Five European Counties - Two TETs, Tintin, Waterloo, WWI, and WWII

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by viajarMOTO, Jan 1, 2020.

  1. viajarMOTO

    viajarMOTO Been here awhile

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    Background:
    We are two Americans living and working in Germany. We have a pair of BMW G650GS motorcycles that we imported from the US via Iceland a few years ago and we’ve been motorcycle traveling as much as we can with our busy work schedules and limited vacation time.

    Since arriving in Europe we’ve enjoyed and documented a few of our trips to include:
    Intro:
    This time around we are going to be exploring Netherlands and Belgium via the Trans Euro Trail (TET). This is a system of off-road oriented trails that have been shared via a network of like-minded off-road enthusiasts. ‘Linemen’ in each country have generously taken their time to plan and share trails that weave through many of countries within Europe. Check out their website at: https://www.transeurotrail.org/

    After we ride TET Netherlands and Belgium, we will be learning about WWII, the Allied landings at Normandy, and the subsequent liberation of France. We’ll follow the Liberty Road from Utah Beach, France to Bastogne, Belgium exploring the towns and countrysides of France, Luxembourg, and Belgium along the journey.

    Preview:
    So here goes! Here is a small preview from our two-week motorcycle adventure through northeastern Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, northern France, and Luxembourg...

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    #1
  2. viajarMOTO

    viajarMOTO Been here awhile

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    30 March - Day 1 of 13 - Exploring Northwestern Germany

    The Trans Euro Trail (TET) is a volunteer community that originated to promote the use of legal off-road riding throughout Europe. It had been some time since we rode our motorcycles on dirt roads so we were very excited to begin a trip through Netherlands and Belgium !

    We downloaded the routes from www.transeurotrail.org, packed our mules, and were on our way!

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    Map of the Day 1: Windmills, Roman Temples, and Tanks?! We covered about 300 km of riding today as we made our way north to the beginning of the Netherland Trans Euro Trail (TET).

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    Along the way we saw this WWII memorial which seemed to translate “To the memory of the legacy”.

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    A unique sign of a potato of a fork that is about 10 feet tall! Although this is one big tater, Chantil, an Idahoan native, said it doesn’t compare to Idaho taters!!

    Xanten, Germany

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    The town of Xanten (which sounds like a name for a planet in some other solar system) has an interesting history due to it’s closeness to the Rhine River and Roman trade routes.

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    I love the textures of patterned doors and bricks.

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    The Klevar Gates, built in 1393, are all that remains of the medieval city.

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    Uniquely painted window shutters.

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    Near the Klevar Gates was this unique dragon decorated with brightly colored tiles.

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    APX Archaeological Park

    Just down the road is the APX Archaeological Park. Although I knew that Roman influence covered most of Europe, I had no idea that such a large park and museum existed in Germany.

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    Who needs to go to Rome to see ancient Roman Temples?

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    This is the Harbor Temple and was recreated to show just a portion of the grandness of the original one that stood here during the Roman era.

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    Many Roman artifacts contained within the museum were found among these rocks.

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    Although it was still early spring and many of the trees were not sprouting, it was still a beautiful day.

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    A map showing the extended influence and power of the Roman Empire which extended we’ll north into Great Britain.

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    The museum covers much of the Roman bathhouse areas and is very large with exhibits on multiple floors.

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    The exhibits are very interactive and meant to be enjoyed by everyone - especially the children.

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    Brightly colored Roman shields can be used by kids to get an idea of what it was like to be a Roman soldier.

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    A Roman sculpture from nearly 2000 years ago!

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    Ancient Roman pottery

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    Roman coins! I find the history of money to be quite interesting and enjoy visiting different countries and exploring the coins and bills.

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    The Capital Temple would have been the central building of the city.

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    There was also a nice display that showed the boat and barge building process used by the Romans.

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    There is a game room where people can learn about the board games Romans played.

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    The statue of the Emperor of Rome greets visitors to the Gladiator Coliseum.

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    A small museum, inside the Coliseum, describes the battles that took place here for entertainment. Often animals were used to fight the gladiators.

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    Overall, it was an interesting experience and a great way to spend a couple hours.

