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Serious climbers, here’s a serious goal for 2011 that will give you all kinds of bragging rights: Reaching the top of the 121-foot Excalibur in the Netherlands, a climbing wall that bills itself as the highest in the world.
Perhaps named for its curving, sword-like shape, this 50-ton monster, which is part of the Bjoeks climbing center, towers more than eight stories over the town of Gronigen, in the northeastern corner of the country. If the height isn’t imposing enough, here’s a breakdown of Excalibur by the numbers: a 500-ton concrete base, a foundation of 36 nine-meter poles, and an imposing 33-foot overhang that only experienced climbers should attempt.
But even if you never set a (chalked) hand onto Excalibur, it still makes for some pretty incredible photos. Another enticing reason to add it to your itinerary? You’re not likely to encounter hordes of visitors, as the wall is more of a landmark for the city and surrounding community than it is well-known among tourist circles.
Even experienced climbers are likely to have Excalibur to themselves.
“The tower is designed to be 'airy and scary' and it has worked almost too well in the sense that not too many climbers actually climb on it,” says Gert van der Veen, owner of the Bjoeks climbing center. “The promotional value as a landmark and its function as a goal for aspiring climbers make it a worthwhile investment anyway, especially since it was a lot of fun dreaming up and actually realizing a thing like it.”
A day pass to the climbing center is €10, but only climbers with lead climbing experience should attempt the higher, overhang routes, which take “considerable athletic effort,” Gert says.
And if climbing isn’t your thing, the charming university town of Groningen, about 90 miles from Amsterdam, offers other options for outdoor pursuits – namely, the two-wheeled kind. Cycling is ingrained in the local culture, with more than 60 percent of residents traveling by bike – the highest rate for the cycling-centric country. Bike routes abound, and it’s much easier to navigate the city from the saddle instead of behind the wheel.
No matter where you go, however, you’ll have an easy landmark that stretches 121 feet into the sky.
For more information on Excalibur, go to www.bjoeks.nl (which is in Dutch), or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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