Thursday, 17 May 2018

Hidden Dutch treasures

I bet if I asked you to list all the National Parks in the Netherlands, you probably couldn't name one. We visited two, both by bike, and one contained the largest private collection of Van Gogh works in the world.

The first park we visited is northwest of Arnhem and called the Hoge Veluwe. It's 55 square kilometres of rolling forests, sand dunes and bike paths. It got its start as a private estate primarily for hunting, owned by two very rich people, Anton Kröller and his wife, Helene Kröller-Müller. She was an art collector with virtually unlimited funds. She liked painters like Mondrian, Seurat, Monet, Pissaro, Picasso, and sculpturists like Moore, Rodin & others. In the early 1930's, they donated their land and art to the Government under the condition that it stayed a park and they built a museum for the art. So it's a privately owned national park (take that, Banff). 

We, as usual, took public transit to get there: a train to Arnhem, and a bus from there to Otterlo in the northwest corner of the park. Walking to the park from the bus stop, we happened upon this memorial.
Small but pretty
It had this in it.
I recognize that
And this explanation.
History I never knew
Once inside the park (one of only 2 national parks in the Netherlands that charges an entry fee -- again, take that, Banff), there are 1,800 free bikes to borrow (one more time: take that, Banff). The bikes are parked at major locations in the park, and you simply ride it from where you picked it up to wherever you want to go and drop it off. Very cool.
Pick a bike, any bike. And every one has a child seat
Only about 3 km from the Otterlo park entrance is the Kröller-Müller museum and 25 ha sculpture garden.
The entranceway 
Sculptures on the entrance path
The museum itself is a treat, and I won't bore you with all 86 pictures we took inside. But some highlights:
The first ever series of Mondrian's graphic style he would become famous for 
Classic Mondrian 
More typical Picasso 
VG Self Portrait

Classic mid-madness Van Gogh 
The star's location in the skies is accurate
Pre-madness. Very delicately done 
Claude Monet
It was a beautiful museum, and outside is this massive sculpture garden (which is a great place for a picnic). There was some dynamic sculpture (I like it when they move), but most of the sculptors I didn't recognize, other than Henry Moore (he did the big thing in front of Toronto's City Hall), Rodin...
Kinda thinking...
...Barbara Hepworth (who has her own pavilion)...
All Hepworths
...and a bunch of other cool and/or weird things.
This amphitheatre is a piece of art 
The IceTower 
Looking up inside the tower 
Wall of twisted steel 
You used to be able to clamber on this thing, but...'s falling apart so under repair 
Yes, that's a house trailer that's... "decorated" 
Heads with... things on them
After a few hours of exploring the museum, we grabbed a new set of bikes and headed directly through the park towards the southern exit, about 12 km away (A mistake. There's a visitor's centre near the museum we missed, and it has a bunch of info on the biology and geology of the park that I wished I would have seen). The park makes for beautiful riding. Through the park, there are several blind areas where you can stop and watch for wildlife (deer, fox, mouflon sheep and birds. We saw nothing but birds).
The post 
The view
Suddenly, you ride out of the forest and into a sand dune complex.
On the hill 
The view from the hill. Two bikes on the left for scale
Sand dunes were... unexpected, and very cool.

We stopped at another blind, where I wandered around unsuccessfully trying to track a bird making an interesting noise.
Grasses and oak trees 
Pine trees; the sheep like this area, based on tracks and scat 
Me, not finding birds
It took us about 1 hr 20 min to ride through the park, including stops. We had the schedule for busses to catch to get to the Arnhem train station, and knew they ran every half hour, so were targeting exit times. We got to the park exit with 10 minutes to go before the bus, but with a 6 minute walk to get to the stop. In a trot, we made the stop with 5 minutes to go before the bus was to arrive. And we waited.

But the bus never came.

There's an app here everyone uses called 9292 that basically tells you how to get from any Point A in the country to any Point B using all forms of transit (train, tram, bus, etc), in English or Dutch. I planned our outbound and return journeys on it yesterday. I pulled it up. Suddenly, it was saying to me the bus we wanted to take was "unavailable", but offered me no alternatives. It wouldn't even tell me where to walk to get to another bus (it normally does that). It was saying something in Dutch that it didn't translate and I didn't understand nor could figure out.  We were still 6 km -- a 2 hr walk -- from the Arnhem train station. Now what?

Up walks this lovely young Dutch lady. We ask her to translate the 9292 message. It says: that particular bus line is on strike today. There will be no bus in 30 minutes, or at all. She isn't really a local -- she's in this particular town (Schaarsbergen) doing business, and now heading home to Rotterdam -- but she knows there is no other bus option. We are officially stranded.

We sorta slide into panic mode (how the heck do we get to Arnhem? There sure are no taxis out here), when she offers us a ride to the station. We gratefully accept. Along the way, we find Marion is eager to practice her English (which is better than mine), and really wants to visit Canada. And it just so happens we speak English and live in Canada. It only takes about 8 minutes to get to the station, but we make sure to give her our contact info, and invite her to come visit us in our version of paradise in the mountains.

Karen and I hope she takes us up on it, in part because Marion is as much a Dutch treasure as the park and museum.

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