It was such a relief to be safely in The Netherlands in plenty of time for our daughter’s wedding to her Dutch partner. With COVID cases threatening to increase rapidly as the cooler weather hit, we were worried that we might get stuck in Turkey and end up missing the forthcoming celebrations.
Our daughter and partner were there to meet us from Amsterdam airport in our camper van. What a wonderful reunion it was!
They had come to pick us up straight from a two-week holiday travelling through France and Brittany in the van so were full of great travel stories as we drove to their home in Pijnacker near Delft. This was where we were to self isolate for the next ten days.
Although “confined to barracks” most of the time we managed to take walks around the neighborhood every day and to enjoy some lovely sunshine in the garden – although after the intense heat of Turkey it felt quite cool to us!
The weekend after we completed our quarantine period the weather was glorious so we decided to drive to a beautiful lake called Maarsseveense plassen (in the province of Utrecht) for a picnic and a walk round the lake’s perimeter.
The sun was really bright, the temperature perfect and it felt so good to be out and about.
A day later we cycled to the gorgeous historical town of Delft where the wedding was to take place.
It was very exciting to think that very soon the wedding would be taking place in the centuries old (the part facing the square was built in 1618 but the bell tower behind originated from 1300) and very majestic town hall.
After such a wonderful weekend we felt inspired to take the camper van for a short trip so a couple of days later we were heading towards the De Hoge Veluwe National Park, one of the largest nature reserves in the Netherlands. Of course by then it was pouring with rain!
The drive was less than two hours (everywhere is so close in the Netherlands compared to Australia) so we were soon happily tucked up in a camper van park in Otterlo, a small village near one of the National Park entrances.
The following day dawned dry and reasonably warm so after breakfast we hopped on our electric bikes and pedalled to the National Park.
We were booked in to visit the fabulous Kröller-Müller art museum – now a national museum but originally a private art collection – which we were introduced to by our friends from the Sail to Indonesia rally, Annemieke and Gerrit.
We loved the museum on our first visit and had been very much looking forward to returning to soak up all the beautiful paintings, drawings and sculptures once again.
As well as having the second-largest collection of Van Gogh paintings in the world (after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam) there are works by many other famous artists including Picasso, Mondriaan, Gaugin, and Seurat.
Despite a strict booking schedule due to Covid, the gallery seemed to be quite full. Most people were mostly very good about social distancing but we were quite surprised to see so many visitors there on an autumn weekday.
The highlight for us this time was the outdoor sculpture park – 25 hectares of beautiful woods, lawns and gardens, with a fine collection of modern sculpture spread throughout.
As we strolled through the gardens we were enchanted over and again by the amazing works – often found in secret corners of the park.
At one point we were in a beautiful wood when we began to hear some mysterious, ethereal, rather desolate sounds – reminiscent of ships at sea sounding their fog horns.
As we got closer it sounded more like a school brass band with the participants playing random notes without a conductor!
We came to where the noises were emanating from – a magical circle of trees talking to one another via speakers in their branches. A haunting sound and one of the many interesting installations we saw that day!
Later we cycled for hours through the National Park – there are many tracks to choose from in the 55 square kilometres of parkland. The cycle paths took us through glorious woods, heathland and sand dunes.
The following day we travelled to the Westerwolde region of The Netherlands on the border of Germany to a fascinating village called Bourtange.
At the centre of this tiny hamlet is a Star Fort built in 1593 at the start of the Eighty Years War against the Spanish. This amazing construction defended the link between Groningen and Germany until its decommissioning in 1851.
The fort was restored in the 1960s and is still in wonderful condition.
The star shape was constructed using an incredible network of canals and ponds that provided a barrier to any potential invaders.
From above its beautiful star shape can be seen more clearly than at ground level but it was still fascinating to walk around on top of the grassy fortification walls and look out across the watery barriers.