When I decided to also include places on my blog, the plan was to start with Mommenheim. It only seemed fair to the little wine village where we live that is over 1250 years old. But that is exactly the problem: we live here, so we kind of have gotten used to it. I guess Mommenheim will have to wait until I get struck by that feeling again, that feeling that comes down to: “I need to write about this!” And the last place that struck me with that feeling was De Hoge Veluwe National Park!
Somehow, this place had been on my mind ever since I was a little kid. I think at some point a school teacher told me about it, or my parents, talking about their field trips as children. I honestly don’t know. I did not even know what it was exactly, I just knew that I wanted to go there once in my life.
Such a kid thing: to have an idea stuck in your head, but not having the slightest idea what it is actually about. Well, a couple of weeks ago during Janne’s spring break, I finally found out, because we went there! And it was awesome!
The Park’s website tells you about its fascinating history. In the beginning of the 20th century, Anton Kröller was a successful Dutch businessman, marrying Helene Müller, daughter of another successful business man, in 1888. Anton was very passionate about hunting and therefore, as from 1909, purchased De Hoge Veluwe hunting ground, in phases. Helene, on the other hand, was an enthusiastic art collector. So they decided to combine their hobbies.
Now, doesn’t that sound like a wonderful hobby to share with your significant other? So, the Park was fenced off and animals were brought in, a family residence was built and works of art were bought. They also started building a museum to put those works of art in. As in any good story, a crisis hit, in this case, an economic crisis. As a result, the Kröller-Müller family was no longer capable to sustain the property. A solution was found in form of a Foundation for the hunting grounds, while the art collection was donated to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. A happy ending after all! Especially for the visitors of the park! Let me take you there!
So, you drive through the country side of the Netherlands (which is already a treat, with their green, meticulously cared for cottages and farms) towards one of the entry points of the park. You park your car, get the fairly priced tickets, of course including the art museum entry (€19 for adults, €9,50 for children), and drive on to the main site, where there is ample parking, a visitor centre, a nice café with all Dutch treats, from pancakes to bitterballen and a ton of free white bikes that you can just take to go biking in the park. We did not go for the free bikes (yes, also in childsizes), but rented two child-adult-tandems, which was a great decision. And so, we started biking – stressfree in my case because of the tandems – through this nature-wonderland, filled with sand and trees.
To me, it felt a bit like being in Yellowstone again, of course without the buffalo’s, but also without the cars! Maybe more like miniature Yellowstone. For Americans, this might be hard to imagine, but it is rare to have such a vast waste land in Europe, especially in Belgium or the Netherlands. We biked for about an hour or so, stopping once in a while to take in the landscapes or the architecture of some of the historical buildings in the park. But the best stop of all was another park highlight: the Kröller-Müller Museum!
So, after all of nature’s beauty, man’s made beauty: Art! Did I mention that the Museum has the second largest Vincent Van Gogh collection? (Only the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam has more.) But there is also work of Claude Monet, Georges Seurat, Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondriaan. Even the kids enjoyed it, solving the little puzzle cards they got going in, looking for the right painting to match with the detail on their cards. We ended the day with ice cream and pancakes at the café and another bike ride.
You know how some days just suck, most days are just average and some are exceptional? This was one of those exceptional days! I left revitalized and content by so much beauty. And with the need to write about it!