- Jules Deelder
Ever walked or cycled through the Ardennes without climbing? It’s possible! The cycle route through the valley of the Meuse offers a near shallow crossing of the Ardennes along the Meuse.
We cycled through Belgium in two days (about 160 km). The first day we would like to forget as quick as possible. It was in fact the ting we ended last time: a rainy day and a route that’s dominated by existing and foregone industry. The industrial steelworks have disappeared from the valley of the Meuse, but the nuclear plant near Tihange and the cement industry have stayed. The route was not interesting or motivating at all. The rainy weather made it all the more depressing. The only highlight of the day (very high indeed) was the Escaliers de Bueren in Liege where Remy decided he had to take a picture from the top of the 374 steps (see pictures).
Day two in Belgium was exactly the opposite: what a wonderful route! We cycled along the Meuse through the Ardennes where the river flows between rock facades hills and cities or towns with citadels and bouroughs. In fact the best part yet. We passed Namur which is the capital of Walloon and Dinant, the birthplace of Adolph Sax, the inventor of the Saxophone.
Even though there was no clear indication of a border between Belgium and France, the language stayed the same, but Remy almost tripped over a jeux-de-boules-ball and I almost chocked on a peace of a bagette. So, it’s clear: we’re in France!
De Meuse (in Walloon called Moûse or Moûze, depending on the Walloon dialect we were taught), is called ‘la Meuse’ and to our big surprise there was an wonderful asphalt cycleway (piste de cyclable) along the riverbank. This is not how we know the French!
But to be honest, we were in for a change of scenery after nine days long the river. Even though the scenery changes continually, you always see the river Meuse on the left or right side. But we got what we asked for and then some!
In Lorraine the cycleway stopped and the route went further through the hills and quiet roads. Sound idyllic, but this area is full of bones. This wide and empty area with it’s gray villages was the battle field of Europe for centuries. It’s often referred to as ‘La Lorraine au coeur de l’Europe’. To the German and the French it was the preferred site to wage wars. Here in this area you’ll find remains of hundreds of thousands of soldiers becoming one with the soil and the history it contains. And to this day if a farmer pulls a plow through the soil around Verdun, some peaces of remains come up. Without knowing the history, the area is not very interesting and inspiring. The villages feel abandoned. A lot of bad maintenance and empty houses. For the first time in this cycle route we need to climb some hills. Not that high or steep. But thats a compensation for the trip through Scotland last may!
About 25 km before Verdun there is a brand new cycle path between the Meuse River and the Meuse canal which it goes along. After two day we were glad to be able to cycle along the Meuse again. By this time it doesn’t look like much, and the canal is for shipping the appointed route.
We had a break in Verdun for a day. The city is known for the battle of Verdun (1916). This was one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the first world war and stands for the meaningless slaughtering of humans lives. Today we have around 250 km to the source, which is probably 3 days!
Remy & Gea