Travel in the Netherlands

Following in Vincent’s Brabant Footsteps – Neunen

Neunen near Eindhoven, the place to be to walk the walk where Van Gogh once walked, for a couple years anyway.  In 1886, he moved to Paris.

A statue of Vincent Van Gogh located in the park just down the street from the Vincentre

His Neunen period was very productive two years in terms of volume. Some 25%, of his works were created here; the most famous would be, the Potato Eaters (Aardappeleters) series.  Walking around Neunen today, you can see where Van Gogh actually painted, and many of the objects depicted are still there, though not all, like the DeGroot family cottage.

While the De Groot family was paid by Vincent, when he painter the Potato Eaters, they were not impressed with the results.

Do visit the Vincentre in Neunen… …great museum….

Pictures above…Vincent’s parent’s house…located just across the street from the Vincentre

…for getting an understanding of his early career, before he became a painter plus how his works became famous long after he was gone. VanGogh certainly was not famous, while he was alive, as he only sold one painting, The Red Vineyard near Arles. It was bought by another impressionist painter.  Today, you will need to go to Moscow’s Pushkin Musuem of Fine Arts, should you wish to see it.

Plus you will also gain insight on how he became famous after his death and how the Dutch government got involved with VanGogh’s family to ensure his collected works could be preserved and on display.

Certainly don’t miss the video on the third floor of Vincent’s brother Theo’s grandson explaining how they ate dinner with the Potato Eaters(Aardappeleters) painting hanging there in the dining room, Sunflowers and many many other Van Gogh masterpieces on display throughout the house.  And because there were so many paintings, they were NOT allowed to play soccer in the house!

Nearby Neunen…..The Coll Watermill painted in 1884

Yes, Vincent also painted the church in the background as well as the Dutch Reformed church where his father was the parson.

Marken, Monnickendam and Volendam Day Trip

The Marken Express ferry service located on the Markermeer -connecting Marken with Volendam

The Marken Express…..the local ferry going back and forth between Volendam and Marken is evidently geared towards the U.S. tourist as it bills itself as a “World Famous Ferry Ride”. Well, maybe WFIN(World Famous IN the Netherlands), like the local singer Jan Smit, from Volendam. The ferry company’s ship is named after that famous Dutch local singer. But that’s about it.

And while I cannot recommend the ferry, as I have never taken it, I can suggest you take a full day to explore Marken, Monnickendam and Volendam. They are located about circa 30 minutes northeast of Amsterdam in the Noord Holland province.  The last city is probably the most marketed among the three cities. But if you choose to visit only Volendam, then you may go home disappointed, as it certainly is also the one geared up for selling t-shirts, clogs and anything ese that can be shipped in cheap from China.  To appreciate Volendam you need to explore the city and not just, walk along the main tourist street, Noordeinde, located on the water.

Walking tour of Volendam….suggest you explore the streets to get the real taste of Volendam

There you will find a wide selection of shops, willing to dress you up like the locals from a century ago and take your picture and your money. Or you can also choose for a quick bite from a wide variety of Dutch fast food possibilities, while drinking your Heineken.  This street, Noordeinde, is anything but authentic.

If you prefer a quieter less touristic day out, then by all means spend a few hours exploring in and around Marken.  This village was formerly on an island in the Zuiderzee(zee = sea) and is now located on a peninsula on the Markermeer(meer is the Dutch word for lake. I will let you do the homework on this….as to what happened…why the change.)

Explore Marken harbor and the village

And to complete your day trip, spend some time as well exploring Monnickendam.

Waterlands Museum de Speeltoren in Monnickendam

Exploring all three cities would be our sugestion before heading back to your hotel.

NorthBrabant’s Series of “Fortified” Open Air MuseumsZuidwaterlinie

Heusden, a “Vestingstad”, fortified city, located on Meuse river in the Dutch province of North-Brabant

Losing one tenth of your population in a single day, in a single building, in the basement of Heusden’s city hall, early in the morning of November 5th 1944, as the German occupying forces pull out, will never be forgotten in Heusen, a “vestingstad”(fortified city), whose beginnings as an official city date from the 1200s. It should be noted that the first mention of folks living here date from the 700s.  

And the German army was not the first to occupy Heusden. That honor goes to the Normans. They were the first to ransack Heusden in the 800s.

