Home -> Europe -> Netherlands -> Saturday 25 and sunday 26 June 2005

To Giethoorn and looking for castles

On our website we now and then make some remarks about our home country, often stating that we feel much hapier when we have crossed the border and that we think Holland is quite boring compared to other countries. Well, many people reacted to that and most didn't agree. And we know we exagerated a bit. But we therefore decided to pay some more attention to our own country and look at it as tourists. From now on we will also put our short excursions in Holland on the website and this is the first. Next year we have less time for long holidays so we will do this more often.
Via internet we arranged in Beekbergen a hotel for € 50, including breakfast. The first heat wave of this year is over and it is not too warm to be a bit active. The weather forecasts speak of rain but we keep it dry all day. When we drive southwards from home, we end up in a traffic mess at Assen where yesterday the TT has begun, a great international motor race event. We decide to leave the motorway and take the road along the Smildervaart, a long straight canal, to go further.
Our first stop is at Giethoorn, also called the Venice of the North. We are lucky enough to find a parking place near the centre of the village which is further prohibited for cars. Which is quite understandable when you know that there are only waterways and a path for cyclists and pedestrians. The comparison with Venice is quite correct, although Venice is a bit larger and there is no big piazza or cathedral here.
We have both been here before, when we were very little, and when we see the canals, the distinctive bridges and the nice farmhouses, we realise that the reality is still as in our memory. Time doesn't seem to have passed here in, well, 30 years or more.
Giethoorn is situated in the northwest of Overijssel in an area that used to be peat moor. The peat was digged and dried to make lumps out of it which were used for heating. Because of the peaty soil there had already pools and lakes been formed and to transport the peat canals were dug. They are not very wide and most of the canals are just suitable for oneway traffic.
Very nice are the houses which are often build isolated on a small island, very cute. But we are surprised to see that so many of them are for sale. Within 300 meters we count 7 houses. The lowest price is € 250,000, we find out later on the internet, but most are much more expensive. Why would people leave a pretty village like this, because of the tourists, maybe?
Although Giethoorn is just a small village, we walk around for a couple of hours. There is enough to see here, like the beautiful De Oude Aarde (the Old Earth) where minerals and gems are on display. It is not very big but surely worth a visit. And there are lots of galleries and small shops.
Now and then we see people from the neighboorhoud who still wear traditional costumes, but most people are obviously tourists. The sun comes through the clouds now and we can sit outside for a coffee and a brunch. We are just in time since after a few minutes all the tourists seem to follow us to the restaurant where we are sitting.
The best way to explore this village is by boat, with the old-fashioned punts (flat bottomed boats), canoes, whisper boats or by modern canal touring boat. There are many hiking trails and cycling pathways in the area, but you must have luck with the weather. With lots of wind and rain it isn't so pleasant here, so make sure to bring your umbrellas.
After this visit we drive through several small and charming villages to Kampen near the river IJssel and then via Zwolle to Laag Zuthem and Heino, the road that Teije cycled every day in his youth to go to school. This area has changed more than Giethoorn, according to his memory.
And to show Elisabeth that we also have real castles in the Netherlands, we have a look at castle Nijenhuis near Heino; unfortunately, it is closed today for the public. Within is a collection of ancient and modern art. Another time perhaps.
From there we drive back to the IJssel and follow the river valley to Deventer. This is also a nice route, but we don't make as many prictures as we normally do when we are abroad. Maybe we have to get used to the idea that Holland is also worth photographing.
From Deventer we drive to the west to see another castle, Cannenburgh in Vaassen. The 16th century castle is, like the one in Heino, surrounded by water and has square towers. It was build by the commander-in-chief of the army of Gelderland, Marten van Rossem. We are a bit late, so this castle is also closed.
It is time to have a break, so we sit outside at a snackbar to have a traditional Dutch meal, french fries with mayonaise and a 'kroket'. In English this would be a croquette, but we have never seen anywhere abroad something that was like our 'kroket'. It is fried and has some traces of meat in it. Well, we enjoy it and also the sun which makes it really warm now at the end of the afternoon. We have beaten the weather forecast again (as so many time before).
Then it is time to look for our hotel near Beekbergen. The viaducts over the highway are full of people who are waving enthusiastically to the groups of motorcyclists who return from the TT, but we are already there, turn off the highway and check in. A pity that we don't have a balcony, since the weather is still so nice. But it's allright, we are quite satisfied with all that we have seen today and are rather tired, so we go to bed early.

