The Low Countries of Belgium, the Netherlands and north west Germany are not usually associated with Petrolhead destinations. Our familiarity with driving to the Alps, the Italian Lakes, etc. contrasted with our lack of knowledge of the Low Countries. So we decided to explore the region and see what it has to offer.
We started with a ‘chunnel’ crossing then a motorway blast up to Oosterbeek in the Netherlands. We were there to be judges at the AMOC Benelux Concours. A glorious day of glorious cars, including this Invictus and a few locals in classic Jeeps.
It was only a short drive from there to the famous Bridge ‘Too Far’ at Arnhem. There is plenty of parking along the river and another museum (to complement the one in Oosterbeek) about ‘Operation Market Garden’ of September 1944. Both well worth a visit.
Our next stop was Liedschendam near The Hague. A pretty town that also boasts the building of Europe’s biggest shopping mall… not that we went for that, but it might interest some of our readers!
Perhaps, more importantly, it’s very near the famous Louwman Car Museum. This is a real must for Petrolheads and is alone worth the drive from the UK!
Our next stop was Assen in the north. This famous old racing circuit hosts many events throughout the year and is an annual pilgrimage for many thousands of MotoGP™ fans. That’s also the reason we were there (thanks to Pole Position Travel).
Regardless of the racing, Assen is a beautiful town, albeit bonkers lively for the Motorcycle Festival weekend in late June.
To get there we drove up the north west coast to drive across the hugely impressive Afsluitdijk Dam Causeway. It’s 32kms long with a stopping point half way along to take photos, see the monument, etc.
Our next stop was Chemnitz in Germany (for another motorcycle race meeting, this time at the Sachsenring). Driving east meant that we encountered some higher ground and so availed ourselves of the occasional excursion off the main road to find some roads that offered a little more steering, braking and gear changing fun.
Chemnitz is an attractive city in the old East Germany. It also houses a charming local motor museum that specialises in vehicles originating from Saxony. The stories of DKW, Audi and others are all presented (but only in German so take your phrase book or find the curator, Dirk, who speaks perfect English). The Trabant pictured was Dirk’s grandfather’s car. He bought it new for the equivalent of 3.5 years salary after being on the government car purchase waiting list for 13 years!
The journey home included stops at Weilburg, a very pretty town dominated by the Schloss (castle) and its stunning gardens. It was extremely quiet on the Monday we arrived so perhaps that’s not the day to visit (or maybe it was).
From there to Belgium and a couple of nights at Kemmel near Ypres. Our hotel overlooked the fields of Flanders from one of the few proper vantage points in the region. It’s clear to see why such positions were fought over in World War I and why trench warfare would stagnate there with such disastrous results. Another must for anyone interested in the history of the 20th Century.
The short drive to Ypres (where there is plenty of parking) and a tour of the ‘Fields of Flanders Museum’ was our final destination on this trip. The museum also offers a walk up 232 steps (mainly a spiral staircase) to the bell tower. If your legs and your vertigo are up to it, it’s well worth the effort. The views are stunning… not just of the town centre car park below! You might find some interesting vehicles there, such as the lovely Citroen DS we spied.
If you have the time, go to the Menin Gate at 20:00 (every day) to hear the Last Post and reflect on the fact that we can enjoy using our cars thanks to all those who went before, 55,000 of whom are listed on this immense monument.