Just cross the border and immediately feel in another world? This is possible when you plan to cycle the more than 100 kilometers long "Fietsallee langs de Noordervaart" which runs partly through the Netherlands and partly through Germany. However you look at it, many things are just a little different in both countries. Whether that is for better or for worse, is something everyone can decide for themselves after they get home.

A little bit of history

We go back to the time of Napoleon Bonaparte who had the plan to realize a connection between Scheldt, Meuse and Rhine to form the Grand Canal du Nord. The route was established by Napoleon in 1806: the Rhine will be connected from Grimlinghaus near Neuss to the Meuse near Venlo. On the other side of the Meuse, the canal will run via Nederweert, Weert, Neerpelt and Lier to the Scheldt in Antwerp. This way, Napoleon hoped to gain both economic and political independence from the (Northern) Netherlands, which at that time did not belong to his empire. In the spring of 1807, the first construction activities began but the canal would never be completed. After about 30 kilometers including locks were completed, work was halted. Partly because of lack of money but mainly because in 1811 the entire Netherlands became part of the French Empire. The main reason for building the canal then disappeared. In 1853 the Dutch part up to the Helenavaart is dug out to navigable depth, on the one hand for water drainage from the Peel and on the other hand for peat transport from Deurne and Helenaveen.

Noordervaart now

Projecting a bicycle route along the Noordervaart (Grand Canal du Nord) will breathe new life into it. The communities along the route allow cyclists to follow the canal as Napoleon envisioned it. Along the way, displayed panels provide lots of information about the area one is riding through and, of course, about the canal itself. Each place you visit has its own story about the canal’s route. The signage is done with the necessary “gründlichkeit”. In Germany, the entire length of the route is marked with a blue line on the road or in the form of blue berms. In addition, the route is completely marked with the logo of the bicycle avenue. In the Netherlands, blue signs on lampposts or berm posts along the road indicate the course of the route and one mainly follows the bicycle route network. Driving the wrong way is practically impossible. Red/white marker poles indicate the uncompleted section of the Noordervaart. It is just what you want: get from A to B as quickly as possible or get to know a region a little better on the basis of a piece of history. There is something for everyone, as the old saying goes.


One of the most appealing points on the route is the village of Beringe west of Nederweert, where the canal ends. Here you should definitely stop for a moment to let everything sink in. At the head of the canal is a special memorial. Note the pedestal with Napoleon’s big N and on the other side his famous stitch that he always wore as a martial man and made him recognizable to everyone. Dozens of times we have cycled past this with our tour club and never has anyone noticed the monument. Tour cyclists/wheelers always seem to go straight for their goal though! With knowledge of the above, a lot becomes clear. Just bike or walk around the traffic circle. On the west side the excavated canal and on the east side a small body of water that once should have become a canal. In fact the entire history in a nutshell. What is striking is the picture at the base of the monument. Take a look at the picture. Take your time. There is so much to see along the route. Undergo it and come home an experience richer!

Text and Photo: Teus Korporaal

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