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Monday, April 14, 2014

Hiking through History

Drenthe Trail
160 KM of hiking. Ten days. Fifteen kilo packs. Two blisters.
We did it.
And it was fun. 
Mostly it was fun because we took it easy. We slept in, had a lazy breakfast and still headed out on the trail by about 9 AM each day. No rush, no race.
We stayed with the ‘Friends On Bikes’ accommodations which are just like B & B’s and allowed us to stay in different Dutch homes, meeting interesting people. 

 We also stayed in a few small hotels and we enjoyed roaming the villages, visiting the bakery, sampling typical regional dishes.
Holland may be a small, densely populated country but in Drenthe it is still very green and very quiet. There were days when we barely met other people on the trail. 

We visited the very cute village of Orvelte, which is more like an open-air-museum with its historic farms. There is a glassblower, an antique store, a cheese maker and much more. We toured a historic farms full of furniture and household items of at least a century ago. The tour included a very nice movie about the village and life as it has been here during the ages.
Orvelte
This village is high on our list of recommendations, but only during the shoulder seasons. In high season it’s supposed to be very, very crowded!
Quiet lakes and fields of heather

Several times while hiking across the moors and heather, we met large flock of sheep. No shepherd, just a very special local breed of sheep on skinny legs and with long tails. These sheep help keep down any invasive species and promote the growth and expansion of the heather.  
We also found large Highlander steers and cows with enormous horns on our path. The drawback of hiking in April was the fact that farmers were spreading manure. The smell was often overwhelming. We only had 2 days of rain so can’t complain. It was a sunny, early spring in Holland.
Highlander
Ancient house, rebuild
Concentration camp Westerbork
























On one of our last days of hiking we entered the Westerbork concentration camp area: an area where Jews were interned and from there shipped to extermination camps by the Germans during the war. It is an impressive and, of course, very depressing area but important to be preserved as a reminder of the horrors of war. While we were there, hundreds of school children visited the Museum. 















One of our favorite events was being in a small village (Dwingeloo) while an age old tradition was going on: Palm Pasen or Palm Sunday, the week before Easter. The children of the town all showed up for a parade with wooden crosses, decorated with garlands of candy and flowers, crepe paper and topped with a rooster made of bread. When I was a child I made the same cross and joined a similar parade. It was fun to see this tradition continue. 
Palm Sunday Parade

We completed about half of the Drenthe Trail and hope to hike the remainder soon. Next time I will carry much less weight and will make do with fewer clothes etc. The best piece of clothing I brought on this trip was a large scarf. It served as blanket in the plane, as shawl when it was cold and as head or shoulder cover in churches and mosques.















Our hotel has stuffed animals on the beds!
Our last night in The Netherlands is spend in a very futuristic hotel at Schiphol Airport: http://www.citizenm.com
Decorated in black and red, the lobby feels as if you walk into the future. The staff and technology reminds me of a Mac Store, the compact rooms of IKEA. One remote controls the blinds, lights, temperature and TV. Our view from the kingsize bed is directly onto the runway! The hotel states that:

citizenM is a new breed of international hotel, welcoming the mobile citizens of the world- the suits, weekenders, explorers, affair-havers and fashion-grabbers.

Hhmm... wonder which catagory you would put yourself in?
For now, we are headed home after an amazing two months of exploring. We can’t wait to hug the grandbabies, play with them and show them what we brought back.


But stayed tuned! Next month: China.

A sign we'd like to see in more places!








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