Claire The Green Geekette
Member for 4 years 1 month
Yogi and slow tourism devotee
I RODE THE RAILROAD TRACKS ON A RAILBIKE
§ MINUTES RAILBIKING DOWNHILL, 8 minutes UPHILL
Riding the former railway that runs along the Molignée valley on a railbike, what an amazing experience! What could rival with pedalling along on the strange contraptions called railbikes while enjoying a quaint and athletic outing? We had an unforgettable day railbiking and feasting our eyes on the landscapes that grace the tracks taking us from Warnant to Maredsous, by way of Falaën.
Pedalling on railbikes: athletic, but not too punishing!
Do not fret you weekend athletes, the railibike is your friend. You may not know this but railbiking is all about teamwork; while you're the only one pedalling on an ordinary bike, one of the great bonuses of railbiking is that you can divvy up the effort (a railbike can accommodate up to 4 passengers). Be aware that only two of you can pedal at the same time, so it’s great to switch places and rest while your let others do all the hard work!
Which is a good thing, because – believe it or not – a bit of rest is more than welcome, especially on the first leg of our journey where the tracks follow a slight uphill climb. Nothing impossible for the brave of heart, but definitely challenging enough for you to feel you deserve a food break, either in Falaën (if you started off in Warnant), where you can buy ice cream from a small cabin, or in Maredsous where you can pick and choose from a wide variety of tasty local specialties just waiting to be sampled!
But don’t fret, the effort required is manageable, and the activity is accessible to all ages, from tiny tots to wise old sages. Also, on the way back the downwards slope will be your best ally, and surprisingly we hardly need to pedal at all as the railbike just whizzes down the slope under its own power. I probably spent more time braking to take pictures than pedalling. On the other hand, the group right behind us didn’t always brake on time…It’s the way the game is played: if you don’t ride along fast enough you might get rammed!
One thing you need to bear in mind is that as the raillbikes run on a single railway track, so obviously they all need to be heading in the same direction. As a result, you cannot overtake other the railbikes and you have to take care not to gather too much speed so you won’t go and collide with the railbike in front of you, nor should you move along too slowly if you don’t want to get rammed by the railbikes trailing behind . It’s up to you to find the right speed!
Plenty to see along the way
But let’s be honest, even if I said you need to keep up the pace, a railbike is nothing like a racing bike and you are no Eddy Merckx. Which is great, because it leaves you with plenty of time to take in your surroundings! It would be a shame not to; the railbikes will take you through a densely wooded landscape along the banks of the river Molignée snaking its way through the valley. Every now and again, while railbiking over the bridges spanning them, you will catche a glimpse of the river or charming country roads.
Challenging enough for you to feel you have deserved a food break in Maredsous where a wide variety of tasty local specialties are waiting to be sampled!
But depending on the trail you pick, there are many other small yet lovely surprises along the way. Along the line from Warnant to Falaën there are several tunnels and the Ruins of Montaigle (listed as Major Walloon Heritage). Along the route from Falaën to Maredsous, you can admire Sosoye (one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of Wallonia”), with a perfect view of its limestone plateau, as well as many gorges dug out in the rock when the railroad tracks were being laid.
For those of you who will be railbiking up to Maredsous, it goes without saying that you really need to push on as far as the Abbey, which is a 20 minute walking distance from the railbike terminal. Once in Maredsous, you have about an hour to visit the monastery, have a drink and grab a bite to eat…before getting back to the railbikes for the downhill trip back. You should allow 3h30 to 5h30 for the returnround trip Warnant-Maredsous depending on how long you stay at the Abbey.
Time for a well-deserved break
Probably my favourite part of our adventure, the moment where after the adrenaline rush op the steep climb, a well-deserved rest will encourage you to find a seat in the sun at one of the tables in the Maredsous Abbey’s cafeteria. You really should try their famous "grilled croque-monsieur with crudités” which came highly recommended as being “the best in the world”, no less! One thing is sure, I can confirm that it was very tasty indeed!
A protected and protective environment
Fondée en 1872 dans la vallée de la Molignée par des moines bénédictins, Maredsous est l’un des rares endroits où l’on affine encore le fromage dans les caves de l’Abbaye. De plus, la véritable tradition bénédictine se retrouve dans les différentes bières de Maredsous et je ne peux que vous conseiller d’opter également pour un petit apéro (à partager) avec le « palet du brasseur » qui vous permet de découvrir 4 bières de l’Abbaye : l’extra à 5%, la blonde à 6%, la brune à 8% et la triple à 10%.
Maredsous was founded in1872 by Benedictine monks. It is located in the Molignée valley and is one of the only places left where cheese is still matured in the Abbey cellars. You can also taste the true Benedictine tradition in the different beers produced by Maredsous. I wholeheartedly you recommend you take the aperitif (to share) called “le palet du brasseur” (the brewer’s selection) and discover the Abbey’s 4 beers: the extra (5%), the blond (6%), the brown (8%) and the triple (10%)/
Enfin, pour digérer tout cela, il est possible se promener soi-même, de se joindre à une visite guidée, ou encore d’aller à la découverte d’un des 4 sentiers de promenade dans la vallée de la Molignée, balisés autour de l’Abbaye, allant de de 2,7 km (+/- 45 min.) à 7,1 km (+/- 1h55). Vous pourrez trouver tous les renseignements au Centre d'accueil Saint-Joseph. Dans tous les cas, faites attention à ne pas louper l’horaire de retour de votre draisine !
To digest this wonderful fare, you can go for a walk, take part in a guided visit, or even discover one of the 4 walking trails through the Molignée valley. The walks are signposted and will take on a discovery of the Abbey surroundings, they are 2,7 km (+/- 45 min) to 7,1 km (+/- 1h55) km long. You can get detailed information about these walks in the Abbey’s Visitor Centre called Saint Joseph. Whatever you decide, please make sure you get back on time to railbike back!
You really should try their famous "grilled croque-monsieur with crudités” which came highly recommended as being “the best in the world”, no less!
Many marvels on the way back to Dinant
If you haven’t had your fill of beautiful landscapes (well, let’s face it: even if you have), we recommend you make a detour and visit Dinant, which is about 10 kilometres from Maredsous. Dinant is a picturesque town, book-ended by majestic rocks on one side and the beautiful Meuse river on the other, and you cannot fail to fall under its spell! Head for the Charles de Gaulle bridge to admire a breathtaking sunset on the Meuse, while taking in the many unusual saxophone sculptures surrounding you…
Enjoy this experience
Les Draisines de la Molignée (The Molignée Railbikes)
82 Rue de le Gare, 5522 Falaën (Onhaye) - Belgium
Tel: +32 82 69 90 79
More information: http://www.draisines.online/
Abbaye de Maredsous
Rue de Maredsous 11, B 5537 Denée - Belgium
Tel : +32 82 69 82 84
More information : https://tourisme-maredsous.be/
The duration of the break for each tour depends on what time you leave and on what time you decide to head back. Each departure is spread out over 20 minutes (from 10:00 to 10:30 for example). The earlier you leave, the longer the break. A longer break is scheduled to allow to visit the Maredsous Abbey without rushing about.
I heartily recommend you take a food break at the Maredsous cafeteria so you can get your strength back after the climb. Enjoy pre-dinner drinks with the “palet du brasseur” (brewer’s selection), and sample the Abbey’s 4 beers and the abbey cheese. Afterwards, go straight to grilled sandwich heaven and try their famous “grilled croque-monsieur with crudités”.