View of Cauberg from the West
|Elevation||69 m (226 ft)|
|Location||South Limburg (Netherlands)|
|Start||Valkenburg aan de Geul|
|Altitude||137 m (449 ft)|
|Length||1,200 m (3,900 ft)|
|Average gradient||5.8 %|
|Maximum gradient||12.0 %|
The Cauberg is a hill in Valkenburg aan de Geul, a town in the southern part of the Netherlands. The hill played an important role in the early development of tourism in Valkenburg. Today, several major tourist attractions are situated on or nearby Cauberg. The hill's fame is mainly due to the many cycling races and championships that were held here. The length of the climb is around 1200 m, with a maximum grade of 12%.
The first part of the word Cauberg may be derived from the Celtic word kadeir, meaning 'height' or 'hill'. Berg is a Germanic word meaning 'hill' or 'mount' as well. Perhaps the family name 'Van Caldenborgh' is related to Cauberg. Previously the name of the hill was also spelled 'Couberg'. Although the road via Cauberg formed the shortest connection between Valkenburg and Maastricht, in former ages most unmotorized traffic due to the steepness of the hill followed the longer but much more level route along the Geul river. The road was paved with cobblestones only in 1934; in 1969 the cobblestone surface was replaced by asphalt.
On 29 September 1954 a serious accident happened on Cauberg when the driver of a Belgian coach lost control over his vehicle after a malfunction of the breaks. The coach, which had a group of miners from the Liège area on board, who had been on an outing to Valkenburg zoo, rushed down the hill, crashed into a limestone monument at the bottom of the hill and then drove into the gable of a hotel on Grendelplein. The coach was completely ravished; 18 passengers and a bystander lost their lives.
In the 19th century Valkenburg developed as an early tourist destination in the Netherlands. Cauberg, with its limestone quarries, played an important role in this. Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, who lived in Valkenburg for some years, helped design Rotspark ('Rocky Park') on the northeastern slope of Cauberg, which featured a viewing tower (1898, demolished) and an open air theater (1916). After the Second World War a zoo and an 'aquarium grotto' were added to this. In the 1960s and 70s, Valkenburg became very popular with teenage tourists. On top of Cauberg, Europacamping became one of the largest camping sites in the country, with mostly youthful campers. Nearby on Cauberg was a racing circuit for kart racing (skelterbaan). The area was redeveloped in the 1980s and now features a holiday village, a spa center and a casino.
The foot of Cauberg hill is situated almost in the center of Valkenburg, outside the medieval city gate of Grendelpoort. At the bottom of the hill is one of Valkenburg's main visitor attractions, Gemeentegrot, an abandoned chalk quarry offering guided tours through a labyrinth of man-made caves which include an underground lake, limestone sculptures of prehistoric animals and charcoal drawings depicting local history scenes. Higher up the hill is a Lourdes grotto, a 1926 copy of the original grotto at Lourdes with an open air chapel. Only a few yards further up the hill stands a memorial chapel with a carillon, commemorating the Limburgian members of the Dutch resistance that were killed during World War II. Opposite lies a leafy hill cemetery, that features terraced graves, unique in the Netherlands, as well as a Gothic revival graveyard chapel and some limestone mausoleums, one of which was designed by Pierre Cuypers. Halfway up the hill is situated Thermae 2000, a spa facility in a pyramidal building that opened in 1989. On the other side of the road, amidst an extension of Rotspark, is a branch of Holland Casino in a modern building with an imposing view of the town and the Geul valley. On top of the hill, close to the village of Vilt, is a Landal holiday village, built in a postmodern style to resemble a typical Limburg village, as well as a castle site.
The Amstel Gold Race has had its finish on Cauberg since 2003. The race often finishes with an uphill sprint of a small band of cyclists on Cauberg. This happens after competitors have already climbed Cauberg twice.
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