Just keep going forward: it’s possible along the Nordhorn-Almelo Canal. The cycle path along the historic waterway connects two traditional textile towns.
Grafschaft Bentheim juts into the Netherlands like a bay. For anyone living in Nordhorn, the small border traffic is a matter of course. Tourists on both sides of the border have turned their attention to a link that is especially attractive for cyclists: the Nordhorn-Almelo Canal.
For over 100 years, it has connected the textile town of Nordhorn in the extreme southwest of Lower Saxony with the textile town of Almelo in the Dutch province of Overijssel.
Until the 1960s, cargo ships used the canal to transport coal for the textile industry in Nordhorn. Then, however, the artificial waterway became too small.
Cycling along the canal
If you start in Nordhorn at the VVV tower, you first cycle in the shade of an avenue between the canal and Lake Vechte. After just about five kilometres, the border is reached. Still, on the German side, a half-timbered structure, partly on stilts, juts into the canal: the old customs house, now a listed building.
Whereas a short while ago you were cycling side by side on a tarmac path, now you are cycling one behind the other on a concrete track about one and a half metres wide along the canal. Not for lovers or elated Father’s Day cyclists if you don’t want to end up in the canal. Otherwise, you can hardly stray from the path. Until Almelo, the route goes straight ahead.
The best ice cream in Europe awaits you here
However, you should absolutely plan a few stops and detours. The first stop is recommended after just under two kilometres at the ice cream parlour “De IJskuip” directly on the canal.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, you can get Erik and Hermien Kuiper’s homemade ice cream here. Their honey yoghurt with raspberries and walnuts was named the best ice cream in Europe in Bologna in 2017.
Secondly, Hennie Kuiper, a Dutch cycling legend, grew up here. In 1972, the then 23-year-old won a complete surprise gold medal in the 182.4-kilometre road race at the Olympic Games in Munich. If you throw a euro into a milk can at the entrance to a barn, you get to see the bike on which Kuiper won gold, along with trophies, medals, jerseys and photos.
A mansion full of antiques
A little south of the canal is the next destination: the Singraven estate with an old water mill and a mansion with a neo-classical façade. Those who can arrange it should time their cycling tour to take part in a guided tour of the house to get a glimpse of all the treasures accumulated by Willem Frederik Laan, the last private owner.
Laan – who became rich from trading in oil, grain and rice – acquired the house in 1915 and progressively furnished it with art and antiques. Two cabinets display porcelain from China, almost 350 years old. In 1956, Laan signed the estate over to the Edwina van Heek Foundation, whose aim is to preserve cultural monuments. The manor house is surrounded by a park and an arboretum, a tree garden. Both can be explored without a guided tour.
Rest in the bridge keeper’s cottage
You will probably make another stop at Fraans Marie at the latest. The only remaining bridge keeper’s cottage has housed a café since 1920, which has grown over the years, says Mart Woesthuis, who now runs the business.
After that, there is enough energy for the final spurt to Almelo. Or for the return trip to Nordhorn, one of the most important locations of the German textile industry. In post-war Germany, products from NINO, Povel and Rawe hung in almost every wardrobe.
You can find out more about this in the NINO Tower, the Povel Tower and the Old Weaving Mill, the three exhibition sites of the city museum. In the NINO building, fashion photographs by renowned photographers such as Helmut Newton and F.C. Gundlach are on display. They recall a time when even Karl Lagerfeld knew where Nordhorn was.