Heusden was also occupied briefly by Spanish mercenaries at the beginning of the 80 years war(1568-1684). This occupation led to the 20 years construction of a fortified city, starting in 1577, given its strategic location on the Meuse river.

Back in November 1944, the German forces decided, while withdrawing, to blow up all of the church towers in Heusden, as well as that of what was considered at the time to be one of the most beautiful city halls in the Netherlands. Blowing up the city hall’s tower evidently exposed a design fall, because instead of the tower toppling over, the building collapsed inwardly, thereby killing 134 of the 160 local inhabitants whom had taken shelter in its basement. Over half of the victims were under the age of 16. To compound this tragedy, the city was liberated only a few hours later by the 5th battalion of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders from the 51st Highland Division.

Today, the inhabitants of Heusden live in what some consider to be a 17th century open air museum, given an extensive restoration project took place, starting in the late 60s, that was inspired by the 1649 version of Heusden.

View from the Governor’s house in Heusden

What was only partially restored in the late 80s was the remnants of Heusden castle. When Heusden became a fortified city, the castle’s defensive purpose was rendered useless given its located within the fortified city. Back in 1860 during a thunderstorm lighting struck the castle’s donjon(tower), where enough gunpowder was being stored, this creating an explosion large enough to destroy the castle. As you can see in the picture below, it is a great playground today!

Remnants of a castle in Heusden that was destroyed in 1860 during a thunderstorm by a bolt of lighting that ignited stored gunpowder. It’s a great playground today!

The Heusden “vestingstad” fortified city lies on the “Zuidwaterlinie” the oldest, longest and historically most used series of defensive works(11 fortified cities, fortresses, dikes, locks) that are (partly) surrounded by inundated areas. More importantly, they can be flooded when needed; usually to a level deep enough to impede infantry, circa 40 cm, yet shallow enough to prevent access by water. It is suffice to say that 17th century defensive tactics were to a large degree useless during World War II.

Pictured below is the Mauritshuis museum, located in Willemstad(North-Brabant province), another fortified city along the “Zuidwaterlinie”,

Mauritshuis museum located in Willemstad in North-Brabant

as well as a shot of the bunkers used by the German occupying forces during World War II.

Remains of the bunker system in Wllemstad, that were used by the German occupying forces during World War II

Both Willemstad and Heusden can be reached driving south from Rotterdam in about an hour by car.

Doesburg’s “Stadsbierhuys” De Waag, the oldest……

The “city beer house” De Waag is the oldest café restaurant in the Netherlands. You can find it in the Hanseatic town of Doesburg, which is located just east of Arnhem near the German border in the province of Gelderland.

De Waag cafe restaurant, since 1478, the oldest in the Netherlands

Doesburg received its city rights in 1237. And just how long has De Waag been around?

Since 1478, although I’m not sure if it was serving mustard soup back when it started.  Evidently Doesburg is the place to be for mustard; it’s roots being traced here as far back as 1457. 

And De Waag is the place to try it’s version of mustard soup, as it has been voted the best 9 out of the last 12 years. Glad I was not here in 2016, the last year it lost!

And when you are done trying the soup, please spend the rest of your day wandering the streets of this historical Hanseatic village!

Walking through the streets of Doesburg

Romantic Hotel Kasteel Daelenbroeck

Castle hotel is built on the foundation of a 14th-century castle and offers its customers a rich history as well as a secluded location. The original castle was built around circa 1310. Located in the most southern province of Limburg near Roermond, hotel “Kasteel Daelenbroeck” celebrated in 2018 its 25th anniversary. Over the years the number of luxury suites has increased to 24 possibilities, yet from the beginning it’s restaurant doors have been open to serving breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as to catering wedding receptions.  

Daelenbroeck Castle hotel and restaurant is located in Herkenbosch near Roermond

Perfect for a romantic weekend, far enough away from the “Randstad triangle” – Amsterdam The Hague and Rotterdam, yet close enough to keep travel time manageable. To find out more about what to do nearby:

View from the courtyard terrace
Quiet breakfast on the back terrace
View from the entrance of Daelenbroeck castle

Kasteellaan 2
6075 EZ Herkenbosch

+31 (0)475 53 24 65