September 6, Saturday
One of the things we like to do when we visit another country is to rent a car so we can see things in more inaccessable places. It allows us to see things that would not be available if we had to rely on public transportation. We booked our rental car and paid in advance and got a respectable discount for doing so.
We had the concierge at the De Barge Hotel call us a taxi, which for the short distance we had to go was only marginally more expensive that riding the bus. Taking the taxi gave us a major reduction in stress and we thought we would try it again at the next opportunity and see if turned out to be a good strategy.
We arrived at the car rental agency earlier than expected and had to wait a few minutes for the agent to show up. He was early so we got things going right away. He told us that the model of car we had booked was not available so they upgraded us to the next model up, a Peugeot PG 3008. We were disappointed that it wasn’t the Ferrari or Maserati, but it did have GPS, which we had not ordered.
We had decided we were going to keep the car an extra day so it cost more than our original prepaid price, but what the hey. We had the agent enter our destination into the GPS so we would be able to find our way no matter if the device argued with us about the way we wanted to go.
We set off for Anderen, Netherlands. Our first stop, the scenic village of Damme. We got turned around right off the bat and I got worried that renting the car might not have been the right idea after all. But we soon righted ourselves and as we got more and more miles under our belts, the whole driving business got easier.
The streets of Damme were very narrow and confusing and despite Karen’s wanting to drive around the 4 square blocks of the town, we stayed on the main road. From the driving atlas I created before we left home, it was difficult to tell exactly what any particular road was going to be like. We drove on one-car country lanes to full blown interstates. Mostly the route was on freeways and we only had one pesky detour to mess us up. By this time we had trained ourselves to reprogram the GPS so we were able to get around that pretty easily with no extra distance added to the trip.
Our first stop was at the Kröller-Müller Museum situated in the beautiful Hoge Veluwe National Park in the center of the Netherlands, near Otterlo. They have a world renowned art collection and sculpture garden. We had planned to enter the park from the Ottlerlo entrance but the signs and GPS said to go another way and we took them at their word.
We paid the expensive entrance fee and later discovered most of that cost was for using the national park and not admission to the museum.
As it turns out, we were there right at the time the red deer were in rut and the park was crawling with photographers with great big telephoto lenses. We didn’t see any of the deer though. They probably wanted to take care of their business in private.
We were greeted by the museum’s mascot, Meneer Jacques. When we got inside to present our tickets, we realized that we had wanted to buy a national museum pass at the first museum we visited in Holland, which was this one. We explained as much to the fellow at the cash register and he issued us a pair and deducted the admission to this museum from the total. The museum was very modern. In addition to its Van Gogh gallery and sculpture garden it had a travelling exhibit of pointilism great, Georges Seurat.
We hadn’t eaten since breakfast so I had a ham sandwich and Karen had a Brie and honey sandwich in the museum cafe.
There were beautiful things to see both inside and out and we made it through the museum proper, but the sculpture garden was quite extensive so we only saw part of it. We knew we would not be able to do it justice. Besides, we were only half way to our destination.
We had to go through the small town of Rolde on our way to the even smaller town of Anderen, our destination. Rolde was having some kind of local festival and had all the main streets blocked off. We asked one of the guys manning the barricade if he spoke English so we could ask him what to do. He said he spoke a little, but it soon became apparent that his grasp of English was no better than my grasp of Dutch. After a ten turn list of uninterpretable Dutch street names, we just nodded our heads, “Uh huh”, drove out of his line of sight and reprogrammed the GPS.
The last few miles into Anderen were along magnificently beautiful country lanes.
Anderen also is only a few blocks square and we didn’t see any evidence of retail establishments. Our hotel, ‘t Heinenhoes Droomhotel, was a bed and breakfast type, run by Dick and Sandra van der Es. Dick prepared the meals and we only saw him once when Sandra was really busy bringing food to the tables in the evening. Just about all our contact was with Sandra. The room was very pretty. They did not have a fan, by the way, so I had a couple of days of less than perfect comfort.
We had dinner in the hotel dining room that evening. The starter was salmon and shrimp salad, with steak, carrots and beets for the main course, and apple crunch with ice cream for dessert.
We were pretty tired after our long drive and went to bed about 10:00.
September 7, Sunday
We had breakfast in the dining room the next morning that included fruit, a boiled egg, cheese and meat tray, and homemade breads and jams. In the bowl of fruit were some little red berries. I asked Sandra what they were because I had never seen them before and she said they called them “red berries”. Oohhh. That helps.
