I live close to a forest but sometimes it’s just not enough to give you an immersive experience in nature. We planned a short escapade from the city to the Hogh Veluwe National Park close to Arnhem. The second reason was to check out the Van Gogh collection at the Kröller-Müller museum located inside the park. Given the unpredictability of the Dutch weather during winter months we thought this place was the best of both worlds: if it started raining any point we’d just hang out in the museum. I am a mountain person; flat landscapes don’t excite me as much but I was willing to take whatever was on offer as long as it was away from an urban environment. What I did not expect was to be completely blown away by what I was about to experience.
As we got closer to that region, we noticed forests along both sides of the highway with all the autumnal reds, yellows, and golds of the trees were shining brightly in the morning sun. Anyone I had spoken to about the trip had spoke highly of the place, even strangers who are swift to tell you how much you’d love something without really acknowledging that fact that they know nothing about you. Now, I was beginning to feel excited. The day had turned out to be nice with no signs of rain and we had made it early enough to experience the nature for a bit before the rain was predicted.
The museum is located about 10 kms from the entrance of the park and the landscape changes quite a bit during this stretch. The forest road turns into a countryside landscape with trees on one side and plains on the other; then suddenly the vegetation disappears into dunes and an almost desert like environment. The museum has free bikes available for their visitors that can be picked up in several places and used on the paved bike paths to explore this huge national park. It’s an excellent way to discover the park while also protecting the nature and its inhabitants from the noise and pollution of cars. The park has marked walking paths where wildlife can be observed and there are huge observation decks in areas where deer, antlers, and rams can be found.
One can easily spend one whole day just exploring the park and even that might not be enough especially during this season when the days are shorter and weather quite unpredictable to walk around without proper rain protection. The upside is the glorious color palette that can only be experienced during the short autumn season we have these days.
Exploring the Kröller Müller museum at the end of our adventure in the woods was the perfect ending to the day. Unlike most famous museums in big cities I quite preferred this modern building that was minimalist in design so that one was able to fully engage with the artworks without the grandeur of the buildings or baroque interiors serving as a distraction. The collection is exquisite and curated according to Helene’s own phases of discovery. In a way the curation takes you through the mind of the curator and makes you see the collection through her eyes. I admire Van Gogh more than any other painters whose works I’ve seen but I wasn’t able to engage with his paintings at the Van Gogh museum the way I experienced them here mainly because of the reason mentioned earlier. Another reason is that instead of going straight to the Van Gogh exhibit we took our time to observe other exhibitions that came before — several other impressionist painters and their fascinating paintings that gave me a lot to think about. Van Gogh was the natural culmination of that sequence.
There is still a big chuck of the museum we have left to explore for the next time with works of Picasso, Mondrian and so many other artists the I didn’t even read the names of lest I get tempted to see them all in one visit. I have enough to process for one visit and a list of artists whose works I am interested in exploring further.
We left the place thoroughly inspired and can’t wait to go back again for another immersion in this perfect combination of nature and art.