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Regional route Euregio Meuse-Rhine | Germany

The three-nation region around Liège, Maastricht and Aachen, known as the Euregio Maas-Rhine, has often been described as „Europe on a small scale“. It comprises three countries, three languages and five regions – (the Belgians contribute one Walloon and one Flemish province, as a well as a ... more

The Euregio Meuse-Rhine Regional Route

The three-nation region around Liège, Maastricht and Aachen, known as the Euregio Maas-Rhine, has often been described as „Europe on a small scale“. It comprises three countries, three languages and five regions – (the Belgians contribute one Walloon and one Flemish province, as a well as a German-speaking community) – and its rich multiplicity, huge potential and small problems mirror all the distinctive features of Europe as a whole. Nowadays 3,700,000 people live here, around half of whom live in Belgium, a third in Germany and a fifth in the Netherlands. The Euregio offers visitors the opportunity of getting to know a dense and highly variegated network of industrial heritage within a very small area – and, not least, to get in touch with different European cultures and life-styles!

Nowadays you would scarcely guess that this region is one of the oldest and most important centres of pre-industrial trading activity and early industrialisation in Europe. Coal mining, ore mining, iron and brass goods manufacturing, cloth-making, pottery – all these trades had taken on almost global dimensions here long before the triumphal march of industrialisation. Liège was widely acknowledged to be the „forge of Europe“. As early as the 18th century a Monschau cloth manufacturer by the name of Scheibler was importing wool from Spain and exporting exquisitely made cloth as far as the harems in the Levant. Pottery products from Langerwehe and Raeren have been found in excavations throughout the whole of Europe.

The Belgians, in particular, were always hard on the heels of the British, when it came to technological developments. The first steam engine for pumping water from coal pits was built here as early as 1720. Wallonia can lay claim to a series of further technical „firsts“: some of these were due to a man named William Cockerill who had emigrated here from England and who set up mechanical workshops in Verviers and later in Liège. Other „firsts“ include the first wool-spinning machine, the first fully-integrated iron and steel works, and the first steam engine on the continent! And all the new technology which was to revolutionise the world began its triumphal march in Liège; first of all into the neighbouring regions and later all over the continent.

The newfangled mechanical spinning engines and dressing machines replaced mass manual labour. It is therefore no accident that one of the most famous acts of machine-breaking took place here in the region in a cloth-making town by the name of Eupen. When shearing machines were delivered to the town at the start of the 19th century, the cloth shearers – self-confident and well-paid craftsmen – destroyed and sank the new machines in the Gospert stream. That said, they were unable to hold back the march of time. Verviers, Eupen, Aachen, Düren and Euskirchen soon became important centres of the cloth-making industry.

There were 61 steam engines in operation in Aachen as early as 1830, a quarter of the total in the whole of Prussia! In 1825, when the Ruhrgebiet was still an idyllic rural area, John Cockerill had a workforce of 2,000 people in one of the largest and most modern iron and steel works of the age. The gigantic Cockerill-Sambre factory complex in Seraing grew out of this complex. The Aachen region soon followed suit by importing knowledge, technicians, machines and capital. Metal manufacturing around Aachen and in the Nordeifel region, however, quickly declined into insignificance once again around the mid 19th century, because several industrialists – including Hoesch and Thyssen – moved to the Ruhrgebiet, partly with Belgian capital and technicians, where even more favourable conditions existed.

At the start of the 19th century, coal-mining also flourished around Liège, in the Wurm area north of Aachen and in Limburg in the Netherlands. Thanks to the introduction of steam engines it was finally possible to pump the water from the pits and conduct mining on a large scale. A comprehensive area of calamine mining sprung up around the huge deposits of calamine existing around the town of Kelmis. A particularly curious historical fact was that the area was officially recognised as being independent of any particular nation state. Here – and also in Liège and Stolberg – the ore was further processed into zinc products. At the end of the 19th century near Mechernich around 3,000 miners were employed in one of the largest lead mines in Europe!

Open-cast brown coal mining, which received a fresh boost following technical improvements at the end of the 19th century, has a much younger history. Only then did brown coal mining and the further processing of coal briquettes become economically viable. Even today, north of the A4 motorway between Aachen and Cologne, large areas of land and villages have been sacrificed to open-cast brown coal mining with gigantic excavators, although briquette production has disappeared entirely. The local residents who have been deprived of their homes and communities are still being moved out and this has naturally led to hefty protests and massive political conflicts.

