The weather has been lovely in the Netherlands this weekend – bright blue sky and 20C/68F with lots of sunshine. Having been here for some time now, we know we should enjoy good weather when it appears – so an adventure was called for! We had been discussing a trip to the nearby Hoge Veluwe National Park with friends, and happily the stars of good weather and open schedules aligned for a Saturday afternoon away.
About the park
Hoge Veluwe is outside of Arnhem, a mid-sized city about an hour’s drive east of Utrecht. As the country is quite developed with a high population density, ‘natural’ land can be hard to come by. There are, however, a number of preserved areas and parks which showcase the unique ecosystems of the sandy, low-lying, coastal country, with Hoge Veluwe being one of them.
Although it is possible to take the train to Arnhem and bus/bike to the park, it is a bit easier and quicker to rent a Greenwheels car-share car, which is what we decided upon. After picking up our friends in Utrecht we pointed ourselves east – driving our little Volkswagon Up through the flat polders of farmland, and finally reaching gently rolling hills and forests close to Hoge Veluwe.
Combining nature and art
Hoge Veluwe exists thanks to a wealthy Dutch/German couple – Anton Kröller and Helene Müller who started developing the estate in 1909. Kröller was an avid hunter, and purchased a significant track of land, which was then managed for game. His wife had a passion for art, and amassed quite a collection of it – especially contemporary art – which includes one of the largest collections of Vincent Van Gogh’s work. The couple was keen to share the combination of nature and art with the public, and – in collaboration with the Dutch government – the couple created a museum for the art on the estate and converted it to a National Park for all to enjoy.
Phil and I had visited Hoge Veluwe before to visit the Kröller-Müller Museum, which is absolutely wonderful. The Van Gogh collection is indeed stunning, covering the different phases of the painter’s short but prolific career, with some of my favorites like the Four Cut Sunflowers and the Portrait of Joseph Roulin. I also remember some lovely Signac and Seurat paintings, as well as a rotating contemporary art exhibit and lovely sculpture garden.
Enjoying the park
This trip, however, was dedicated to getting outside and enjoying the weather. Hoge Veluwe is also famous for its free white bicycles (1,800 of them in total!), which can be borrowed from any entrance to the park, and used to pedal through the many kilometers of bicycle paths that bisect the park’s forests, dunes, heath and fields.
In order to fuel our ride, however, we first stopped at ‘Ijs van Co’ – a little ice cream shop in a town at the north-eastern entrance to the park, called Hoenderloo. We had also stopped here on our previous trip and loved it – this return did not disappoint! The ice cream is homemade soft serve – spooned out with a scoop. It only comes in vanilla, but is so delicious and creamy that it is one of my top-10 ice creams ever…which for me is saying something! 😊
Nature in the Netherlands
Energy and blood sugar levels high, we left the car at the park entrance, and walked a short distance to pick out our white bicycles. The first path we struck out on took us immediately into a lovely coniferous forest, with flitting birds and the sweet smell of pine and moss in the air. The path continued – winding in and out of mixed forest patches and open grassland fields. With the deciduous trees beginning to turn colors for autumn, and the sun filtering through the branches and pine boughs, it was a beautiful, peaceful ride. We stopped quite a few times for pictures, found many mushrooms, fallen acorns and chestnuts, and late season flowers.
When we reached the teahouse at the hunting lodge on the estate – which sits on a lovely pond, we stopped for a break and picnic. Refueled again, we continued on through the rest of the northern section of the park – passing into sandy heath and sand dunes – with many small coniferous trees and pleasant vistas. Here we saw a few of the red deer that the grounds are famous for (though too far away for a picture!) and enjoyed the softening colors of the sky as the sun began to set.
Bicycling past the museum, though too late to go inside, we headed back to the car along a different path. Again, passing through mixed forests and open fields we chatted and enjoyed the passing scenery in the early evening twilight. Back at the Hoenderloo entrance, we parked our bicycles along with the others and walked back to the car – tired but content, with lungs full of fresh forest air and thoughts of nature in our heads.
The ride home passed quickly, and ended in the dark. Everyone seemed happy to be home and cozy, but also to have enjoyed the adventure, so it was considered a success! We noticed that there is a camp ground at the park, and as Phil and I have yet to use the tent we brought all this way, perhaps during our next visit we can stay a little longer, and explore the rest of the park! Until then, we will enjoy the pictures and thoughts, and knowing that such a lovely relaxing place is only an hour away!