In an earlier article we discussed the beauty that is the south of Limburg, the southernmost part of the country, looking like nowhere else in an otherwise flat land. Rolling hills and wide views dominate this strip of land between Flanders, Wallonia and Germany. Countries that have all had their influence on Limburg culture.
Limburg lends itself perfectly for all kinds of outdoor activities of which cycling and hiking are most popular. It is possible to start a hike in Vaals, where three countries meet, and go on a hike through forests, over hills, through meadows where the cows stare at you, over small creeks and through beautiful old villages overlooking the rest of Limburg from a hill, ending up miles away.
Limburg is also a province where the people enjoy the good things in life, like food and drink, a little bit more than in the rest of country. Some of the hiking trails for example will lead you along the many pubs and cafés (the so-called ‘kroegen’), some of which are ABT-cafés.
A former colleague of mine who spends his weekends in nearby Maastricht told me great tales of a cafe somewhere on top of a hill near the village of Vijlen. We set out on quest to walk from Vaals to Vijlen and visit this illustrious place: Boscafe het Hijgend Hert (translation: Forrestcafe the panting deer).
There is no café in the country on a higher point than this. For most countries 260 meters might not mean much but here where roughly half of the country is below sea level, it’s kind of a big deal. It is more than a cafe, when you arrive you have to make your way through the livestock and rustic looking sheds. Goats, deer, peacocks and tiny rabbits are there, and according to what they tell us, have been there for quite a while already.
There has been a cafe/restaurant on the hilltop way back since 1933, this was a sort of farm doubling as a restaurant with the German name of Waldesruhe (Forrest rest). In the 1980’s it became a petting zoo with paid entrance before it went bankrupt. The current owners bought the site and its ruins and built the beautiful café on its foundations, trying to maintain some of the old atmosphere, in which in our opinion they have succeeded. The whole café almost feels like a Swiss chalet, you can actually look down into the valley, something you cannot utter a lot here in this country. The animals are so tame they can jump on your table expecting some petting or food.
The site had been for sale for a few years because it wasn’t exactly a piece of prime real estate; far away from roads and villages, buildings in ruins, no water and no electricity. When the current owners bought it they started a beer café in 2001.
Now that those things have been taken care of it’s a great place to get away from the fast pace of everyday life. People from the area but also tourist from all over the country will come to this idyllic place. Het Boscafé is also a member of the Alliantie van Biertapperijen (ABT). This means that they are mentioned in a guide that is free in any ABT café in the country. This also leads to more visitors and keeps the employees up-to-date with the current beers.
After a nice walk a bikeride you can sit down and have one of the many good beers are excellent meals, they even give beer suggestions with the menu items. You can if you like drink one of their beers. The Hert Blond and Hert Bruin of which the blond is our favorite. This beer is not entirely Dutch but the owners gave suggestions about what they wanted and the brewer at Grain D’Orge in Belgium brewed it. You can get the bottles in the café and I have seen it for sale in some local stores too.
So if you’re ever in the neighborhood it is well worth the trek to the most beautifully located specialty beer café in the country.