    Sögel Tank Cemetery

    We heard about this place from the website Atlas Obscura. The site mentioned that it’s a military operating area and access was limited...

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    “Stop! Firing range. Danger of death.” What could go wrong?!?

    We saw a truck and some teenagers in the ‘cemetery’ so we decided that if the military really wanted us out they would not leave to gate open - right?

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    Lucky us! We got to explore the 24 tanks just sitting in an open field.

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    Apparently this is still a military operation area used by helicopter pilots.

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    The website says these are Leopard I and M47 Patton tanks.

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    It would be interesting to know more about the history of these tanks but not much is published.

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    One of my favorites places and memories for sure!

    Tomorrow we’ll start riding the TET Netherlands from the north to the south. We’re really looking forward to getting some dirt under our tires once again!...
    #2
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  3. viajarMOTO

    viajarMOTO Been here awhile

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    31 March - Day 2 of 13 - Netherlands TET

    We rode about 170 km (110 miles) on a mix of roads: paved, cobblestone, hard packed dirt, and deep sand. Although the trail never strays too far from civilization, it often felt remote because of the lack of traffic. We saw more horses and cows than cars along the farm roads.

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    Here is the Trans Euro Trail that runs and wines (notice that I didn’t say climbs since there are almost no hills in the Netherlands) through the Netherlands and Belgium.

    Fort Bourtange


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    Our mules parked together while we enjoy a morning walk around Fort Bourtange.

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    Fort Bourtange is especially interesting from the air, where you can see the five-pointed star layout of the town and protective moats. *Photo from Wikipedia

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    Of course there was a windmill here! After all, it’s the Netherlands!

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    Some cannon emplacements used to protect the low level fort.

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    A boy, wearing traditional dutch clothing, carries water in a wooden bucket, back to camp.

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    A great way to start our morning with some delicious hot chocolate and a ginger graham-cracker.


    Time to move along. Fort Bourtange was worth visiting and was the highlight of the day. This is a wonderful place to walk around and experience for a couple hours.

    TET Netherlands


    The rest of the day was enjoyed following the purple GPSr track through the farmlands of the Netherlands.

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    A shetland pony (?) poked his head over the fence to get a better view of our motorized mules.

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    Many of the trails today were hard-packed dirt and lined with trees.

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    We saw more horse traffic than motorcycles on these roads. We would pull off the trail and shut down the motors while horses passed. I think a little bit of kindness helps ensure motorcycles can continue to use these routes in the future.


    I wondered if horses, seeing our motorized mules, would later wonder why their owners continue to ride on their backs the old fashioned way.

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    A bit chilly at 5°C (51°F) but sunny. Life is good!

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    There is something magical about riding a remote road on a motorcyle. Standing on the pegs and feeling the engine rumble beneath me continues to bring a smile to my face.

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    Chantil won the “first to drop your mule” award. She’ll buy the next meal. In her defense, riding in deep sand on a 440 lbs motorcyle with another 80 lbs of luggage is a challenge.

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    Highland cows. No need to go to Scotland!

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    My favorite riding partner!

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    Most of the day was spent winding around the Netherlands following a purple line on the GPSr. We found the roads to be a nice mix of paved and dirt and seemed to be well thought-out by the “linesman”.

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    Since it was still early in the season and all the camping in the area was closed, we “had” to stay at a hotel - Hampshire Hotel & Spa in Ommen. A short walk away from the hotel we found this restaurant and enjoyed a pizza and some Coke.

    Tomorrow we’ll continue along the route and see if we can make it to Belgium by the end of the day. We tend to travel pretty slow enjoying the attractions and views along the way.
    #3
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  4. viajarMOTO

    viajarMOTO Been here awhile

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    1 April - Day 3 of 13 - Netherlands TET

    Our journey along the Trans Euro Trail continued south(ish) through the Netherlands. Traveling through forested pathways and farm roads has been unique and enjoyable.

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    Where will the purple line lead us today?

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    Our hotel included a nice breakfast with the restaurant featuring some framed oil paintings of food.

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    A swampy area that seemed to capture the eye of my camera.

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    While traveling through a small town, I noticed this elephant’s back-side painted on a garage door? Not sure why but it’s funny.