Our purpose for coming to this locale was to see two things: hunebedden, megalithic burial mounds, and bog mummies. Out of the 53 hunebedden in the region there were two that we had chosen to see. One was at the Hunebedcentruum, an interpretive center (also on our list of sights) and was the largest one in the Netherlands. The other was dolmen D49 and had been partially reconstructed in 1959 to give you a better idea of what they would have looked like when their builders constructed them about 5500 years ago.
We set out bright and early for the Hunebed Center but when we got to the next town, Eext, as we were driving through we saw a hunebed right by the side of the road. We decided to stop and have a look. Dolmen D14 is a fairly well preserved hunebed and the first one we had actually seen. It is in a lovely, remote setting. One of the signs explained that even though it has been illegal to desecrate hunebedden for a couple of hundred years, that has not stopped later people from using them as a handy source for building materials. A couple of the stones have a series of indentations along their edges where someone blasted the stones with gunpowder to split them apart.
The Hunebed Center was our next stop. It is fairly modern and quite nice in its presentation of the subject. When we got there they were having some sort of local market so it was a little busier than it would normally have been, but we found a parking place pretty easily and the market only added to the interest of the place.
We were happy to find that all the displays were in English as well as Dutch. One of the things the center has is a reconstruction of what a small village might have been like. This picture of me shows a typical house with a barn in the background. The signpost in front of me has an arrow pointing to “dorp”. That means village and is the same as my name “Thorpe” in Dutch.
Our last hunebed was the partially reconstructed Dolmen D49. The construction of a hunebed consists of two rows of standing stones running parallel to each other for the length of the tomb with a series of capstones that formed the roof of the burial chamber. Smaller stones form a ring around the chamber and served to form a limit for the soil that was heaped over the stones to make the mound itself.
The other big thing we wanted to see were the bog people at the Drenthe Museum in Assen. Bog people were victims sacrificed and “buried” in peat bogs about a couple of thousand years ago. The best example is Tollund Man from Denmark. This museum has Yde Girl and several others. Some people say Yde Girl is the second best one. We went in and the woman in the information booth asked if we were there to see the mummies and we said yes. She said it had closed just the week before and we were sorely disappointed to hear it. But something in the way she said it was a little strange and I asked if their mummies were part of the bigger exhibition and had gone on with the rest of them or were still there. She said she didn’t know but if they were still there, they would be in the archaeology section. We went there right away and joy for joy, there they were. This museum did not have Dutch/English signage so we asked a woman who had as much interest in the bog people as we did if she spoke English. She said she did and I asked her if she could translate the sign for me. It was very nice of her.
We had apple tarts and drinks in the cafeteria and headed back to the hotel about 4:00. Around supper time at dusk we had a little stroll around the place and captured a picture of this charming hotel.
For dinner we had a starter of ham, cheese, honey and figs with frizzee salad. Our main course was poached salmon with white sauce, mashed potatoes, steamed spinach, sautéed veggies (peppers, eggplant, and mushrooms etc.). Dessert was peach pie topped with whipped cream and strawberry ice.
September 8, Monday
We had originally planned to get up early and drive to Groningen to return the car, but we revised our plans a little to do some of our activities on the way back. This added an extra day to our car rental but we figured it was worth it.
We left about 9:45, set the navigation unit and were getting along quite well, when we decided to stop for gas. That was when Karen realized that she didn’t have her iPad. We called the hotel and had them check to see if she had left it in the room. She had. This was the first time we had used the international phone that we bought from Mobal before we left. We were glad to find out it worked just fine. We turned around and returned to get the iPad. We were on our way again at 11:18.
We arrived at Bourtange about noon and toured the fort. When we were doing our trip planning I noticed this strange pattern in Google Maps. Zooming in, I realized it was a fort from the 1700’s and since it was close enough, it was worth the drive over. There is a little town in the center of the ramparts and it is just like it was when the fort was built.
There were 4 buildings that were open to the public. They said make sure to go to one of them because a video there told the story of the fort. We settled in only to find out the video was all in Dutch and meaningless to us. The other buildings were pretty interesting however. We had lunch in the square and headed out.
Germany was only a mile or two away so we drove there briefly just to be able to say we had been to Germany too. The drive to Groningen was uneventful. We returned the car to Europcar and had them call us a taxi to take us to the train station…