Hooray for the weekend! I have big plans. They include a three-day getaway to the Oregon Coast (whose virtues we’ve already discussed) and not wasting two hours at Sex and the City (which Betty and I expressed doubt and concern about, just based on the trailer). I’ll be trip planning for my upcoming adventure at Dutch language school.
Trip planning used to stress me out. Now, I love it, because let’s face it–when novelty is a key reason for why you like to travel, there are no wrong answers. Take, for example, the Dutch national park, which I may or may not include in this trip. It’s famous for its free white bikes, shown above. (Notice how they’re not locked to anything?)
But the first time I went, on assignment for the Travel Company That Shall Not Be Named, I wasn’t quite so sanguine.
I wasn’t sure to expect. The Netherlands is a tiny country, so I knew that it wouldn’t be Yellowstone.
I took the bus to Otterlo, the closest town to the national park, which didn’t seem all that remarkable at first glance.
Then I noticed this sign.
Except–hello, my fellow Americans–it dates from 1150. Eleven. Fifty. And that’s not even a big honking deal.
Anyway. When you’re paid to travel for a living, it can be easy to feel like a big shot. Look at me! I’m livin’ the dream!
This is absurd, of course. The downside of novelty-seeking is that everything is actually new to you. Which means, by default, you don’t know anything about it.
I had read about the famous white bikes of Holland’s national park. Walking from Otterlo in the general direction of the park, feeling a little uneasy, I decided that this place was probably where the white bikes could be found, since “fiets” is the Dutch word for bicycle:
Um, no. I hadn’t walked far enough. I didn’t want a sketchy little garage.
I wanted this:
Slightly different, no?
The park itself was amazing. What started out seeming like a forest became sand dunes, and then–even in the middle of summer–because something like the tundras and vistas I associate with Betty’s incredible photos of South Africa.
Does that look like northern Europe to you?
In this case, it’s the Kröller-Müller Museum, a temple to modern art dropped there by two Germans (hence the umlauts in the name).
Inside were stacks of incredible art, including the second biggest collection of Van Goghs (second only to the…you guessed it…Van Gogh Museum).
Sure, why not? Just another day at the park in the Netherlands.
Dappled sunlight, a bike ride or two, and a maybe a snack. Oh, and masterpieces keeping you company on your way out.
The Dutch really do have this quality-of-life stuff figured out.
I still haven’t decided whether to go back or not. It’s an incredible place, but the search for novelty might push me in new directions, rather than returning to the park. Stay tuned.