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near Burtscheid, Nordrhein-Westfalen (Deutschland)
This cycling trip starts at Aachen Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) and takes the Vennbahn cycling path to Monschau Station for about 48 km, and then returns via Monschau center to Aachen along another route. The entire route is paved with the exception of two small stretches of semi-paved cycling paths on the Vennbahn route (see waypoints), which can be easily negotiated on a racing bike. The Vennbahn route (www.vennbahn.eu) follows an old railway track, and is therefore void of any steep ascents or descents, but smoothly climbs from about 200 m in Aachen to about 550 m near Konzen. In the return route there is a sharp descent to and ascent from Monschau center, but otherwise the climbs are mild on the return route as well (mostly descent anyway). The route offers beautiful northern Eifel and Hohes Venn-Hautes Fagnes scenery with woods and moors, the picturesque town of Monschau, the impressive city center of Aachen, railway bridges and abandoned stations, and deserted countryside.
The route starts at Aachen station, but it takes you 1.5 km before you join the cycling track next to the railway. There is also a 600 m semi-paved stretch here. Soon after Aachen-Rothe Erde station there are no rails on the track anymore. You leave the center and cycle through suburbs to Brand. Outside Brand you really get to the countryside and pass two scenic railway bridges and the picturesque town of Kornelimünster. Just before Walheim the cycling path joins a railway track which seems to be in infrequent use until the Belgian border. There are some wagons and locomotives on Walheim station. After Walheim the track goes into the endless woods of the Hohes Venn/Hautes Fagnes nature area, and arrives in Raeren station which has been abandoned. There are some disused wagons and locomotives as well as old buildings here (see waypoint). After the station the rails has been removed, and the route continues through the woods to and through the outskirts of Roetgen and on to Lammersdorf. After Lammersdorf there is another 3.1 km of semipaved cycling path, next to a nice area of moorland. At the end you have arrived in Konzen at 550 m (from 200 m in Aachen), and then slightly descend through open countryside to Monschau station. Here you leave the railway track to descend sharply to Monschau, a picturesque historic town full of ‘Holzfachwerk’ houses on the borders of the Rur river. After lunch and/or something to drink you leave Monschau via a steep route to Imgenbroich. Here you cycle back to Konzen and cross the Vennbahn route into Belgium. Here you cycle through woods and moors in the national park to Raeren on small asphalted roads. Most of this stretch is inaccessible to cars, and you will not meet much people. The asphalt on these forest roads is not very smooth, but passable. You will pass the Vennbahn track twice before arriving to Raeren where the scenery opens up to quiet countryside. At Eynatterheide you cross the border back into Germany via the N68/B57 roads. You follow the busy national road (mostly on a cycling track next to it) for 4 km before taking small roads through quiet Aachen suburbs into the city center. Just before the train station you climb a steep cycling/walking railway bridge with a nice view of Aachen station. In Aachen center you make a small detour around the historic center with the Dom and the Rathaus before returning to the starting point at Aachen station.
It is worth noting that the Vennbahn railway track is on Belgian territory ever after having passed the Belgian border between Walheim and Raeren, even when passing through Germany. The railway and the stations were made Belgian territory after the First World War, and still are Belgian despite the tracks having been turned into a cycling path.
The most convenient places for lunch (most choice) are Monschau and Aachen, but also in e.g. Kornelimünster and Raeren (village center, not the railway station) restaurants can be found. If you come by car, Brand may be a more convenient starting point (close to the highway, no inner city parking required). The route: Aachen-Brand-Kornelimünster-Dalheim-Schmithof-Raeren-Roetgen-Lammersdorf-Konzen-Monschau-Imgenbroich-Konzen-Raeren-Eynatterheide-Aachen.
The route takes you for a touristic tour around the city center of Aachen with the Dom cathedral, the Rathaus and the Elisenbrunnen, over cobblestones and through pedestrian zones (bicycles allowed). Just before entering the center you cross a pedestrian/cycling bridge giving you a nice overview of the station area (see first photo).
Monschau is a nice historic town with lots of traditionally built half-timbered houses with slate roofs. It is located deep in the Rur valley directly on the river. The city center roads are exclusively cobble-stoned. There are multiple restaurants and cafes, and on nice days the center is clogged with tourists.
This station used to be an important stopover on the Vennbahn with multiple tracks and loading/unloading of goods. Nowadays, the only thing in use is the new cycling track (so it seems). There is a barrack for wagons, and some wagons and locomotives stand rusting outside and are completely covered in graffiti. There are multiple station buildings, platforms, signs and more rail history on view.
There is a 600 meter stretch of semi-paved gravel/clay cycling path here (not indicated on the vennbahn.eu website by the way).
There is a stretch of 3.1 km gravel/clay cycling path here, next to a nice moor area. No problem for a racing bike.
Between this station and Stolberg on one side and the Belgian border on the other side there is still a railway track, and it seems as if it is still sometimes used. There are some wagons and locomotives at the station.