Yesterday, I was very lucky to meet new friends in Den Bosch. They are cousins to a family friend back home and were delighted to host me for the day. I was so happy to meet them, as Vicki is also a Canadian living here in the Netherlands with her partner Leon.
I took an early train from Breda to nearby Den Bosch, which is short for S-Hertogenbosch. This name translates to “the forest” in English. It is also the capital of North Brabant. I wandered around the city centre for an hour and a half, visited a park with an old nunnery, and saw the morning after a carnival still set up on the streets. I met Vicki and Leon at the train station, and they were so happy to see me – especially, as the train I was supposed to take broke down and all trains to Breda were cancelled for the day.
We explored Den Bosch together and walked around St. Janskathedraal, one of the finest churches in the Netherlands. Building began in 1336 and was completed in 1550, with on-going restorations and updates since then. There is an interesting contrast between the red-brick tower and the ornate stone buttresses. Inside, the late-Gothic stained windows painted the tombs on the stone floor in beautiful rainbows. Many of the original paintings were destroyed, although there were some available to see on the stone walls. There also was a great exhibition about the death of Jesus Christ, which included information, photographs, artwork, and a replica of the cloth that Jesus was said to be buried in. We wandered through the Saturday market, visited an antique shop, and simply enjoyed the beautiful city-scape.
Den Bosch also has unique tunnel canals that are throughout the city. Dates range from 12th century to 16th century. The inner-city waterways are called “Binnendieze”. There are two flood gates, known as Grote Hekel and Kruisbroedershekel. Much of the canals have remained unchanged over the past 800 years. I really enjoyed the canal tour, as I saw street art, beautiful bricks, interesting tidbits (like bat homes to help with the mosquito population), and much more of the stunning city. I was impressed to note that this tour was also accessible for older guests or paraplegic guests. There was a life on the narrow stairs down into the dock. Again, accessibility like this something not seen often in Canada. Before departing Den Bosch, we went to Jan De Groot, a well-known bakery. The best item on the menu is said to be Bosch Balls, which are like a large, round eclair. Delicious! The capital’s animal is a lion, and quite often in my pictures, you may spot lions in the architecture.
Next on my tour, we traveled to the small town of Heeswijk. Winding through beautiful country roads, we saw many farms, corn fields, and cows. My next surprise was to visit Kasteel Heeswijk! This castle is again, very old, and the lord who once lived here was very terrible with his spending habits. The government or bank took this property over later on. In World War 1, a troop of American para-gliders were dropped here to try and take down the fortress. Unfortunately, some of their lives were taken after landing in the moot. Others were rescued by nearby farmers. There is a memorial here for these soldiers and an interpretive walk with many languages available on an app. There was a wedding going on inside the castle, so while we didn’t venture inside, we walked around the property, took photographs, and enjoyed spotting fish and turtles in the moat.
Later on, we stopped by to see my first windmill! It was very tall and had Dutch patriot colours on the face. After being asked to close my eyes, we arrived at a lovely surprise. Vicki took my hand and guided me to stand in a certain area. Upon opening my eyes, I found my left found to be in Belgium, and the other to be in the Netherlands! It was such a kind gesture – and so fun to be in two places at once. This area borders a monastery in Harmont-Achel. The monastery is still operational, and in one area open to visitors, sells homemade brew. This was a common way for monks to make money in the past, and now is honoured as a great tourist attraction. In addition, I learned more about the First World War. There was a huge electric fence built through the property by the German soldiers to fortify Belgium during this time. The monastery then became a battle zone.
Next, we drove over to Postel, or Mol, in Belgium to try “Fry Alley”. There is a parking lot filled with food trucks that all sell fries. And can I just say, belgie fries are the best! It is custom here to cook fries twice and in lard. The center of the fries is soft and the outer shell is hard. In Netherlands, frites go with mayonaise, and belgie mayo is EVEN BETTER!!!! Fun fact for you, in Belgium, they speak Flemish. This is a mixture of Dutch and Belgie.
Other amazing things that I saw included an incredible mural themed after Back To The Future. The stables near Eindhoven where Bruce Springsteen’s daughter practices and rides – which were immaculate. I also learned all about this amazing bike path near Numen, Van Gogh’s home town. The bike path is painted in solar adaptable paint and at night, lights up like the famous Starry Night. Overall, I had an amazing day with new friends. I’ve already been invited for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Glow – an amazing artistic event in Eindhoven.