The 125km Vennbahn, or Fen-Rail, is a cycle path that follows the trail of a long since closed railway line. It runs from Aachen in Germany, through German-speaking Belgium to Troisvierges in Luxemburg. We spent two days cruising along its gently swooping curves and sloping gradients, partly pretending to be trains but mostly admiring beautiful countryside, villages and woodland.
The route won best cycle path in Europe last year and it is hard to fault. Minimal interaction with traffic, smooth surfaces, clear and genuinely entertaining signage make living really easy on the Vennbahn…as Baden is demonstrating here.
Our new friends Matti and Meike told us that the land the path runs along is actually Belgian territory. I have no idea how this happened, but while you are on the Vennbahn you are in Belgium. This corridor of Belgium runs right through Germany so if you step two metres off for a quick pee, well you are crossing the border to wee in Germany! Apparently if there are any serious incidents at the points where the Vennbahn intersects the German roads, Belgian authorities have to be called in.
The trail carries many reminders that you are travelling along an old railway s you wind up the gentle 2-3% gradient. The line was built to carry freight from the coal fields of Aachen to the big smelters in Luxembourg and beyond. Tourists were being shuttled along the line much later on but it was fun to fly along the raised path where the tracks would have laid with two shallow ditches either side imagining what the ride would have been like on a train.
There is something quite romantic and nostalgic about the old stations and platforms you pass too, some abandoned and half forgotten, others transformed into homes or cafes.
Leaving the comfort of the trail was like having to say goodbye to a kindly Belgian grandma who had been carefully guiding you through the countryside. We were bumped off the end in Troisvierges and headed toward France on the tiny shoulder of the real road, competing for space with the trucks roaring past.