleman over there…
Neerpelt, klankenbos
Neerpelt, sound forest

After a quiet night at the jetty we continue. Have you seen the water lilies? And all those fat fish? Very nice, isn’t it? The water house is an original tollbooth and the cafe used to be a village shop… Let’s see what Neerpelt has to offer!

  • Neerpelt looks much more modern. It was not until the 19th century that the railway brought industry to this rural village. So go look for a nice ice cream (!!!) and funny statues in the city center.
  • Or go straight to my favourite: the sound forest! It’s a bit of a savage park with scattered installations. Several artists played with sounds here. There is a big flute, a silence cube, a vibrating forest,…. Amazing and a lot of fun to discover!
  • The river Dommel flows through Neerpelt. You’ll also come across it in the sound forest. On the other side of the canal you can even rent a canoe… or you can walk to a beautiful nature reserve Hageven. Along the way you’ll meet kangaroos, koi carp, deer and the “wrong dear lord”… You will!

And do you get some Limburg feeling already?

Do you board for the Limburg trip, the midweek trip with route J? Then you will see all this beauties. I’m sure boss Olga will also serve you some typical Limburg delicacies and regional products…

lunch buffet

Do you think a midweek trip is a little short? On the Kempen trip, the week trip with route I, you combine these places from the Limburg Kempen with the Antwerp Kempen. You can also enjoy even longer on the Long Limburg Tour. The 10 day trip with route LL adds to all this the cultural cities of Lier and Herentals.

I can tell you whole stories about that, too. That’ll be for another time!

Next time I’ll tell you more about Belgium’s other asset: the Ardennes. Could it be that I lost my heart there?

Till next time!

Noty's pootje

PS Do you want to cruise to Limburg? This summer you can still embark for the J trip in September or the LL trip in August. Ask my bosses if there is still room for you!