Years ago my husband and I were finally able to take a day off (we had the worst bosses ever – we were both solo-entrepreneurs) and decided we wanted to have a combination of culture, nature, exercise and fun. Preferably all in one place.
We could have gone to Insel Hombroich just across the border of Germany, but another great place where you can have it all is National Park Hoge Veluwe. It’s located in the east of the Netherlands and even on that winter’s day it was beautiful.
Cars are allowed in the park, but are strongly discouraged by an additional charge on the entrance fee. If you have no difficulty moving, it is easy to park the car at one of the entrances and continue on foot or by bicycle. This way you save nature and you see more details of the park.
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Free use of bicycles
The one thing people always remember from this park are the white bicycles that are parked all over the place. The park is 55 square kilometers, so if you want to get back to your car before closing time, it’s pretty handy you can just grab one.
White bicycles are a project of the Provo movement in the sixties. It was a bike sharing system, meant to solve traffic problems and air pollution in Amsterdam. Because they were white they were easy to recognize and you were not allowed to put a lock on them. The same rule applies in the park.
A friend of mine saw 20 yellow bikes in Middelheim, a sculpture garden in Belgium. Being used to the white bicycles in the Hoge Veluwe she took one to cycle around. It turned out to be an authority bicycle, so the guard came running after her to get her off. ?
Three entrances of the National park Hoge Veluwe
The park is 55 square kilometers and has three entrances. You can leave your car at a parking lot and take one of the white bikes. It’s not just nature:
- The Kröller-Müller museum houses (mostly) modern art and has a big sculpture garden. The museum’s design is by the Belgian architect Henry van de Velde;
- Visitor Center, where you can get information about the park and maps with hiking or cycling routes;
- Museon, the first underground museum about nature and its wonders. It’s located in the Visitor Center;
- Hunting Lodge Sint Hubertus, built by the Dutch architect H.P. Berlage;
- Several big sculptures throughout the park.
If you don’t want to take a bike, you can pay an entrance fee for the car as well and drive around. For this freezing cold February morning of our visit we chose to pay the extra fee, so we could take a different gate out and see another part of the park as well.
I have described our morning dwellings in this article on my art website “Appreciating the beautiful Kroller-Muller Museum“. By the time our visit inside the museum was completed the temperature was above zero Celsius and we went outside to the sculpture garden.
A huge sculpture garden where you can walk for hours
Wildlife such as deer and wild boar, can not enter the sculpture garden of the Kroller-Muller Museum which is located in the middle of the Hoge Veluwe because of a solid fence. Thank goodness. Especially wild boar could be quite an attack on the lawns.
There are classical statues by Maillol and Rodin. Modern statues by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. Installations of all sorts. And best of all, there are two pavilions packed with statues.
Aldo van Eijck designed one pavilion, the other one is of the more famous architect, Gerrit Rietveld. A lot of statues were packed in straw that winter day. Maintenance after a snowy and wet winter is a necessity and a difficult task in the wet Netherlands.
A highlight of the sculpture garden is the “Jardin d’Email” by Jean Dubuffet. Usually you can’t touch pieces of art, but this one you are even allowed to walk on. It was closed in wintertime, so we couldn’t get in that day. I used to go on an excursion with my students to this place and occasionally took my son with me. So in the old (analog) photo albums I found a picture of 1981.
We were lucky that the temporary exhibition was about the movement “Arte Povera”, a critical art movement in Italy during the seventies. One of the members was Penone. He is known for finding his inspiration in trees.
Sometimes he uses parts of real trees in his sculptures; the birch, the branches, the leaves. Or he makes a statue that is like a tree. When we walked in one of the lanes, I did see something was different, but I only noticed it was a bronze tree, when I was closer by.
As you can imagine I always had a lot of discussions with my students about “Is something art, or not”. I loved it if they were critical as well and wanted to know or understand what they saw.
Hiking and biking
In the afternoon we hiked and cycled. From the museum we started walking to the north. There is a visitor center that resembles the visitor centers in the American national parks. With the Museon and lots of explanation of the surroundings and – a very important detail – a restaurant where we had lunch.
The Kröller family hired the architect H.P. Berlage to design the St. Hubert Hunting Lodge. It was under construction at that time. That was a bit of a disappointment after the 4-mile walk we did. We sure have a good reason to go back again once we are allowed to travel.
For the way back to the parking lot at the museum we took a bicycle. The hiking and cycling routes are partly separated giving us the opportunity to see yet another kind of landscape. The variety in National Park Hoge Veluwe is fantastic.
I never knew that wild boars make a real mess of the ground. It was unbelievable how damaged the soil looked. Although bushes and trees flourish with this natural overturning of the earth. Wild boars are both a protected species and a pest in the Netherlands. Because they cause damage to crops and traffic accidents, their habitat in the Netherlands is limited to a number of nature areas.
Have you ever seen a landscape, visited by wild boar? Tell us in the comment box.
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