When we get up in the morning and look outside, there is a filled breakfast basket at the door. But the good weather we had hoped for did not continue and we stay barely dry when we eat our breakfast outside at the picnic table. Just like yesterday, we have no idea what we are going to do today. It drizzles occasionally, so it's best to visit a city, and we choose 's Hertogenbosch. We do not take the shortest route, but nature looks a bit gloomy with this weather and the villages are also desolate.
's Hertogenbosch or Den Bosch is also called the pearl of North Brabant, but when we have parked the car we first take shelter somewhere, in a nice cafe where we drink lots of coffee, waitinbg and hoping the rain will stop soon. When it finally gets a bit drier, we walk to the triangular market where a lot of streets come together. The big Sint Jan cathedral is of course dominant. But the Markt itself is the oldest part of the city and here the painter Hieronymus Bosch was born and lived there too.Because of the weather we do not make a cruise through the Binnendieze, but there are also plenty of other things to do, such as the Oeteldonks Gemintemuzejum (about carnival!) or the Noordbrabants museum with a lot of information about Jeroen Bosch (but unfortunately no paintings of him ).
From 's Hertogenbosch we drive to the northern border of Noord-Brabant to view the restored fortified town of Heusden and we start in the harbor, which has been completely reconstructed to restore the town to its original state.Especially during the 80-year war against Spain (Heusden only joined the side of Holland in 1577, 11 years after the war started), the city build the first fortifications and soon gained the reputation of being impregnable. The fact that the area mainly had lived of the war is clear from the fact that the city economiccaly thrived well in wartime and fell into poverty in peacetime. As a result, there was no money to demolish old buildings and so many medieval monuments have been preserved. In the 2nd World War Heusden was heavily damaged by the retreating Germans, but in 1968 a complete restoration plan of the entire city was started.
The town now looks a bit lifeless and just a little too nicely rebuilt, but we can imagine that it is very different with more people on the street and better weather. In the summer Heusden seems to be a real top attraction. Now we are the only two tourists who walk through the narrow streets and even the inhabitants do not show themselves. We run into a restaurant before the rain starts falling again to drink a cup of coffee, where the foreign owner loudly sings along with Dutch songs and just as quickly as we came in we flee again.
We use our navigation to plan the shortest route to Vierlingsbeek and the shortest route usually leads over unexpected (and narrow) roads. It is usually the longest route in terms of time. But it brings us to beautiful places and we see indeednice places along the way, such as the remains of a castle wall and a chapel.
In this way we pass between Bokhoven and Engelen a strange new suburb. From a distance it looks like a gigantic fortress has been dropped into the landscape, complete with fortification walls and watchtowers. It is Haverleij as we find out later on the Internet, which consists of 9 'castles' and 1 bigger stronghold. Finally something daring in housing construction. We often complain on this website there is such a shortage in variety in buildings in the Netherlands. But whether we really like it? In a few years (the project should be completed in 2008) we will look again.
Today we experience a real castle tour, because a bit further we see on the other side of the Dieze our next castle, Meerwijk. This was built in the 19th century after a former castle on this bank was almost completely dilapidated. But it did not have a real castle function; in the 20th century it was a brothel for a long time.At the beginning of the evening we are back at Vierlingsbeek, which is located on the eastern border of Noord-Brabant. The sky is clear now and it also seems to get a bit warmer. But when the sun sets, we retire to our little house and light the wood-burning stove so that it is soon pleasant to sit and read the rest of the evening.
Tuesday 02 May 2006, through the Kempen and the PeelAnd again our breakfast is waiting outside when we wake up. And again we have to think about what we are going to do today. The sky looks gray and a lot of rain is expected. Along the eastern border of North Brabant we drive to the south and first look for the castles in Deurne.
The Little Castle is still standing and is inhabited, but the Grand Castle is a ruin. Originally from the 14th century, but it has been a few times destroyed and rebuilt. After the bombing in the 2nd World War, the municipality purchased the building, but there are no restoration plans. There is a large park behind the castle where it is pleasant to walk.
Then we drive to Helmond, a somewhat larger place. In the center we first drink some coffee and then walk around a bit. Unprepared as we are, we are surprised by the cube houses that stand on a square here, designed by the Dutch architect Piet Blom. We see that the houses are just inhabited, and we are curious to know how it feels living there while the window is slanting outwards.It will probably take some adjustment from your balance organs. Everything is of course straight, but the walls are tilted. Wouldn't that give a lot of space that is not usable, we wonder. But there are no residents to see to whom we can ask, too bad, because we would like to see such a cube house inside. The houses were built in the 70s and ten years later a complex with 38 of such homes was built in Rotterdam, the Blaakse Bos.
Then we continue through the Peel, an area that used to be very impenetrable. The peat was excavated and dried to turf, ditches were dug for drainage and the part that is now the Groote Peel National Park was left to its own fate. It is a nice hiking area, but the weather is getting worse and we find it difficult to take a good picture of the area. Then we better take another look at some towns and villages.
But we have bad luck today. We do not like Best and Eindhoven, unimaginative and colorless. Only the football stadium in Eindhoven still looks like a futuristic building, but the Philips factories can not charm us at all, even though they are so important to the city as a piece of cultural history. It seems to be a great shopping city, but we are not here for shopping. Outside the weather gets even worse and we are looking for a place where we can can sit inside, dry and warm.
But when we return to our house, the sun suddenly shines again and it even feels a lot warmer. Lovely weather to sit outside and when it gets dark Monique joins us and a while later David too. They have built a nice spot here with this house, the circus wagon and a mini campsite in the garden, but they have a new challenge: on to New Zealand to build a life there. We talk until quite late of this (slightly rainy) day, just a pity that we did not take a few more photos.