Valkenburg Caves

Valkenburg is just a 40 minute drive from Geilenkirchen and is a great place to go for a day trip or if you have an afternoon free. It’s very touristy and almost always crowded, so be prepared for that, but you’ll find a lot of restaurants, an amusement park for kids, a lot of interesting historical sites, a spa worth spending an entire day at, and, of course, the caves.

Known for their Marlstone caves, the municipal cave has over 100,000 visitors a year, but there are several caves you can tour, including the Roman Catacombs.

Adventure groups arrange paintball, biking, and laser tag inside the caves. Deep underground, the temperature stays moderate all year making it a nice stop if the weather outside is unbearable. Kids and adults alike will also enjoy the toboggan rides down the hill.

I toured Fluweelengrot cave and castle ruin.

Apparently, the entire area used to be under sea, so over many many years and a changing climate, the sand and sea matter pressed together to create Marlstone. The marlstone is very strong and heavy, but also very easy to cut into. The cave we explored was created in 1050 when the castle was built because they took large Marlstone blocks from the cave to build the castle. It also ended up acting as an escape route for castle dwellers at times of war. The tour was in Dutch, but several Dutch people on the tour helped to translate things at different times and the guide also took time in between stops to tells us about things. They were all very friendly and there was a lot of laughing from everyone, so I suppose the tour was funny. It was interesting to see. In the late 1800’s locals started to decorate the cave to attract tourists, so there are beautifully intricate “paintings” throughout the cave. They were done by painting the entire surface of a wall black, then carving into the marlstone to add the light areas. It is amazing. During WW2, the Americans used the cave during fights with the Germans. They were able to sneak up to the castle ruin on the hill and see what was going on. So, there are also sillouettes of the American soldiers painted there and many other signs of their presence. A full chapel with confessional and baptismal is there and there was a hospital of sorts in the caves as well. (http://www.kasteelvalkenburg.nl/en/sub_velvetcave.html)

The cave tour lasted about an hour in pitch black surroundings. We only had the small oil lamp of our guide to light the area for most of the trip. It eventually led us up steep narrow stairs up to the bottom of the castle ruin. The castle is a ruin because it had been captured by the French and recaptured again by the Dutch. Upon threat of the castle being captured again by the French, the Dutch king blew it up. So, it is ruin, not by age, nor by the hand of an invader, but by the Dutch. It was pretty. I would have loved to see what it looked like before. Instead, it started to rain just as the cave tour ended and we walked around the old brick ruin getting wet.
(http://www.kasteelvalkenburg.nl/en/sub_castle.html)

This is the cave where the annual Christmas Market is held each year.

Parking can be frustrating. I’ve found both situations there – easy parking, and the driving around in circles until eventually giving up. If you know of any quick and easy parking solutions in Valkenburg – please share!

There is a lot to do in Valkenburg… it just takes some exploration. Try something new and let us all know how it is!

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