My pilgrimage through The Netherlands: 500 kilometres, 4 non-hiking- and 23 hiking-days of which 3 were rainy. I crossed 4 provinces (5 if I the count the small part of Flanders in Belgium as well), took 4 ferries, had 5 friends coming over to join me for a day or two, 0 spiders in my tent, saw 2 deers (females), 1 squirrel and 5 lama’s. I slept 8 nights in a bed, paid a visit to 4 friends in Brabant and spend 2 nights at a strangers house.
North & South Holland
My journey started the 24th of March. Blessed with incredibly good weather I walked through the busy city centre towards the green, to the typically Dutch fields with sheep, cows and windmills. North and South Holland were all about grass, birds and water. Water everywhere. From hand dug canals to water landscape nature reserves. From swampy little streams to big big rivers. Due to the water in the air, the nights were cold, my tent soaking wet in the morning and my body stiff as hell. Or maybe that was because of something else. What shall I say.
Brabant really surprised me. A completely different province, a completely different part of the Netherlands. Once you’re below the rivers, it’s the heathlands and their forests that dominate the landscape. Sand dunes, yellow and brown coloured vegetation and cosy cafés in the middle of the forest. Cyclists who drink more beer than water and a dialect which is hard to understand for a hiker from the city. Welcome in Brabant!
To save money, I avoided campsites. This led to some extraordinary encounters and unique bivouac spots. Most of the time I pitched my tent somewhere in a field, the owners didn’t mind at all. “Enough space around here!” Once I slept in the garden of a castle, or well, in the garden of a restaurant that was more or less part of the castle. People were friendly and hospitable. I’m glad my country isn’t as cold hearted as it sometimes seems.
Limburg is the most hilly part of the Netherlands. Most hilly and most religious. This is where I started to feel like a pilgrim, mostly because people assumed that I was on my was to Santiago. But also because of crosses, chapels and churches at the side of the road. I have to admit that it did something, it got me thinking. Not that I ever stop thinking, but the fact that I hiked on such an old path, such a popular and particular route, felt special. I felt the pilgrim-vibe.
On the 19th of April I arrived in Visé (Wezet), took a selfie in front of the church, posted it on Facebook and continued further south. I felt proud, happy and satisfied. It does feel great to finish something. To finish the first part of my journey towards the Balkan, my pilgrimage through the Netherlands.