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    A traditional Holland home with a thatched roof and beveled roof lines.

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    Many of the trails have benches for weary travelers to take a load off.

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    Just some of the oddities you see while riding in the backcountry. Gotta wonder if there is a lady on the property and what was her reaction to burying a VW Beetle in the yard?

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    Spring is here and many flowers were blooming.

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    After seeing all kinds of various farm animals, I was joking with Chantil that I still had not seen a lama. Well, we saw one (actually three) today!

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    Another windmill in Holland! However, I didn’t see anyone walking in wooden shoes.

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    Crossing under a highway section via a short and narrow tunnel.

    We finished the day across the border in Emmerich, Germany where we found a grocery store for dinner and a camp site for sleeping.

    I guess we didn’t finish the Netherland portion of the Trans Euro Trail today. Such is life... Perhaps tomorrow?
    #4
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  5. viajarMOTO

    viajarMOTO Been here awhile

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    2 April - Day 4 of 13 - Netherlands TET

    Our third day of riding through some “off-the-beaten-path” roads of the Netherlands. Our day started near the Rhine River just over the border in Germany.

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    Good morning. We were both grateful for a good nights sleep.

    Emmerich, Germany

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    After packing, we took a short detour from the Trans Euro Trail to walk along the Rhine River boardwalk.

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    A statue of linesman looks over the river and numerous canal barges. Water commerce has always been important to this region.

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    We enjoyed walking along the boardwalk and the warmth of the morning sun.

    TET Netherlands

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    Moving along. We crossed the Rhine back into Netherlands and enjoyed dirt roads through farm lands...

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    ...A nice surprise. This is a reconstruction of a Waco CG4 glider and it commemorates the Airborne landings of September 1944 and the liberation of the Netherlands.

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    There are many WW2 memorial all over western Europe.

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    This memorial is unique because it’s interactive and fun to climb in. There is also a nearby touch-screen display that describes the role the Gliders played in the Airborne landings of 1944. The language is in Dutch but there are subtitles in German or English.

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    We enjoyed a morning brunch of peanut butter and coconut spread sandwiches.

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    Just down the road is another reminder of the battle that occurred here between allied airborne forces and the Germans.

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    Imagine the view of thousands of paratroopers being dropped from the skies!

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    A US Army Captain checks the documentation of a captured German soldier.

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    It’s nice to see these fields producing food for tens-of-thousands instead of being the killing fields for thousands.

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    Many of the roads we rode on were recently forested and had the accompanying smell of fresh cut pine.

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    Bleijenbeek Castle originally built in 1300. It was lain in ruins after the bombardment by the British RAF on 21 and 22 February 1945. There has been an effort to restore it for visitors but it is currently closed.

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    This is farm country and many tractors were being used to prepare the soil for spring planting.

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    One section of trail had these WW2 bunkers spaced evenly along the canal.

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    Ayrshire dairy cows relaxing in the early afternoon sun.

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    We stopped for a late lunch in Loonse en Drunense Duinen where I was temped to ride my mule along this wooden walkway built to cross the swampy marsh. The cost vs reward was too high, and besides, I don’t think it was designed for 700 lbs of motorcycle, gear, and rider.

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    I was actually surprised how many roads were open to motorcycles though; especially within the park areas.

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    A fluffy horse trots over to see what we’re all about. Reminder: Bring carrots next time!

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    Dutch for “we just cross”. I didn’t see any pigs but did see two deer.

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    The rain started as forecasted at 1PM. Fortunately, it wasn’t bad enough to turn the trails into mud.

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    We made it to Belgium just before dark!! It ended up taking us three days to cross the Netherlands via the Trans Euro Trail. Slow going but full of memories!

    Since we only lived about 1.2 hours away and I needed to have my kick-stand welded, we opted to head home and take a day off from riding.

