Eastern Holland

September 14. I woke in my comfy attic room complete with skylight and basked in the rain hitting the windows. Today was errand day. Coosje needed to pick up her driver’s license at the city hall where Roel had worked in environmental remediation and advisor to the mayor for over 25 years.  In the lobby there was an art exhibit, whose tradition he had started.  The receptionist was happy to see him, as he is a lovely person and lights up the room when he enters.  And as he has just retired, I’m sure she misses his presence.  From there we headed to a second hand store.  I desperately needed walking shoes, as mine were completely destroyed.  They were closing at 1pm, so I had 4 minutes to run in and find a pair.  Intuition told me to check the men’s section, as the women’s had nothing useful.  Sure enough, there were some sturdy court shoes which looked up to the challenge.  I am not easy on shoes! We drove through Geesteren and Gelselaar, two small traditional villages in the municipality of Overijssel to Erves Brook, a lovely traditional farmhouse turned restaurant.  Sitting in front of the big fireplace, we ordered traditional crepe-like pancakes filled with delicacies.  I ordered very heavy fare of potatoes and bacon.  Yikes.  I felt like I’d sink like a stone if tossed overboard.  The place was decorated with items common to any farmstead, including a tiffany stained glass lamp which provided the sole light in the room.  We headed back home, and I had the afternoon to kill. It had started raining, and I decided to head to Ruurlo, a lovely castle complete with moat and orangerie with an interesting exhibit of Carel Willink, Dutch master of magical realism.

The history of Ruurlo Castle is inextricable from the history of the noble Van Heeckeren family, who managed the castle and the estate from the beginning of the 15th century through to 1977. It was mentioned in archives as early as the 14th century when it was a fief of Count Reinoud I of Guelders. In the 15th century, it passed into the hands of Jacob van Heeckeren, the founder of the noble and distinguished knightly family of Van Heeckeren. One of them, William van Heeckeren van Kell (1814-1914), was director of the King’s Cabinet and Minister of Foreign Affairs. The castle stayed in the family for more than five centuries.  A large part of the present castle dates from the 16th and 17th centuries. The estate is home to a lovely orangery from the late 1800s, which was rebuilt after destruction in the war, and a famous maze, which was declared the world’s largest by the Guinness Book of Records in 1996. The maze was created by Lady Sophie van Heeckeren in 1890.

I think the surroundings were much more interesting than the art for me.  I liked the renovated rooms in the castle, juxtaposed with the remains of the original architecture, more than Willink’s art, which I found depressing. After perusing the rooms, I walked the grounds, and got thoroughly soaked.  I liked the gloomy atmosphere, and decided to return another day to find the maze.  Coosje had recommended walking along De Boomkamp, a lovely greenway, and I ended up having an interesting conversation with the chef at the restaurant, who was very eager to describe the latest renovations and additions they had made to their offerings.  I returned back to Eibergen and had a nice meal with my friends.

September 15.  Roel and Coosje departed for Amsterdam to attend Roel’s mother’s funeral.  He was the main speaker and had spent several days coordinating with numerous siblings regarding the memorial.  I decided to head to Deventer, though didn’t get out till 11am or so because I was working on the computer.  I found parking near the old town gates.  Deventer is famous for their gates, for which they were very proud.  It is a very pretty town, and was important because of its location along an important trade route crossing river Ijssel.  I walked through the old narrow lanes to the city hall and discovered a beautifully-apportioned history museum which unfortunately had no information in English.  From there I craned my neck to take in the Great Church (St. Lebuinus Church), and discovered a hidden courtyard through an archway with a lovely ambience.  On the way back to my car I discovered a museum of music, again all in Dutch, which the curator explained contained a document which may prove that Beethoven was born in Deventer, rather than Bonn, Germany.  His grandfather, whom he idolized, was from the town.  The museum housed an impressive collection of pianofortes, collected by a Dutch couple in Amsterdam. 

From there I headed to Bronckhorst, known as the smallest village in Netherlands.  It is very quaint, and can be completely traversed by foot in a matter of 15 minutes.  The sun was setting, casting an especially pretty glow on the rain-soaked surroundings and traditionally-constructed farm houses.  Without knowing it, I walked to the spot where an ancient fortress had been built, then found a lovely still-working windmill.  From there I drove back towards Eibergen, and happened on the Borden-Hackfort Manor.  There are many such chateaus and villas in this part of Holland.  There I saw the last rays of the sunset, and took some photos of the mists that were already encompassing the moors around the manor.  There is a farm fresh restaurant located in the manor’s stables, and I walked through their extensive vegetable gardens, impressed by its size and diversity.  Walking back, I enjoyed walking across the lit-up foot bridges passing over the myriad streams around the manor, and made my way back home.  I stopped and visited with a lovely Turkish woman who ran the restaurant Aydin in Eibergen.  She has a non-profit which set up a school for orphans in Africa, and she plans to move there one day.  I was impressed by her determination and sacrifice.  She almost died of malaria twice after visiting the school.  I made sure to call my mom and wish her a happy birthday.  She was glad to hear from me and we had a nice repartee.

September 16.  I spent the day working on my blog.  When Roel and Coosje returned, I edited the presentation of his pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella, which he was to present at the Sunnyvale UUFS church (where I attended with my parents as a child) on his upcoming trip to California in October.

September 17. It was Sunday, and they invited me to attend church with them.  I felt very lucky to join them, for this Sunday it was held in the barn of a dairy farmer, who is a church member.  Every year in September, their church has a Sunday service in a church member’s farm.  It was funny to have the sermon (of course all in Dutch) punctuated by the moos of the captive cows.  The stench of manure was very strong, and one of the cows practically licked the speaker to death.  Coosje couldn’t stand the smell, as she has pulmonary issues, and spent the entire service outside. I found out that the owner’s son, a lovely young man, had almost died of cancer and had been in the hospital for months if not years.  By some miracle, he not only survived but is cancer-free, and was doing magic tricks for the young people.  I asked him to show me some tricks, which he did.  After the service I walked around a bit, then we rode our bikes back home.  From there, Roel and I walked to his friend’s house, Ronald, who had developed the LAEQ technology, involving the use of a laser calibrated at a particular frequency which is inserted in the nose to aid respiration. I found out about it because Coosje has used it for 6 months, and found it useful. I decided to purchase one, and was impressed by the anecdotal information about a man with bad lung issues who had markedly improved.  The hospital in Amsterdam is doing some studies on the use of the laser as a result.

Roel and I took a nice walk in the forest near his home, and he pointed out places where he had done remediation, mostly involving wetlands.  We met a couple, who knew him from his work, and then made our way to the fair, which seemed to be a combination of educational information about environmental issues, tractor show, and artisanal and homemade items.  After a look around, we headed back home.  I went back to talk with my new friend at the Aydin restaurant.  It was my last night with my friends in Eibergen.  Tomorrow I would be heading to Friesland, northern Netherlands, via Zutphen.  I had a nice meal with Roel and Coosje, and did some more editing of his presentation.



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