The second leg of the cycling tour along the fringe of the Netherlands starts at Rütenbrock, where Groningen, Drenthe and Germany meet. From there you follow the national border between Drenthe and Germany to the south, along and through the Bargerveen nature reserve to the Schoonebekerdiep. From there you go west, past the area of the oil extraction at Schoonebeek and on to Coevorden. Just south of Coevorden you come to the provincial border with Overijssel. The route is 66.5 kilometers in total, but with trips to the center of Coevorden and/or a more extensive tour through the Bargerveen you can easily exceed 70.
Niko Winkel cycled in 17 stages (2.5 weeks) from the Wadden Sea in Groningen via the Limburg hills to the North Sea in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen. After his cycling trips, Niko started writing about the border experience, resulting in a website full of stories about the route along the border. This is the story about the second stage: the Dutch-German border along the province of Drenthe. The links in the story point to more extensive stories on Grensfietsen.NL.
Border stories Drenthe – cycling along the edge of the Netherlands
The route of the second stage along the border between Drenthe and Germany actually consists of two parts, which do not differ much in length. The first all the way north-south. Here you go along the longest stretch of straight border, 18 kilometers, that the Netherlands has. The second part goes from east to west almost all the way along the canalized Schoonebekerdiep (often called Grenzschlot or Grenz-Aa in Germany). South of Coevorden the last part goes along the Coevorden-Vecht canal.
The Schwartenberger Strasse
About two kilometers south of the starting point, on the border of Germany, Groningen and Drenthe, I drive past a rectangular bulge in the border. There is a house at 56 Schwartenberger Strasse, which is “actually” in the Netherlands. A corner that only exists to allow one house to belong to Germany after all. I myself do not know the history of this anomaly. It is, however, remarkable to note the completely German character of this house, on this block of a few hundred square meters of land taken from the Netherlands. Dark red brick, small windows and a typical German roof. The Netherlands did not want that house, I think with a smile.
At the green border crossing opposite Emmer-Compascuum is a small neighborhood near an old hill, the Schwartenberg. The old boundary marker stands in a farmer’s yard. Then first a big piece of ‘cycling chore’ through real ‘faraway country’ to the south, about 8 kilometers along the Breede Sloot. I cross the border again via a field road and then over the A37 highway, to the Zwartemeer border crossing. I drive through the village past the old border office, which is now hardly recognizable as such anymore black lake within.
Bargerveen nature reserve
After Zwartemeer it will be a party: the beautiful nature of the Bargerveen. Kilometers through the nature reserve, kilometers on the border! In the swamp peat, the old border posts has fallen into disrepair during the last century, sinking into the soft soil. Restoration work has recently been carried out here: they are now solid again and look tough on a large pedestal.
Of course I follow the border as much as possible. Here, however, you can also opt for an alternative route right through the Bargerveen. You will then drive through the Meerstalblok and the Amsterdamscheveld. You will also pass the plot where Uneken’s small farm used to be. This route along the Huussie of Uneken is at least just as beautiful, but… not the road right on the border.
South of the Bargerveen I arrive at the Europaweg, which connects Nieuw-Schoonebeek and the German Twist. Here I make a small detour through the border area and pass the border again over a small bicycle bridge. When I reach the bridge, I come across a special border post about 100 meters south along the ‘Grenzschloot’. This is in fact also a ‘three country point’: here the Netherlands borders on the ‘old countries’ Münster and Bentheim (border marker 156).
the last boo
In New Schoonebeek there is still one ‘boo’, the Wilms-boo. It burned down in 2004, but was restored in 2008. Boo’en were Saxon cattle huts, dating from the 16e century. They consisted of an oak barn. The living quarters were separated by walls woven from twigs, plastered with clay and cow dung. The roof was thatched. A nice tip: spend the night in the Wilmsboo! That’s possible: part of the house, owned by the Stichting Het Drentse Landschap, is rented out as a holiday home.
Near Schoonebeek, the route takes me about a kilometer north of the border river, the Schoonebekerdiep, along a few beautiful historic neighborhoods with beautiful old thatched Saxon farmhouses; Oriental Forest and Middendorp.
Oil extraction at Schoonebeek
Continuing westwards through the Schoonbekerdiep I pass a recently restored air watchtower and half a kilometer further on I arrive at the border crossing Schoonebeek-Emlichheim, where the N853 crosses the border. There are no boundary markers at the bridge; however, the boundary marker numbers are there: they are in the asphalt on both sides of the road.
The route continues along the north side of the Schoonebekerdiep. I cycle here for miles between farmlands on both sides of the deep, one side with typical German buildings and green yes-marbles, the Dutch side with modern oil installations and Dutch farms.
Eurostaete – no man’s land between the Netherlands and Germany
At the end I arrive at the Europark business park, south of Coevorden, at a double road with a canal in between. This is the Europark Allee. The world looks sleek and organized here, but when you see the physical border between Germany and the Netherlands on the map, at this allee, you see something completely different: the cadastral border meanders over this road. Mr. Beukeveld, who used to be a farmer here, has run amok about how this border was handled. He still claims land, which is administratively not claimed by Germany as well as not by the Netherlands. He called his own independent here Eurostaete from. A special story.
From here you can take a small trip to the old fortified city Coevorden, a few miles north. Coevorden has a lot of history and the contours of the old fortress are still clearly visible. Apart from Castle Coevorden and a few beautiful gabled buildings in the center, however, Coevorden’s prominent history seems too far away to feel during a short visit.
Along the Coevorden-Vecht Canal
The last part of this stage I cycle further along the Coevorden-Vecht canal. The end point of this stage is at the provincial border Drenthe-Overijssel, at the De Mars pumping station. There is a small border marker at the dike past the pumping station. Finally I walk a little further, past the German pumping station, a little further on, to the left along the groves, and I arrive at a large stork’s nest on a high pole. Just in front of it is a beautiful old border marker made of Bentheimer sandstone, number 134.