    We’ll head back to Belgium later this week to ride the Belgium TET to France. Stay tuned...
    #5
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  6. Bananapete

    Bananapete Been here awhile

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    Thank you for the great report.
    Interesting to see the Netherland part of the TET, haven't found too much pics of this part of the TET before.
    I'm looking forward to seeing the Belgium part of the TET.
    Are you just riding to the boarder of France or are you riding the TET part of France as well?
    #6
  7. viajarMOTO

    viajarMOTO Been here awhile

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    Bananapete, You’re welcome. We rode most of the Belgium TET but because travel was slowed (due to the rain and mud) we had to pound pavement in order to have enough time to ride the 1,150km of the Liberty Road in France. No TET in France.
    #7
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  8. Jim K.

    Jim K. Long timer

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    Nice report! Helps me remember that we don't always need big elevation to have a wonderful ride.
    One worry though...it looked to me that several of those tanks were torn up by artillery / anti- tank fire. Even if there was no live fire when you were there, there may well have been some old unexploded ordinance laying around. Maybe not the safest place to examine cold war relics? :-)
    #8
  9. viajarMOTO

    viajarMOTO Been here awhile

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    Jim, Thank you for the comments and your concern is valid. We witnessed some teenagers climbing on the tanks and a local guy said it was fine to go out in the field as long as the gate was open. Not the best idea, perhaps, to follow teenagers and the advice of a stranger. Still, the picture with me standing on the tank during sunset is one of my favorite pictures from the trip. :-) Cheers!
    #9
  10. Lajning

    Lajning Adventurer

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    Nice photos and great storytelling! I did a ww2 esque tour in France/Belgium a couple of years ago, sadly by car. There is a great tank museum/war museum in the Bastogne barracks. If you didn't go this time, you should go back if that subject strikes your fancy.
    #10
  11. viajarMOTO

    viajarMOTO Been here awhile

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    Thank you Lajning! The Bastogne Barracks War Museum is great advice for someone looking to do this trip. Unfortunately, we ran out of time once we reached Bastogne and had to return home. I’m glad I was able to visit the Mardasson Memorial and Museum during a previous visit.
    #11
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  12. Lajning

    Lajning Adventurer

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    No problem! Like you said, western Europe is riddled with museums, memorial sites and graveyards from both world wars. After the 25th one in 3 consecutive days, one starts to grow a bit tired of them, even though they often are very interesting. You can't really do them all.

    On the same subject:
    Deutsches panzermuseum Munster. Go there!
    #12
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  13. NSFW

    NSFW basecamp4adv Super Supporter

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    awesome report and makes me follow your tracks. i have a bmw 650 that is in EU that i ride while on vacation, except it is stored in Greece. i think 2021 is a possibility.

    thanks for taking us along.
    #13
  14. viajarMOTO

    viajarMOTO Been here awhile

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    5 April - Day 5 of 13 - Belgium TET

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    The Trans Euro Trail continues heading southwest, starting at the Netherland border and winding through the beautiful countryside and rich history of the country of Belgium.

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    Belgium Kit Kat! I enjoy trying different foods in a country - especially candy! I was surprised that this Olé bar was the exact same thing as a US Kit Kat bar.

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    We started our morning with a unique experience called the Klankenbos (Dutch for Sound Forest). It’s a park where you use your senses to explore the different exhibits - expecially the sense of hearing.

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    The visitors center has a map and a short explanation of what Klankenbos is all about. Check out the unique architecture of the building with a center section of transparent glass making the top section seem to magically float.

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    One exhibit features a walk-in bird cage with the recorder and natural sounds of canaries.

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    My favorite exhibit was these 24 birch trees spaced perfectly apart. They center podium provides instructions on how to make the trees come alive. Basically you call a number from the phone and then select via the keypad what kinds of motion pattern you want the tree to display. Each of the 24 trees has a motor that spins and shakes the tree to your selected pattern. It was a lot of fun to see, hear, and feel the different pattens.

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    A large “OK” symbol has multiple meanings. I grew up playing the “circle game” as a kid so if your looking at this and the screen is below your waste I get to punch you!

    This symbol has also, sadly, been associated with white supremecy. This symbol gained US media attention in Dec 2019 when some Midshipman and Cadets jokingly used this symbol during the yearly Army-Navy football game. An investigation showed they were just goofing around and playing the age old circle game.

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    A nearby petting petting zoo had some chickens...

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    ... and this funny guy who looks like he got rammed in the head by his buddies a bit too much!?!

