- Jamie Shannon
Maastricht to Munich - Cycling eight countries in 23 days
Maastricht to the French border
Having spent a good couple of years off the bike, It was high time for a bit of an adventure. The plan: to travel from Maastricht to to Munich through The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, France, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Austria. I had only three weeks in which to do it thus it would in now way be easy. I like a challenge though.
Cycle touring through Western Europe
From Maastricht, I made my way south east through The Netherlands towards the border with Belgium. Day one was scorching hot, and along the way, I visited the American cemetery near Margraten. It was a sobering sight if ever there was one.
Having crossed into Belgium, I carried on south towards the town of Eupen. I enjoyed the north and east of Belgium with its abundance of forested hills and quaint villages. From Eupen, it was but a short and steep climb up into the Eifel National Park where I found a quite lush forest to lay my head.
How to sleep anywhere for free
On day two, I continued south through the verdant Belgium countryside passing several notable villages en route. Notable that is for their connection to terrible tragedies that occurred towards the end of the second world war; the town of Malmedy being prime example.
I crawled across the Luxembourg border on day 2. I do say crawl as it was seriously hot at this point and hadn't expected it to be like this when I left. The hills of eastern Belgium had also been wearing me down, but I was looking forward to seeing a country I had never visited before. I really hadn't a clue what to expect to be honest.
My second night was spent again in a forest. I woke up at dawn by the sound of gunshots whizzing by, quickly realising folk were using it as a practice ground. I chose not to hang around too long.
Travelling through Luxembourg by bicycle
Luxembourg to me seemed like a mix bag; on the one hand, the landscape seemed to be lush and green. There seemed to be a nice balance between being manicured and well kept but also overgrown and natural. On the other hand, the villages and towns didn't have the same aesthetics or feel as the ones I had passed through in Belgium. The drivers also seemed to be quite insane.
Having followed cycle paths and old railway lines for the majority of my time in northern Luxembourg, I became quite undone as I neared Luxembourg City itself. I was confronted with walls of traffic, motorways and busy roads.
With its crazy drivers, the thought of heading into the capital itself didn't appeal to me one bit thus I instead headed east across the country to Germany.
Day 4 saw me cross over the river Moselle into Germany. I had seen some forest on the other side that looked like a suitable place to camp and so headed straight there.
Having crossed the bridge just outside Grevenmacher, I was confronted by what can only be described as a stomach churning set of cliffs that I knew had to be climbed somehow.
I did pant and I did puff. I sweated and toiled my way up those cliffs and made it to the top just as the sun was setting on the valley.
With the many vineyards nestled into the surrounding cliffs, the valley looked beautiful in the harsh light but I still had to find somewhere to camp.
Another forest it was then.
I woke up on day four to glorious weather and birdsong ringing out around the forest.I headed out into the surrounding fields to look for a road that would take me south towards Saarburg.
This part of the country really is beautiful with its hills and valleys and scattered villages. From the small town of Saarburg, the road followed the river Moselle again which would lead me into the town of Saarlouis.
As it looked like a town with quite a lot of history, I decided to stay for the night. Actually my reasoning was two fold as it started to pelt it down with rain just as I was cycling through.
On day 5, I cycled from Saarlouis to Saarbrucken where I booked an apartment for the evening. The route took me through the iron works area of Germany which turned out to be a UNESCO World Heritage site; something I didn't realise until the next day.
Headed south from Saarbrucken the next day towards France and onto the Vosges du Nord National Park.