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Kroller-Muller museum in the National Park de Hoge Veluwe
l am standing in front of Vincent van Gogh's Evening Landscape with Rising Moon. I can see clearly the thick brush strokes of the famous yellow haystacks and the artist's use of blue paint for the sky. I walk to another part of the gallery and look appreciatively at a Cezanne landscape, then there's a Renoir, a Picasso and a Mondrain hanging on the walls.
But I am not in the Tate in London or the Gugenheim in New York or even the Louvre in Paris, I am at the Kroller-Muller museum in the middle of woodland in Otterlo at the southern tip of Holland.
You can be forgiven for not knowing the Kroller-Muller museum, it isn’t an art gallery that immediately comes to mind - even ardent art lovers have looked at me quizzically when I mention the name, but it has one of the finest art collections any gallery would be proud to own.
It houses the largest collection of Van Goghs in the world, with more than 90 of his paintings including the Coalmining Series and Terrace Cafe and 180 of his drawings. Georges Seurat's Le Chahut hangs on the wall in this light and airy space, as does The Sower by Bart van der Leck.
What is so remarkable about this collection of great Masters, is that it began because of one woman's passion for art. Helene Muller was married to Wilhelm Muller a man who became one of the wealthiest men in the Netherlands through mining and steel in the 1870s. One day her teenage daughter was having history of art lesson by an art teacher called Bremmer, so intrigued she sat in on the lesson and her passion for collecting art began. Under the guidance of Bremmer she began buying art by the new and up and coming artists - Seurat, Picasso, Braque, Gris Cezanne and Van Gogh and embraced how art was moving from realism to idealism. She collected almost 11,500 artworks.
In the 1920s and 1930s the company was hit by the recession, so that the paintings weren't sold off, Helene donated her entire art collection to the Dutch state under the condition that it built a museum to house the works, and so the Kroller-Muller museum was built - not in a town or city but in the heart of the countryside in the middle of the National Park de Hoge Veluwe.
The art isn't just hanging on the white walls of the gallery at Kroller-Muller, it is scattered across 25 hectares of garden, where works are snuck in between soaring pine trees and evergreens and in front of rhododendron bushes, making it one of the largest collections of sculpture in Europe.
I wander along the winding paths and a large granite wall-like structure comes into view. New Zealand artist Chris Booth used boulders, which he cut and wedged into place, to create this wave-like sculpture. Then I come across a large white fibreglass structure with heavy black lines by Jean Dubuffet, which I clamber onto and become part of the art piece.
There are other more conventional pieces including Auguste Rodin's Femme Accruoupie, which just seems to be placed haphazardly along the way and a Henry Moore sits on hill looking down onto the lake where a floating sculpture comes into view. A piece by Barbara Hepworth and Richard Serra are spotted along my way. It is as if I have been immersed in art in this very unique and exquisite place.
I leave the museum and drive through The National Park, which extends over 25 acres of woodland, heathland, meadows and sand dunes. Our vehicle is one of the only ones on the road, most people prefer to leave their cars at the entrance gates and cycle on one of the free white bicycles along the 40 kilometres of paths in this very beautiful countryside.
I meet up with one of the rangers. A tall well-built man with a ruddy complexion who tells me he has been working at De Hoge Veuluwe National Park for 30 years and knows every metre of the woodland. He says he loves his job especially when he gets the chance to hunt wild game - red deer, boar and sheep, and explains that hunting is important to keep the number of animals down.
As I leave The National Park, it is back to life on the fast lane and I travel to Groesbeek, situated in the hills near Nijmegen.
Holland is known for its tulips, cheese, and clogs, but at Groesbeek it is becoming renowned for its wine.
Wine doesn't really come to the tip of my lips when I think of this Dutch country. However, my guide assures me I am going to be impressed with the winery, Wijnhoeve de Colonjes, we are to visit.
We stop outside what I consider to be someone's house. Two dogs bark from behind the gate as I walk up the drive and behind the house I see the regimented lines of vineyards growing in abundance.
Freek Vehovern the owner greets us. He's a tall, well-built man, with a bald head and suntanned skin, dressed in jeans and T-shirt. His upright stance defie s his 66 years.
We sit under a canopy, as the afternoon sun beats down over the vineyard and Freek proudly pours his wine as he tells his story of how he retired at 56 after being a PT teacher at the local university. At the back of his house he had one hectare of land, which he had let go wild. He had a fortuitous meeting with a Swiss wine maker who told him his soil was perfect for growing vines. So in 2001 he and his brother began growing their first vineyard. The wine was a success. Now the vineyard has expanded to seven hectares and he has competed in the biggest wine tasting competition in Europe winning three gold medals for his Corbet Blanc. The wine was light and refreshing with a hint of elderflower.
The following day, I head for the designer outlet centre Roermond, which is the largest in Europe, but I am not here to buy a Gucci bag, Armani coat or bargain from one of the 170 designers, I am meeting a man with a bike - this time with four wheels and it's electric.
This new invention called a FlooW, which looks similar to a go-cart, can reach speeds of 17 mph, but because it has an electric engine it takes over 90 per cent of the power, so peddling is easy.
I take it out for a spin along the river Maas/Roer, then onto the main roads with cycle paths. We turn into a quaint village and go past typical Dutch houses and into St Odieleuberg , where we stop for a break at a bikers' cafe opposite a windmill.Then we travel further into the countryside, passing wheat fields, until we reach Castle Dalenbroeck, a 14th Century manor house situated on the river, which is perfect for lunch.
Being in the south east of Holland - the Lower Rhine region, Germany is just on the border, but there are no border controls along the motorway, and crossing from Holland to Germany is as seamless as going from county to another in England. The only indication is the road signs look different.
We arrive in Kempen, which is often described as 'the pearl of the lower Rhine'. I take a guided tour around this town which was once the centre of textile manufacturing and visit its castle, monestry and typical German-style buildings. Then stop off for a pint of German beer at one of the many buzzing cafes and bars before I set off to the nearby airport - Weez.
How to book:
Netherlands Board of Tourism & Conventions
www.holland.com/uk firstname.lastname@example.org 020 7539 7950
How to get there
Ryanair offers flights to Düsseldorf Weeze from London-Stansted and Leeds Bradford. Flights start from £17.99 one way excluding taxes & charges. For more information and to book please visit www.ryanair.com.
Where to stay:
Scandic Sanadome Weg door Jonkerbos 90 6532 SZ Nijmegen The Netherlands Tel : +31 (0)24 359 7280 www.sanadome.nl
Mercure Hotel Traar Krefeld Elfrather Weg 5 - Am Golfplatz 47802 Krefeld-Traar Germany +49 (0)2151 9560 www.mercure.com/de/hotel-5402-mercure-hotel-krefeld-ex-novotel/index.shtml
Landhotel Voshövel Am Voshövel 1 46514 Schermbeck Germany www.landhotel.de Hotel Papillon Kipfelsberger GbR Thomasstraße 9 D-47906 Kempen Germany www.hotel-papillon.com Hotel Restaurant 'De Wolfsberg'
Mooksebaan 12 6562 KB Groesbeek The Netherlands T: +31 (0)24 397 1327 www.wolfsberg.nl
Where to eat:
Castle Daelenbroeck Kasteellaan 2 6075 EZ Herkenbosch The Netherlands T: +31 (0)475 53 24 65 www.daelenbroeck.nl
What to do:
National Park ‘De Hoge Veluwe’ www.hogeveluwe.nl
Kröller-Müller Museum www.kmm.nl
Floow Bikes www.ecarconnect.com
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