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    The Klankenbos was a nice morning surprise and definitely a worthwhile stop - especially for kids.

    We continued on our way exploring the backcountry of Belgium via the Trans Euro Trail (TET).

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    The lion is everywhere here; after all, it is the national symbol of Belgium.

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    Within an hour we ran across this mess! I know enough about mud that it’s best to avoid it!! There was just one little path on the right but there were two trees that make it difficult to get the handlebars and side-bags around. Together we got both mules though!!

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    I love how obvious the picture on this sign is!

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    We stopped in the town of Geel to grab a bite to eat and noticed a large inflatable yellow submarine had surfaced in the middle of the town center! Apparently, it’s a roving bar.

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    When in Belgium eat Belgium waffles!

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    St.-Amandskerk church stands above the town center. A large central church is common in most western European towns and cities.

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    And just like that (snapping of fingers) we are in French speaking (red part) Belgium - Bonjour!!

    We ended up riding just before dark and still hadn’t found a campsite so we just pulled over in a quite forested spot and camped for the night. Until tomorrow...
    #14
  15. viajarMOTO

    viajarMOTO Been here awhile

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    You’re welcome! Having a motorcycle, especially a 650, in another country sounds like a great idea!
    #15
  16. viajarMOTO

    viajarMOTO Been here awhile

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    6 April - Day 6 of 13 - Belgium TET

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    Ready for another day of riding the TET!

    Vlooybergtoren (Vlooyberg Tower)

    We started our morning with a short climb up the “stairway to heaven”! No we didn’t die?! It’s a roadside oddity in Belgium ...

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    Stairway to Heaven! This roadside oddity was designed by the Belgian engineering firm Close to Bone.

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    It has been called both the “stairway to nowhere” and the “stairway to heaven.” The stairway weighs 13 tons and the top platform is 33 feet (10 meters) off the ground.

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    Looking down at our mules from the top! The top of the stairs sway a little bit since there in no supports at the top.

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    A quote at the top reads in Dutch “I am not the way I was.” Perhaps a reference to the wooden lookout tower that was there before 2015.

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    A nice diversion to our morning ride!

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    This is farm country so we came across lots of horses and cows, but the Shetland ponies always got our attention.

    Nieuwenhoven Castle

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    Nieuwenhoven Castle was originally built in the 13th century, to fortify a local farm that was run by monks.

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    The walking trails around here were relaxing with paths into the forest.

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    Chantil made a friend with this fuzzy donkey by pulling tall green grass from the other side of the fence and feeding him.

    TET Belgium

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    Back in the TET. Much of the roads were easy going but there were a few tricky muddy sections.

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    My kind of road. I think if people are respectful of each other than roads like this work well. We always slow down around others and even stop the engine for approaching horses.

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    Mud always seems to find us on these trails!

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    A nice day for riding through the backroads of Belgium.

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    What do you do when you have a bunch of wooden spools around your property? Make art out of them - off course!

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    While traveling through a small Belgium village we came across this mural.

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    But look at the other side! A lot going on over there!!

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    Fun and whimsical.

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    Our signs have switched to French “Slow Down - Nocturnal Migration of Amphibians”

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    A bunker reminds of a past where a united Europe did not exist.

    Battle of Waterloo Memorial

    These fields are remembered for a battle that took place on Sunday, 18 Jun 1815.

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    The most impressive part of the museum is this panorama contained within this historic building.

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    Walking through and sunken memorial gives you access to the panorama.

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    The horrors of warfare. Thousands of horses and men died on the battlefield that day.

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    The spiral staircase going to the panorama.

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    The sounds of 19th century warfare fill the air as you witness this incredible piece of history and artwork.

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    Wounded soldiers and horses litter the battle field.

