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A-maze-ing Borderlands

A boy in Germany, Belgium and The Netherlands
Borders between countries have always interested me. At most places you need to jump through a ton of bureaucratic hoops to cross one. Some places need you to assure with your signature that you are not lunatic, genocidal or a Nazi. The thing I like in the current Europe is that you can cross the borders in most countries by merely stepping over them. No grim faced guards with their guns, no endless car queues, no visa fuzz accomppanied by silly questions. Just go there.

There's also often a change of the language when you go to the other side of a border. However, in border areas the population often mixes with the population on the other side. They share the same culture and often the surrounding languages are spoken fluently in the area. Often also a certain laid-back atmosphere can be detected; people are used to visitors and cultural differences and strangers are not looked upon as weird freaks.

So close, yet so far away.
Those were the lines of our thoughts when we were having breakfast in a local pastry shop in a small Dutch town of Vaals, bordering nearby Belgium and Germany. An elderly couple at the next table were apparently keenly listening to our foreign chatting and when I dug up a map to study, the man saw the opportunity to start a conversation with us asking in very good English if they could help us with the directions. After telling us the way to the nearby three lands point he asked the question that had obviously bugged them since the beginning: What is the language we are speaking? After revealing it's Finnish the woman raised her thumbs up as in a sign of victory. It remained unclear what the man thought our language was. The couple was one of those borderland 'mixed' people, the man being Dutch and and the woman German. They said their common language was mostly German. After the nice chat they left, but soon the man came suddenly back, handing us a little bag of Aachener Printen, local traditional cookie delicacy, as a present and a wish for safe travels. I'd like to think we just encountered some real borderland hospitality!

Wait...                                             ...go!
We went on to see the Drielandenpunt where the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium collide. The place is made into a tourist attraction with sightseeing towers, parking lots, restaurants, gift shops and playgrounds. You can run around the border stone as many times as you want entering from one country to another in seconds, or even be in all the three countries at the same time by sitting on the stone. The highest point of the Netherlands is also here: You can't get higher than 322,5 metres in Holland. 

One way to find a way.
The most fun thing here, however, is The Labyrinth. There is a supercool hedge maze here, where the goal is to reach the platform in the very center of the labyrinth. It's difficult enough as it is already but they have added some 'stone' gates there with built-in water fountains that will wet you badly if you walked through. You have to find a hidden sensor nearby and waving your foot or hand next to it will stop the water for a moment  of unknown length. Better walk through the gate quickly. It gets only more interesting when you spot the sensor on the other side of the gate... There are also three lesser platforms built along the way where you can plan your route towards the center of the maze and watch the other people running into dead ends. On average it takes 30-45 minutes for the visitors to reach the goal and I think that's about what it took us too.