Walking & Bicycling in Utrecht Province –
Walking, (strolling/sauntering) called wandeling in Dutch, is a popular activity. Large nature areas just outside of the city are easily reached by a short bike ride, bicycle racks are available at the entrances. Marked walking trails pass through fields and woods. For multi-day walks, there is an extensive walking network of marked paths, called wandeling routes, throughout the Netherlands.
Throughout the city of Utrecht and out into the countryside and beyond to the whole of the Netherlands is a connected network of bike-ways
Here is a shortlist of destinations that are a short bike ride from our house in Utrecht –
Many city parks. My favorite is Voorveldse Polder, which has a super nice water feature that includes a pond with two small islands reachable by a shaky log bridge on chains, or a child-powered ferry, and a serpentine water channel down a slope into a small estuary at the pond’s edge.
Fort De Bilt, Fort Aan De Klop, Fort bij Vechten and Fort Rhijnauwen close to Utrecht are all part of the Waterline defense strategy.
The Waterline Museum
Kasteel de Haar The largest castle in the Netherlands (click on English)
The popular pancake house, Theehuisrhijnauwen, situated in the middle of the forest of Rhijnauwen with a view over the river De Krommerijn
On really hot days, in the 80’s, (there were a few last Summer), there is a nearby swimming pool, a nearby swimming hole and a good bike ride away is a fantastic swimming area, at a man-made lake called, Maarsseveensche Plassen.
De Stijl Bicycle Route, Mondriaan meets Rietveld is a fifteen mile bike route (one way) linking ten sculptures. The route begins near our house in Utrecht and ends in Amersfoort
For people wishing more energetic biking, there are amazing bike trails to and within the Utrechtse Heuvelrug. The site is in Dutch but there are photos and it’s a starting point for further explorations
Stately Houses on the rivers
Slot Zuylen is one of the oldest castles on the Vecht River. Some history which I translated from the website. –The history of Slot Zuylen begins around the year 1250. Then Steven van Zuylen built a donjon along the Vecht, a square residential tower with walls of 2.70 meters thick. The foundations were dug up during a restoration and are still visible visible on the terrace.
A remarkable resident of the castle was Belle Van Zuylen, a feminist and author with views, centuries ahead of her times. Isabelle Agneta Elisabeth van Tuyll ,was born on October 20, 1740, better known as the writer Belle van Zuylen. She lived in Slot Zuylen until she was 31, usually excluding the winters: the family spent it in the canal house on the Kromme Nieuwegracht in Utrecht.
Compared to other noble girls, Belle had a wide interest. She attended physics classes at Utrecht University (because women were not really allowed to study) and took private math classes. In addition to writing, studying and philosophizing, she was involved in drawing, composing and gardening.
Belles enlightened ideas often clashed with the traditional views of her family and class. She discovered that when she published her first book in 1762: Le Noble, in which she satirically described the stuck habits in the noble environment. When it became known that his daughter was the author of the anonymous published novella, Belle’s father had the remaining copies destroyed to prevent further shame.
Belle also had modern ideas about marriage. She briefly expressed her views in a letter to the Scottish writer James Boswell, who unsuccessfully made her a proposal: “I have no talent for subordination.” He had set a condition for their marriage that Belle would not have contact with other men without his permission. This was not an option for the pressure corresponding Belle. For years she wrote letters with her ‘secret love’ Constant d’Hermenches. She had met him at a ball where she asked him to dance, but her parents forbade her from dealing with it, by the way not incomprehensible: he was married and much older than Belle.
In 1771 Belle finally married the Swiss Charles-Emmanuel de Charrière, the former home teacher of her brothers. Because of his lower noble status, this is not an ideal choice for her father, but a literate man who, moreover, allowed her complete freedom. Shortly after their marriage in the chapel of Zuilen they settled in Colombier near Neuchâtel (Switzerland). Belle has lived there for most of her later life and created most of her oeuvre, although she also lived in Geneva and Paris for periods. The marriage remained childless.
Because French was the language of the nobility and the international working language of her time, Belle wrote all her books in that language. The advantage of this was that it could be read throughout Europe. Internationally she has become known as Isabelle de Charrière. After a period of oblivion, interest in Belle van Zuylen has revived. The publication of her Collected Works (in French), a biography and various Dutch translations make her oeuvre widely accessible. In 2004 she was proclaimed the largest Utrechter of all time and in 2005 her 200th year of death was extensively commemorated.