There are parts of the Netherlands that can still surprise even native residents of the country. While the west coast is heavily populated, busy and very urbanised, the eastern border regions are refreshingly rural, with lush rolling... well, ok, there aren't any "hills" as such, but plenty of green grass and picturesque barns!
The land in this part of the Netherlands is older, the trees more mature, the waterways more naturally meandering - unlike much of Amsterdam, this side of the country has always been at least a couple of metres above sea level! The towns and cities of this region are some of the oldest in the Netherlands, and the land is fertile and flat and open.
Despite heavy bombing in the war, the regional centres of Arnhem, Apeldoorn and Nijmegen, and smaller towns like Deventer and Zutphen have retained much of their medieval market centres and ancient city walls, redolent with a quiet elegance that belies their more modern descent into ignominy. Spanning major waterways, such as the Rhine and the IJssel, these were once grand trading centres with illustrious histories stretching back beyond Roman settlement.
With the chill of autumn in the air, it was a pleasure to travel through the verdant fields, greeting black-faced sheep and short, fat little ponies enjoying the last of the lush summer grass, and catching glimpses of grand manor houses through the trees.
To cap off an enchanting weekend: the Hoge Veluwe National Park, a wild, mysterious woodland space, a legacy of the lifelong dreams of Anton Kröller and his German wife, Helene Kröller-Müller. Travelling in true Dutch style, quietly and peacefully, occasionally catching a glimpse of red deer or wild boar, revelling in the sounds and smells of nature in its element.
photographs and words by zoë yule.