Sunday 26 June, Egyptian sand sculptures and to the Apenheul

We don't have to check out before noon and breakfast is until 11, so we can sleep late and we do. In the background we hear the faint sounds of the highway, but the woods around the hotel muffle the noise into a soft buzz. It is after eleven when we drive away from the hotel.
We go to park Berg en Bos (Mountain and Wood) near Apeldoorn where we want to see an exposition of sand sculptures of ancient Egyptian objects. We are both interested in the old Egyptian culture so this is something we really want to see, since the exhibition is only temporarily. We had seen it on the internet and that became the main reason we are on this trip now. We walk past the long lines before the ticket offices of the Apenheul and go straight to the sculptures.
In a large hall there are great statues, made of special sand, that all have represent objects from ancient Egypt. Sometimes there are replica's of existing statures, sometimes expressions of fantasy that have a certein Egyptian resemblance. We especially like it when we recognise a few things that we have seen for real when we were in Egypt.
Best recognisable is the tomb of Tutankhamun of which we see an exact duplicate: the tomb, the wall paintings and even the colors. To the right the high priest (probably Ay who also succeeded Tutankhamun) who performs the ritual of the opening of the mouth, so the dead pharao can speak and eat again in the afterlife.
Even the sarcophagus and the mummy are here, as well-preserved as in the real tomb which we visited just over a year ago! The biggest difference is that there are much more visitors here than in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor: we were completely alone at the time in this tomb!
We have made many more pictures which you can see on the website of Elisabeth (opens in a new windows). The exhibition is opened until 15 August 2005 (€ 7 entrance fee for adults). The sand that is being used comes from the Ardennes and sticks better than our sand. The artists have also fixated the sculptures to preserve them even longer and make them resistant against the moisture of the air and the visitors.
After this interesting visit we need some coffee, in the sun off course. Again the weather is very nice and warm, it really feels like we are on a holiday. Well, we are, even if it is only for a day and a half.
And then we want to see the Apenheul (a sort of Monkeyworld), we love monkeys, Elisabeth the most. So, this time we cannot escape the long lines before the ticket offices and it takes us 45 minutes to finally get our tickets. It is weekend and a beautiful day, so everyone is coming here. The monkeys are having quite a lot of fun with all these people walking aroun freely.
The park has been divided into sections which separated by water and fences and in some parts the animals are allowed to walk around freely. They climb over and under the people and especially for kids it must be great when a monkey is walking over their arms. The parents seem to be more afraid than their offspring as we notice from their reactions and cries.
The Apenheul has been founded in 1971 as a small animal park and Teije has been here once before when he was a child, but it has grown much bigger since then and there are more species of monkeys living here. For Elisabeth it is her first time, and for long she has wished to visit this park. We both totally enjoy it!
Meanwhile, the Apenheul has become an important centre, not only for the apes, but also for the preservation of these animals and their natural habitat. Research is being done and they contribute to the breed programm of the species that are threatened with extinction. A part of the (quite high) entrance fee goes to special projects that try to save the habitat where the brothers and sisters of these animals live in the wild.
We notice that the animals have much more space than in a normal zoo. Off course, it can't be compared to their natural territory in the wild, but the gorilla's, for example, have a large island where they seem to have a pretty good life.
They also have many opportunities for play, more than we have ever seen anywhere. If they have to live in captivity, than better living in a nice environment with some challenges. We would rather want to see that these animals could live in the wild, but we also understand the importance of a project like this, if only to make us, Westeners, clear how important the rain forests are for this planet and their and our survival.
We spend the whole afternoon between our nephews and nieces and they seem to enjoy it as much as we do. We will surely come back here one day, preferrably with Esmée, our granddaughter, she will love it when she is a bit older (allright, the rest of the family is also invited).
Only when the Apenheul closes, we are ready to leave and we don't have time to carry out our other plans, since there is much more to see and do in the neighbourhood. Enough to come back again one day. And this trip has surely motivated us to do it again, go off for just a couple of days in our own country. So we hope we have shown you that Holland is not only flat and boring but that there are many interesting things to see and do. We are just too used to our own country and have to learn to see it again through explorer-eyes.
© Teije and Elisabeth 2000 - 2017
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with Elisabeth and Teije