Nationaal Park De Hoge Veluwe is a park in the east of the Netherlands towards the German border, by the town of Otterlo. It is famous for both the park itself, which is 55km2 in area, and also for the Kröller-Müller Museum in the middle of the park, which has the second-largest collection of Van Gogh paintings outside of his namesake museum in Amsterdam. I had been meaning to visit here for a few years now, mainly to tick off another of the famous museums in the Netherlands, but also to check out the countryside and see something different to my usual weekend city trips. I was hoping to visit on a sunny day, but the European autumn wasn't cooperating and I was running out of time, so I just chose the least rainy looking weekend available.
The art collection was founded by Helene Kröller-Müller, who was one of the first to appreciate the work of Van Gogh and collect his works, and one of the first European women to put together a major art collection. In 1935 she donated the whole collection to the Netherlands state, and 3 years later the museum was opened in the national park - also owned by Helene and her husband Anton, one of two privately owned national parks in the Netherlands. As well as the Van Goghs, the museum also has a good number of paintings by Signac, Seurat, Picasso, Mondriaan, Gauguin and other impressionists and modernists. I do prefer the Dutch Golden Age painters, but I really enjoyed this museum for a change of pace.
There is a well-known and very large 75-acre sculpture garden attached to the museum, also containing work by a number of modern and contemporary big name sculpters such as Rodin. The Jardin d'émail by Jean Dubuffet (above) looked like it would be fun to run around in, but was closed for winter unfortunately.
After spending the whole morning at the museum and sculpture gardens, I went out to explore the park, in slightly sub-optimal weather. I drove between two of the main sites to see the hunting lodge, which was a very cool looking building but currently closed for renovation. I made some stops on the side of the road to take photos, but realised I was missing most of the good scenery by driving - it is far too big to cover much on foot, but conveniently the park has over 1700 bicycles completely free for anyone to use and ride around. I've hardly been on a bike since I got my driver's license at 15, but I eventually gave in and braved the bike paths. I was a little wobbly for the first km or two, but managed to avoid crashing into anything or anyone, and slowly got comfortable.
I was following one of the two main bike circuits, aiming for one area of massive sand dunes about 5km away, but I misread the Dutch signage and found myself about 7km in the wrong direction before I located myself on a map! I decided to keep going to the sand dunes and back to base around the full 26km loop, but the light was starting to dim, the weather was cold and threatening to rain, and the path I was on was almost empty of other cyclists - I'd left the forest and entered a very exposed and windy section of heath moors. I pushed it a bit further, but eventually found a crossing path for a shortcut back home, and discretion proved the better part of valour this time. I made it back comfortably though - annoyed to miss the sand dunes, but I still enjoyed the landscapes i did explore, and somewhat satisfied not to have crashed my bike!