The International Writers Magazine: Vacations in the Netherlands
VELUWE NATIONAL PARK:
THE OTHER SIDE OF HOLLAND
been to Holland and fallen for its many charms. Youve taken
in the standard tourist sites in and around Amsterdamthe
fine museums, the colorful red light district, the famous tulip
fields, the quaint Zuiderzee. You love it all and you want more
of this enchanting country of canals, bicycles, and flowers. So
where to next?
Try Hoge Veluwe,
Hollands little known national park. The park and the surrounding
area offer a bit of everythingnature, art, traditional culture,
and scenery. Best of all, even though the Hoge Veluwe is only an hour
from Amsterdam, relatively few tourists leave Hollands beaten
path to sample its wonders.
Getting there requires some initiative, but is easy enough. If you have
a limited sense of adventure, you can, of course, sign up for a tour,
and leave the logistics to someone else. Otherwise, you have the usual
options: rental car, bus, or train. Car rental is hassle-free, but expensive.
The bus and the train are cheaper, but the route is indirect and requires
a transfer in the town of Arnhem.
Cheryl and I opted for the train. Aficionados of rail travel, we never
miss a chance to hop on board and revel in the efficiency and comfort
of Europes trains. With frequent and punctual service, "Nederlands
Spoorwegen" is on par with the other national railways on the continent.
In Amsterdams Centraal Station, we bought our tickets at one of
the many convenient machines located in the terminal. We entered the
code for our destinationthe town of Arnhemand dropped in
the coins for the price indicated. With tickets in hand, we headed for
the platform. Since trains leave every fifteen minutes, we didnt
have long to wait before we were rolling through the outskirts of Amsterdam.
The trip to Arnhem took a little more than an hour. Along the way, we
saw barge traffic on the canals, picturesque farms, and the university
town of Utrecht with its impressive church tower. Arnhem is the capital
of the Gelderland, Hollands largest province. The town was the
scene of a fierce battle in World War II, as the Allies fought for ten
heroic days to halt the Nazi advance. Military buffs will want to visit
the Airborne Museum, where the battle is documented and depicted in
various models and films.
Its necessary to take a bus from Arnhem to the Hoge Veluwe.
Just outside the Arnhem station, we found the regional bus stop.
The helpful staff inside the ticket office saw to it that we got
on the right bus, headed for Otterloo about ten miles outside of
Arnhem. The bus took us and a handful of other tourists right to
the entrance of the national park. We paid a modest entrance fee,
walked through the gate, and went to select our bicycles. Its
possible to drive into the Hoge Veluwe, but the bicycle-loving Dutch
prefer to peddle around their national park. Several hundred white
bicycles are available free of charge at the entrance. Just find
the size that suits you and youre on your way.
Most visitors head
first to the Museum Kroller-Muller, about two miles from the park entrance.
It is somewhat surprising to find a world-class art museum in the middle
of a nature preserve, but once youre there it makes perfect sense.
The glass-walled museum offers beautiful vistas of the surrounding forest,
an excellent setting for contemplating artwork. And what artwork it
is. The Kroller-Muller has the second largest collection of van Goghs
in the world, nearly one hundred of his paintings and some two hundred
drawings. Some of the great Dutch Impressionists most familiar
works are here"The Night Café," "Bridge
at Arles," and "The Potato Eaters," to name a few. Other
artists represented in the museums collection include Picasso,
Seurat, Braque, Gris, and Mondrian. The artworkand indeed the
Hoge Veluwe parkland itselfwas the gift of Helene and Anton Kroller-Muller.
A shipping magnate, Mr. Kroller-Muller bought the woods for peace, quiet,
and private hunting. His wife, meanwhile, collected art. In 1935, they
gave their estate to the Dutch people, and the museum was built on the
grounds to memorialize their twin passions, nature and art.
Outside the museum, we strolled around the Beeldenpark, Europes
largest sculpture garden. Winding paths took us around ponds, down tree-lined
alleys, and into wooded coves to visit sculptures by Rodin, Giacometti,
Maillol, Henry Moore, Christo, Barbara Hepworth, and Claes Oldenburg.
The interplay of trees, natural light, water and art proved conducive
for reflection. Reluctantly, we broke the spell to visit the parks
Close to the museum, a Visitors Center includes displays on the
parks flora and fauna. There is also a unique "Museonder,"
an underground museum devoted to the wonders found below the earths
surface. The highlight is a worm-level tour of a beech trees root
system. In case youre hungry, the Visitors Center also features
a cafeteria, the Koperen Kop, with indoor and outdoor dining available.
Pancakes topped with fresh fruit are a Dutch favorite.
Given the variety of activities concentrated around the Visitors
Center and the museum, its easy to forget that a 14,000-acre nature
reserve awaits exploration. Fortunately, the park is open until dusk,
which comes quite late in the northern European summer. The extra hours
of daylight should afford you the opportunity to ride or walk some of
the parks twenty-five miles of trails. Crossing moors and heaths,
then plunging into dark forests and fens, the trails take you into Hollands
only real wilderness area. Wild boars roam the Hoge Veluwe, along with
roe deer, red deer, and the moufflon (a kind of wild ram). Cheryl and
I didnt see any of these rare animals as we rode, but it didnt
matter. The wildflowers were beautifuland their wildness provided
a pleasing contrast to the precisely ordered and carefully arranged
tulip gardens we had toured around Amsterdam. It was gratifying enough
to see the flowers, listen to the birds, and enjoy a few hours of fresh
air and solitude.
The Hoge Veluwe includes still another attraction: Jacthuis St. Hubertus,
the fairy-tale hunting lodge where the Kroller-Mullers stayed when they
retreated to the Veluwe. It is an impressive estate house, worthy of
royalty, with its tall observation tower commanding a view of the entire
park. The plush and refined interior will satisfy anyone curious about
the lifestyles of the rich and famous.
The Hoge Veluwe can be visited in one long day for those day-trippers
who cant bear to miss out on Amsterdams nightlife. Others
may want to devote an extra day or two to exploring the park and the
surrounding area. The little village of Otterlo on the parks western
border is home to several charming country hotels, including the Sterrenberg,
the Witte Hoes, and the Kruller. Whether you go for the day or for the
weekend, the Hoge Veluwe is sure to be one of the highlights of your
trip to Holland.
Visit Hoge Veluwe web-link here
© Stephen Benz March 2005
A freelance writer based in Atlanta, I have written articles for numerous
publications including The Washington Post, Miami Herald, and Southe
Florida Sun-Sentinel. One of my articles appeared in Best American Travel
Writing 2004. In addition, I have published two book-length travel narratives:
Guatemalan Journey (University of Texas Press) and Green Dreams (Lonely
Destinations in Hacktreks
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