One thing that I was looking forward to when we moved here was having fall again. I grew up outside Chicago, and when I moved to Texas, I missed a typical fall day – crisp and slightly chilly air, the sound of leaves crunching under my feet, the leaves turning colors and falling, instead of being fried to a crisp and dropping after they’d finally given up. Of course, I neglected to think of some of the downsides to fall, like the darker and grey and rainy days. So whenever we have a sunny, warm fall day like the ones I remembered, it’s imperative that we go outside and enjoy it. This weekend we made a trip to one of my favorite places in the Netherlands – the Hoge Veluwe National Park.
We’ve been to the Hoge Veluwe several times since moving here, first on a whim to see the Kröller Müller Museum, and then the last two times after we realized that the park itself was gorgeous and worth a visit. Their free white bikes are the best way to discover the enormous park – at 5,400 hectares, it’s about a forth the size of Amsterdam, or a little over half the size of Manhattan. They were scarce last weekend, since everyone had the same idea. An upside/downside on the bikes is that they can’t be locked, so when you spot a free one, it’s yours. We spent the first half of our day on foot and then grabbed bikes. Parts of the park don’t even feel like Europe –with its tall grass and craggy trees, it seems more like an African savannah.
The Kröller Müller Museum itself is beautiful – its architecture still seems modern and is lit with natural light. It also has the second largest Van Gogh collection in the world. Helene Kröller Müller, the museum’s founder, was one of the first art collectors interested in his work. It’s interesting to see is how profound an influence relocating to France had on Van Gogh’s paintings. His early work in the Netherlands was dark and often depicted scenes of poverty – compare dark composition of The Potato Eaters to vivid blues and yellows used in Starry Night. Their collection isn’t limited to Van Gogh – it also contains Mondrian, Seurat, Gauguin and Picasso.
A fire damaged the park in the spring of 2014. The museum was evacuated, and all the artwork was moved to a fireproof location. The damage wasn’t visible to us, either because the park is so large, or we were too busy looking up at the leaves to notice.