About an hour’s drive from Amsterdam you get to one of the largest continuous nature reserves in the Netherlands. The De Hoge Veluwe National Park lies between the towns of Apeldoorn, Ede and Arnhem in the province of Gelderland.
Geologists and geographers will keep you busy for hours on end about the geological history of De Hoge Veluwe. It once (somewhere at the end of the last Ice Age) marked the end of an enormous glacier that created and formed this beautiful piece of land. I won’t go into too much detail – rather read the Wikipedia article online. Because, although nature’s beauty is here at its best (certain parts reminded me of the Highveld and even the Karoo), we visited this park of about 55 km2 for a completely different reason: Between the woods, grass and veld, the second largest Van Gogh collection in the world is nestled away in the Kröller-Müller Museum.
You can reach the museum in one of two ways: Either you pay the additional amount for your car and then drive through the park on your way there, or you can climb onto one of the world-renowned (and free!) white bicycles and discover the park on your way to the museum. Well, in the Netherlands you do as the Dutch do, so there we were: each with his/her own white bicycle, ready to pedal.
But the weather decided differently and the clouds opened up over us. So, a bit embarrassed, we went back to the gate to fetch the car and continue the journey warm and dry (we parked a healthy 10 km from the museum, just in case someone thinks we were simply too lazy to cycle!).
The museum is breath taking, to say the least. Of the 90 Van Gogh paintings and 180 sketches, at least 40 are exhibited at any given time (the collection rotates). The whole Van Gogh Wing was built for this purpose. Highlights included Sorrowing Old Man (“At Eternity’s Gate”), Four Sun Flowers Gone to Seed, The Potato Eaters, Terrace of a Café at Night and, obviously, Country Road in Provence by Night.
Astronomers found that the positions of the stars in Terrace of a Café at Night are exactly those of the stars over Arles, France in the middle of September 1888. And of course there was a number of self-portraits, as well as well-known portraits the likes of Madame Ginoux and Joseph Roulin. Another highlight for me was Vilmos Huszár’s painting Vincent, which depicts a sunflower and he dedicated to Van Gogh.
Drunk from all the Van Gogh colours, we then explored the museum’s sculpture garden: More than 160 sculptures of all different styles, media and sizes. You can also philosophise about the level of artiness of some of these creations, but then again – to each his own. Two great favourites still are the white duckling floating around aimlessly on its little pond, as well as the range of busts (in copper!) depicting humans with animal ears, horns and antlers (like a fairy tale!).
Unfortunately, the weather once again interrupted and we couldn’t criss-cross the whole sculpture garden. But next time, definitely!
* Buy a Museum Card if you plan on taking a cultural tour through the Netherlands – it saves you a lot of money and is valid for 31 days from the date of purchase. This card gives you free access to the Kröller-Müller Museum (although you still have to pay to access the reserve).
* If you like peaceful days at museums, try visiting the museum on Fridays.
* You may take pictures in the museum, as long as your camera’s flash is turned off.
* Take a raincoat if you plan on criss-crossing the park on a bicycle (and the weather doesn’t want to play along!).