Coal mining, iron and steel – not forgetting the cloth industry – at first remained the most important pillars of the Euregio Maas-Rhine economy in the 20th century. That said, all three major branches suffered a heavy period of crisis after the Second World War and today they no longer play a central role in economic life. What remains are a huge number of museums and monuments which help to keep alive the memory of the region's extraordinary industrial history. It is precisely the boundaries between the different countries which have led to the huge amount of splendid museums which can be found here, for every region wanted to preserve and present its own particular history.

It is precisely the small-scale legacies of pre- and early industrial activity, often situated along the banks of streams and rivers which make this region so particularly attractive: an unusual mixture of trading and industrial topography surrounded by green spaces and water! But the „Three-Nation“ area also offers its guests visitor mines, coal-tip topographies, impressive trading and industrial architecture, and museums with fascinating exhibits and demonstrations of machines in working order.

Over 30 industrial museums from five regions have been working together closely in a cross-border association since 1998. The association is also responsible for conceiving this particular ERIH regional route. Because national boundaries increasingly became perception boundaries during the last century and were – and still are – responsible for defining „mental maps“ there is still too little cross-border general knowledge about the fascinating density and the high quality of leisure experiences offered by the industrial heritage topography in the Euregio Maas-Rhine area.


ERIH Anchor Points

Beringen | Belgium
What a sight! The long line of carefully built individual showers in the miners’ washroom appears to be never-ending. Here every man had his own cabin. The progressive features on the site are mainly due to the fact that the colliery was built relatively late – shortly after 1900. For this reason it ...

Beringen Mine Museum
Mijnmuseum Beringen
Koolmijnlaan 201
3582 Beringen, Belgium

Les Gueules Noires - the black faces: That’s the way the Walloons called their coal buddies. Italians, Czechs, Hungarians, Poles, Russians, Turks and of course Belgians labored in teams to feed the insatiable blast furnaces around Liege with coal. At the closing in 1980 Blegny mine was the oldest ...

Blegny Mine World Heritage Site
Domaine Touristique de Blegny-Mine
Rue Lambert Marlet, 23
4670 Blegny, Belgium

Dust hangs in the air. It smells of oil and wool. Coffee mugs stand forgotten amongst the machines. Pieces of scribbled note paper are lying untidily around. In the factory owner’s office stands a safe riddled with bullet holes from the Second World War and files of yellowed paper. Suddenly the ...

Mueller Cloth Mill LVR Industrial Museum
Carl-Koenen-Str. 25b
53881 Euskirchen, Germany


The contrast could scarcely be greater: the little town of Amay, with its old town centre, narrow alleyways, mansions and cloisters situated idyllically in the Mass valley, in the shadows of the massive cooling towers of the Huy atomic power station. Baroque middle-class splendour right next to the ...

Les Maitres du Feu - Route du Feu
Maîtres du feu à Amay – Route du feu
Rue de Bende 5
B-4540 Amay, Belgium

Bocholt | Belgium
The brewery at Bocholt, 38 km north-east of Hasselt, was opened in 1758, and the museum, established in 1979 by Jean Martens (1919-2008), a member of the family who owned it, in a mansion opposite the brewery, is claimed to be one of the largest museums of brewing in Europe. Displays illustrated all ...

Bocholt Brewery Museum
Bocholter Brouwerijmuseum
Dorpsstraat 53
3550 Bocholt, Belgium

Comblain-au-Pont | Belgium
Grey rocky cliffs rise up out of the valley, endowing the gentle countryside of the Ardennes with its fields, meadows and woods with a wild impression. Down in the valley itself the winding River Ourthe joins up with River Amblève just below Comblain-au-Pont. You would scarcely believe that the ...

Carrière souterraine du Petit Banc
Carrières de Gèromont
Gèromont 105
4170 Comblain-au-Pont, Belgium

Eupen | Belgium
Who can resist the sweet temptation of soft, aromatic melt-in-the-mouth runny chocolate or the hard crunchy bars which make children and adults alike so happy? Originally the art of making chocolate was cloaked in mystery, and chocolate was a mystical cult symbol for many years. It was also used as ...

Chocolaterie Jacques
BCB-Division Jacques
Rue de L´Industrie 16
B-4700 Eupen, Belgium

Hasselt | Belgium
Schnapps is not schnapps, corn liquor is not corn liquor, and Belgians refuse to hear a word against their „Jenever“. In this respect the best opportunity to test your own sense of smell and taste is take a visit the Jenevermuseum in Hasselt. True, there is plenty of competition from the attractive ...

Witte Nonnenstraat 19
3500 Hasselt, Belgium

La Calamine / Kelmis | Belgium
People enjoying the blossoming flowers and plants on a stroll through the hilly countryside around La Calamine (German: Kelmis) in the springtime, will come across tender blossoms of yellow violets in certain places. Experts will recognise them immediately as rare botanic species. The viola ...

