Bikes – check
Map – check
Puncture repair kits – check
Passports??? – Errr… maybe… just throw them into the bike bags just in case
In many of our previous adventures, we have crossed an by planes, by buses, by ferries and rickety boats, and on foot. So the thought of crossing an international border on bikes sounds like a cool idea. So, we planned our latest bike trip to the Saint-Benedict Abbey or locally known as Achelse Kluis or La Trappe. This is a Trappist monetary that literally straddle across the Dutch and Belgian border. It is also famous for its beer just like many other Trappist monasteries in Europe as water back in the days carried many diseases thus drinking beer seemed to be a better option.
The Hol(e)y Bike Ride
In all seriousness, the ride was really beautiful especially the forests and the moorlands that we cycled in. I have to agree with people who say the forest south of Eindhoven in the way of Belgium are beautiful. It almost felt like we were on a pilgrimage to the Abbey on two wheels!
We thought we would have a quiet Saturday morning out. It turned out otherwise. I had a puncture at the bike’s inner tube about an hour into our trip. Given I had various issues with the wheels and the inner tube just a few days beforehand, I become paranoid about it. Initially, we thought it would be a problem that would need to take the bike to the shop for repair under the warranty. After I took the inner tube out, it turned out to be a small puncture at the seam near the valve, but we couldn’t find any stones or pieces of glass penetrated into the inner tube. So I patched it up and thinking that was sorted for the entire trip.
I thought this patch would have solved the leakage. It turned out 30 minutes later I had a second puncture again at the seam near the valve, but it wasn’t at the area where I put the previous patch. Again, we couldn’t find the culprit. But this time, we decided to replace the entire inner tube with a new one would solve the problem as it seemed to be a manufacturing problem with the inner tube. After I have sorted mine out, Hayley decided to check her bike before we headed off again. She told me she had a puncture and I thought she was taking the piss as usual. It turned out she too had a puncture and we got the puncture repair kit out again to fix her bike.
We became a bit paranoid every time and checked the bike every so often. We even bought ourselves some new inner tubes at a shop we happened to cycle pass just in case we needed them again. Eventually, we made it!!! Yey. No more punctures and we crossed the border on our bikes.
The Achelse Kluis & WW1 History
At the driveway, which led to the Abbey, has a white line in the middle of the road indicating an international border. Not far from the Belgian side of the border, there was a reconstruction of electrified wires with a white sign saying “ACHTUNG”, meaning warning in German. There was also a reconstructed World War 1 German guard house just outside the Abbey, just behind the warning sign.
It turned out that the Abbey was commemorating the lives lost during WW1. How lucky we came across these sites, especially in the centenary year of the end of the Great War.
There was a sign saying “De Doodendraad”, which is loosely translated to the Death Council from Dutch. Of course, our Dutch were rather limited and we weren’t able to read everything. But upon Googling after the trip, it turned out the Netherlands was a neutral country during WW1 and the German erected these border fences at the Dutch border. Apparently, German soldiers were allowed to shoot anyone (including refugees, spies, and deserters) who crossed these border illegally. Hence, this is where the name of the Death Council came from. In the forest around the Abbey, there were also reconstructions of various barricades and war memorials, where people can learn a bit of the history of World War 1. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, we didn’t have enough time to see these sites. But we will have read up on the history and go back to visit these sites.
The Achelse Brewery
On the side entry of the abbey, there was a cafe where there was a glass wall inside separating the actual cafe with the brewery. You can see the vet of beer being brewed. Of course, the technology these days has improved a lot so they are brewing the beer in a giant industrial sized metal vet, rather than wooden casks.
Apart from the brewery, there was a beer shop around the corner where they sell various type of booze including their own beer. The shop itself was massive and many people would drive there and load up their cars with tons of beer at the back. It almost reminded me that the Brits going on booze cruises to Northern France many years ago when the exchange rate between pounds and euros were at a decent rate!
Homeward Bound and More Punctures
After having a lot of fun at the abbey, it was time to head home. We were crossing our fingers that there would be any punctures, but it turned out we did have another three punctures. Every punctures we had were at the seam near the valve (same place as those previously) and nothing could be seen penetrating the inner tube. We really thought this was some crap manufacturing of the inner tubes that Dacathlon sold.
Damn you Decathlon for selling us these crap inner tubes. That said, we had a lot of fun exploring and our skills for fixing leaky inner tubes have improved significantly.
- The Abbey
- The main part of the abbey is not opened to the public, we gathered this is where the monks live and worship. Only the quad yard, where a WW1 museum, cafe, souvenir shop and a booze shop are, is opened to the public.
- You can visit the Abbey website for more information: http://www.achelsekluis.org (in Dutch)
- Getting there by bike
- The bike ride from Eindhoven to Saint-Benedict Abbey (one-way) is approximately 15-30 km depending on where you start.
- Eindhoven is accessible by train. Direct train from Amsterdam takes about 1.5 hours. You can take a bike onto the train by paying an additional supplement of €6.10 per day and you can use this as many time as you wish on the day of purchase. Alternatively, it is possible to rent an OV-fiets (bike) on the south side of Eindhoven train station.
- In the Netherlands and Flander (Dutch/Flemish speaking part of Belgium), junctions along bike routes are signposted with a designated number known as the Knooppunt. There are also signposts to the next knooppunt. You can plan your route on www.route.nl and follow those signs on the bike.
- The Netherlands and Belgium are part of the Schengen zone that means you can travel freely within this area. However, the police may request you to show them ID when deemed appropiate. So it’s better to carry a passport or an European ID card just in case.
Have you ever been on a bike ride that turned out as “bad” as got? What did you do? Comment below and we would love to hear from you.
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