Tell anyone that you’ve been to the highest point in the Netherlands and there’ll be some joke along the lines of “that must have been about 3ft”. It’s actually 322.5 metres and can be found in the most southerly part of the Netherlands at the Vaalserberg on the border with Belgium and Germany.
Surprisingly there isn’t more of a big deal made of this “unique” tourist attraction which is co-located with another unique attraction, the “Dreilandenpunt” or the three countries point – basically the point at which the three countries of the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium meet and where, if you position yourself carefully enough, you can stand in all three countries simultaneously!
Now, granted that I was there in early January (4th) and there weren’t too many tourists around. We had a quick stop and a bite at the restaurant beneath the Wilhelminatoren observation tower which was open but the day was cold, wet and misty so we opted not to go up the tower. We then walked the 500 metres to the other observation tower (The Boudewijntoren) where the two previously mentioned attractions are located. (We could have driven there and parked but we decided to walk the short distance as we had already parked the car).
As we walked towards the large observation tower (it was the most obvious thing to head for despite being closed on the day of our visit) we started to look around. We could see the flags of each of the three countries with large crests for each one. Then we saw a bunch of people together taking photos and realised that the spot we’d just walked past was what we were looking for! The underwhelming meeting point of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany was simply a stone marker. In fairness I don’t know what I expected it to be but certainly I was hoping for something a bit more special! Anyways, I waited in line to get my photo taken – it’s not everyday you get to legitimately stand in three countries at the same time!
We then went in search for the highest point marker. It was not too far away and again, sadly, a little bit underwhelming. However, again, it was another photo opportunity and something nice to see and in a very low lying country, it was cool to be at its highest point!
This location was not to be our only stop on our road trip from Valkenburg as we also paid a visit to the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial near the small town of Magraten. This is the only American military cemetery in the Netherlands and houses the graves of over 8,200 soldiers who died fighting to liberate the Netherlands in World War 2.
If you’ve ever seen an American military cemetery on TV or in the movies, then you’ll know what to expect when you walk into this area which covers 65.5 acres of Dutch countryside. The tall memorial tower is the most striking thing as you walk towards the entrance – it overlooks the Court of Honor and a pool which reflects the tower. Flanked on each side of this are the Tablets of the Missing – large walls with the names of 1,722 soldiers missing in action. When any of these names are recovered and identified, a rosette is placed next to their name to mark this.
Beyond the tower are over 8,200 crosses set out in long curves. The sight of these can be a bit overwhelming when you think of what happened in the early 1940s and how so many never got to return to their families and loved ones. A nice gesture is that Dutch families often adopt a grave and will then research the person buried there as a way to honour their sacrifice. Many of these families get in touch with the families of the deceased and have formed bonds with them over the years.
This beautifully manicured cemetery is a must visit for anyone into their World War 2 history.
Thanks to Alexander Luns of B&B Gerlachus for being tour guide and photographer!