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    War is hell! 65,000 casualties! All within a single day - 18 Jun 1815! This bloody Sunday battle marked the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

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    “This morning I went to visit the field of battle, which is a little beyond the village of Waterloo, on the plateau of Mont-Saint-Jean; but on arrival there the sight was too horrible to behold. I felt sick in the stomach and was obliged to return. The multitude of carcasses, the heaps of wounded men with mangled limbs unable to move, and perishing from not having their wounds dressed or from hunger, as the Anglo-allies were, of course, obliged to take their surgeons and waggons with them, formed a spectacle I shall never forget. The wounded, both of the Anglo-allies and the French, remain in an equally deplorable state.” -Major W. E. Frye

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    The climb up the 225 steps to the Butte du Lion "Lion's Hillock/Knoll"

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    We enjoyed fresh strawberries and the surrounding beautiful views.

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    A map shows where the troops started and the battle took place. It comforting to know that these fields now give life with abundances of food.

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    The Panorama building looking down from the steps.

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    The lion looking up from the very bottom. We decided to wait until after the park closed to get a better view of the lion...

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    ...with the drone. Jean-Louis Van Geel (1787–1852) sculpted the model lion that weighs 28 tonnes (31 tons), has a height of 4.45 m (14.6 ft) and a length of 4.5 m (14.8 ft). Its right front paw is upon a sphere, signifying global victory.

    After learning a bit about the Battle of Waterloo we found a campsite nearby and got some sleep. Tomorrow we may deviate from the TET in order to visit some WWI sites and other places of interest...
    #16
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  17. viajarMOTO

    viajarMOTO Been here awhile

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    7 April - Day 7 of 13 - Belgium TET

    Hergé Museum


    We started our morning by visiting a museum dedicated to Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (1907–83), who wrote under the pen name Hergé. He created the Adventures of Tintin series of comics.

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    I’ve enjoyed reading The Adventures of Tintin ever since I heard about this comic book series as a young adult. The Hergé Museum celebrates the life of the artist who created this series – Georges Remi.

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    The building is very modern and creates a nice flow from room to room as you learn about the life of Georges Remi.

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    Walkways connects each of the individual galleries.

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    Georges Remi as a young man who though about being a painter but felt illustrations and cartoons could influence more people.

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    His Illustrations, like this one titled ‘Bambi’, are works of art in their own right.

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    I especially liked the section with Hergé’s sketches and storyboards.

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    He spent an extensive amount of his time storyboarding ideas and the flow of the storyline.

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    Remi was also an accomplished illustrator and poster designer.

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    One of his favorite characters he created was Tintin’s sidekick dog…

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    …a white Wire Fox Terrier named Snowy!

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    Snowy had a personality that was just as though-out as any of the other Hergé characters.

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    Thomson (left) and Thompson (right), the two bumbling detectives. There is a difference between these twins – can you spot it?

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    Hergé’s drawings have a unique style and artistic quality.

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    Hergé created over 200 different characters in his books…

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    …Here are the names of just some of them!

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    I enjoyed reading Tintin because of the far away lands and people he would meet along the way. Perhaps this is part of the wanderlust I have to see and experience far away lands.

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    Hergé often used models to help him draw the comics. Here is the Shark Submarine used in the book Red Rackham’s Treasure.

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    More of the architecture connecting the galleries.

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    Hergé also purchased art to inspire future ideas.

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    This doll was an inspiration for some of his Native American characters.

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    I thoroughly enjoyed the couple hours we spent getting to know Georges Remi and the inspirational comics he created over his lifetime.

    Later we’ll walk around the Belgium town of Louvain-la-Neuve and enjoy some of the street art before continuing on the TET as it heads southwest through Belgium...
    #17
  18. almosthere

    almosthere Adventurer

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2013
    Oddometer:
    25
    What no pictures of Belgian beer! great report by the way I'd love to do the netherlands TET
    #18
  19. viajarMOTO

    viajarMOTO Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Oddometer:
    388
    Location:
    Germany
    :beer Thanks for the comment. The BE and NL TETs were quite different from each other. I felt the NL TET was a bit easier since there was not as much slick mud. The BE TET was a bit more enjoyable because of the history that is just a short diversion away. Both were a surprising escape for the pavement.

    More of BE to come...
    #19
    Joris van O likes this.
  20. MapMaster

    MapMaster Human Compass

    Joined:
    Sep 28, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,978
    Location:
    Pittsburgh, PA
    A visual feast!
    Thank you. I look forward to the continuing journey.
    #20
    viajarMOTO likes this.