Museum Vieille Montagne
Chaussèe de Liège / Lütticher Str. 278
4720 La Calamine/Kelmis, Belgium

The location and the building fit the museum perfectly: an old industrial quarter somewhat away from the centre of Liège, a disused sheet metal factory, which was set up by the Dothée brothers in 1848 – this is the site of the Maison de la Metallurgie. The house, which covers 2,5000 square metres, ...

The House of Metallurgy and Industry of Liège
Maison de la Metallurgie et de l´Industrie de Liège
Boulevard Raymond Poincaré 17
4020 Liège, Belgium

Fans of rolling wheels will be in their seventh heaven here! Where else in the region can you see so many historic vehicles so close to one another – over any area of 3,500 square metres – as in the "Musée des Transports" in Liège? Over the course of time a collection of around 40 vehicles has been ...

Wallonia Public Transport Museum
Musée des Transports en commun de Wallonie
Rue Richard Heintz 9
B-4020 Liège, Belgium

Outside the gates of Seraing, which is dominated by the huge industrial plant belonging the Cockerill-Sambre concern, lies a truly splendid building on the right bank of the River Maas: the former Cistercian monastery of Val Saint Lambert. Since it was founded it has been heavily damaged many times: ...

Cristal Discovery Val Saint-Lambert
Val Saint-Lambert
Esplanade du Val
B-4100 Seraing, Belgium

Sprimont | Belgium
The road from Theux is lined with industrial buildings. Shortly behind the sign telling you that you are entering Sprimont there is another smaller sign pointing the way to the Museum of Stone. The road leading to the museum opens out onto a large square covered in hewed stones, cranes and old ...

Museum of Stones
Centre d'Interprétation de la Pierre
Rue Joseph Potier 54
B-4140 Sprimont, Belgium

The buildings in Verviers are a dream for fans of industrial history. Even though they have been considerably renovated everywhere, the town on the River Weser still exudes the charm of its past industrial history. As early as the 17th century small family businesses were producing woollen cloth for ...

Aqualaine. The Wool and Fashion Tourist Centre
Aqualaine. Centre Touristique de la Laine et de la Mode
Rue de la Chapelle 30
4800 Verviers, Belgium

Alsdorf | Germany
Alsdorf is a mining community north of Aachen and close to the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands. It is built around an ancient castle and has a complex political history have belonged at different periods to the duchies of Limburg, Jülich and Burgundy. It became part of Prussia in 1815 and now ...

Konrad-Adenauer-Allee 7
52477 Alsdorf, Germany

Bad Münstereifel | Germany
To the east of the tourist town of Bad Münstereifel there are broad patches of forest on the hilltops of the Eifel. The area is only thinly populated and hikers are able to enjoy the countryside to the full. But near the hamlet of Effelsberg the forest suddenly opens out onto a gigantic white bowl ...

The Effelsberg Radio Observatory
Max-Planck-Institut für Radioastronomie Radioobservatorium Effelsberg
53902 Bad Münstereifel, Germany

The typical signs of Rhineland brown coal open-cast mining can be recognised for miles around on the flat plain east of Aachen. The huge accumulation of rubble on the "Sophienhöhe", waste material from one of the largest "holes" in Europe, the Hambach open-cast mine, and swathes of smoke rising into ...

Rhenish Brown Coal Open-Cast Mining Area
Informationszentrum der RWE Power Schloss Paffendorf
50126 Bergheim, Germany

Düren | Germany
You can find it everywhere. The trouble is, mostly you don´t really notice it. It´s used in schools, or at work to store and carry information, in shops to pack food, as posters for publicity, or at home in the form of cardboard plates, tea or coffee filters, for wiping things clean (not only baby´s ...

Wallstraße 2-8
52349 Düren, Germany

Gangelt-Schierwaldenrath | Germany
The speed is breathtaking. The train rushes through the gentle Selfkant countryside at a full 20 kilometres an hour! From time to time clouds of smoke from the steam locomotive pour in through the open window of the passenger wagon. The “wood class" is so full that it takes some time for the guards ...

Interessengemeinschaft Historischer Schienenverkehr e.V. (IHS) Postanschrift: Postfach 10 07 02, 52007 Aachen Standort Selfkantbahn:
Am Bahnhof
52530 Gangelt, Germany

It bubbles, roars and sprays. Visitors to the Eifel Water Information Centre (WIZE) come up against it, even before they have entered the building. Once inside a system of pipes lead guests through the exhibition to the swish of quietly rushing water. There are presentations of water in all its ...

The Eifel Water Information Centre in Heimbach
Karl-H.-Krischer-Platz 1
52396 Heimbach, Germany