A few snapshots below will summarize my experiences both in and out of Venlo. I consider it my good fortune that I got to spend a good measure of time in places that are not Amsterdam. To be fair, most people think of the Netherlands and they go – red light districts, canals and joints. I hope that with all the text and images, I have been able to not only share my experiences but also shine some light on some other aspects of (what my fellow blogger friends fondly refer to as) Hollandshire.
Venlo is a city in the south of the Netherlands, very near to the German border. It is in Limburg, the only province in relatively flat Netherlands that has a fair bit of hilly landscape. Venlo is situated on the Maas (River Meuse). Historically, this river was used as a rough indicator of the close proximity to the German border. There are road connections and a railway bridge over the river. During WWII, there was heavy presence of the occupying forces and the historical city center was severely damaged by bombing. The City Hall survived the war though.
There are road connections to Germany (Duisburg, Mönchengladbach and Essen) to the east, and to Eindhoven and Nijmegen in the north and Roermond, Sittard and Maastricht, further down south. The Venlo train station is well served by intercity trains operated by NS and commuter trains operated by Veolia. Right outside the train station is a bus terminus, which connects Venlo to nearby villages.
I was invited by my project colleagues to a ‘borrel’ to Café de Klep, on Keizerstraat, right next to the Dominican Church. The location of this place is somewhat tucked away from unfamiliar eyes. The easier option to find it is when one knows a local to point out this place. For me, it was the venue of a few light hearted beers with colleagues after a major project related milestone and was I impressed! Everywhere you lay your eyes, there was something to do with beer and monks. Several fascinating and competently produced statues lined the shelves and lintels. There were some excellent beers and ales. The ambience is ideal for all generations and the staff members were very jovial and prompt. I have been there a couple of times and see myself going there in the future too (if/when I am back in Venlo). The pub is located in the city centre. Outside the entrance is a great view on the old convent. Generally speaking, I am not a big fan of beer, but I was pleasantly surprised (and impressed) on this occasion!
Belfeld and Tegelen are considered parts of Venlo. Belfeld is a village in the Dutch province of Limburg. It lies approximately 8 km southwest of Venlo, on the same side as the Maas River. Arcen and Velden are also two towns very near to Venlo.
Arcen is popular with Dutch tourists for its historic castle and its beautiful gardens. This area is also home to the Maasduinen, the Maasduinen National Park. Arcen sits locked between the Maas and the German border. The town is small and the castle is only a five minute walk from the town centre. Getting around on foot or by bike is fairly easy. Kasteeltuinen Arcen (Arcen castle gardens) is a 17th century Baroque castle that has been restored in recent times. It is often rented out for weddings and other events. The gardens, with some fine sculptures on display are the real attraction. They are divided into a variety of styles, including a classic rose garden, Japanese and Indonesian gardens (very Zen!) and many ponds. There is also a restaurant and a flower shop. Entry tickets are priced at €15 and I would recommend at least three hours to do justice to this charming spot.