Baarn – Soestdijk Palace
Jacob de Graeff, mayor of Amsterdam, built around 1650 a countryhouse along a road - ‘Zoesdijc’ - between the villages of Baarn and Soest, which was called ‘Hofstede aen Zoestdijck’. Stadholder William III bought the manor in 1674 and used it as a hunting lodge.
Many members of the family of Orange-Nassau lived in ‘Soestdijk Palace’ till 1795 during the French invasion, when it was seized as a spoil of war. The building then was used by French soldiers. In 1815 the Prince of Orange, later King Willem II, was presented ‘Soestdijk Palace’, in recognition of his services at the Battle of Waterloo. The palace was expanded by adding two wings, the northern or ‘Baarn-wing’ and the southern or ‘Soest-wing’.
Many years the palace was only used as summer home by members of the Dutch royal family. After the investiture of Queen Wilhelmina ‘Soestdijk Palace’ was regularly used again. Her mother, Queen Emma, used the palace as a summer home until her death in 1934. After her death the palace was renovated so Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard could make it their home after their marriage in 1937. ‘Soestdijk Palace’ became in 1948 their official residence until both of their deaths in 2004.
Pending a decision about its future - the Government Buildings Agency is looking for a suitable new function - ‘Soestdijk Palace’ is a kind of a museum and it is possible to visit the building and the surrounding gardens. If you intend to visit the palace, check their website if it is still possible. And also take a look at the opening hours, because they are quite limited.
Tickets are available on the internet, but also at a ticket office at the entrance, nearby the car park (not free). There are also tickets available only for the garden/park.
We did know the palace from many TV-broadcasts and once it was open for public we were interested in a visit. We waited till self guided tours were possible (guided tours are not our favorite).
The outside of the ‘white’ palace is still quite impressive, but I have to admit the inside was (a little bit) disappointing. Only the basement and the ground floor are open for the public and almost all personal belongings and furniture are removed from the palace, which make many rooms rather empty. On many places the building appears rather dated and not well maintained. It is certainly not one of those sumptuously decorated palaces, which we have visited elsewhere.
Still there were a couple of interesting rooms - especially the working rooms of Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard with a view towards the garden. On many places complemented with historical photos of royal life at the palace.
Afterwards we strolled in the garden around the huge pond - with great views of the back of the palace - and along a playing house of the princesses; must be a lovely walk during springtime with numerous blooming Rhododendrons. Don’t forget to take a look at the water tower - one of the oldest of the country/late 17th century - nearby the entrance.
The palace has a (little) gift shop with ‘royal gifts and a café/restaurant in the Orangerie.
Was it worth the money (it is a rather expensive sight) ??
For us: yes, because we got at least an glimpse of royal life in Soestdijk Palace. However can imaging that foreigners - not having warm feelings with the House of Orange - would be disappointed by a lack of attractive furnishing, decorations, paintings, art works and so on.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
- Castles and Palaces
Huis Doorn - in the footsteps of Kaiser Wilhelm II
‘Huis Doorn’ was first mentioned in the year of 838 as ‘Villa Thorhem’. Later this ‘Hof Doorn’ was owned by a deanery. Around 1200 the castle is owned by the dean of the cathedral itself and used as monastic grange. The oldest parts of ‘Huis Doorn’ are dating back to the end of the 13th century and (most probably) built by dean Adolf van Waldeck. In 13 22 the castle was completely destroyed and rebuilt twenty-five years later as a moated seat.
In the following centuries the castle had many owners and was often renovated and expanded. At the end of the 18th century it was converted into an elegant country house, still with a moat. The surrounding park was laid out as an English landscape garden.
At the end of World War I the last German Kaiser Wilhelm II fled to the neutral Netherlands, where he was given political asylum. After a stay in Castle Amerongen he bought ‘Huis Doorn’ in 1919. After extensive alterations he finally moved to Doorn in May 1920, where he lived in exile until his death in June 1941. He is buried in a mausoleum in the gardens.
After the German occupation in World War II, the house was seized by the Dutch government as hostile property. Nowadays - still owned by the government - it houses a museum about World war I and the life of Kaiser Wilhelm II in ‘Huis Doorn’.
Normally ‘Huis Doorn’ can only be visited with a guided tour. Just on the first and third Sunday of each month one can freely walk around in the house and ask questions to one of the (many) friendly and helpful attendants. We visited on Boxing Day and could also walk free around.
After buying a ticket at the gate building (with also a gift shop and a tourist info centre) we had to walk - 500 m. - through the beautiful park to the entrance of the house. ‘Huis Doorn’ has three floors and twelve rooms, all displaying the early 20th century interior from the time when Kaiser Wilhelm II lived in the house. The interior has not been changed since the former emperor died.
One of the attendants told us that all the furnishing was transported from his German palaces in fifty-nine train wagons. Only a part can be exhibited in the several rooms: kitchen, dining room, bedrooms, smoking room, sitting rooms, the Kaisers working room. Furniture, paintings, porcelain and silver, tapestries, art work and much more gave a very good impression about the lifestyle and imperial taste and the rich past of the House of Hohenzollern.
On our way back we walked along the mausoleum, had a coffee in the Orangerie and visited the former imperial garage, which now houses a museum about World War I, focusing on the Netherlands and the Great War (be aware you do need an extra ticket).Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
Soesterberg - National Militair Museum
The ‘Nationaal Militair Museum’ (NMM), open drom December 2014, is combining two previous army and air force museums. It is located in a huge brand new building on the former airbase Soesterberg. Inside it has two floors and outside are also some planes exhibited.
We visited with our grandson and looking at the number of cars on the parking place, we ere afraid the museum could be overcrowded. But once inside there was no problem at all, because the exhibits do have a lot of space.
The ground floor gives a very good impression of the weapons used by the Dutch army from the Middle Ages till the present times; varying from armors, antique cannons, horse drawn ambulances to armed vehicles and tanks. There is also an amazing number of airplanes and helicopters exhibited.
In the middle of the ground floor is the so called Xplore area, with a lot of interactive activities for children: a real 360-degree F16-simulator, the inside of a tank, the feeling of a pilot and much more. For children there are outside more vehicles to climb and they can try to conquer an assault course.
The first floors houses the ‘Schatkamer’ (Treasury Room) with rooms wit paintings, old uniforms and medals, audiovisual presentations, stories of soldiers and much more. Have to say that we hardly visited this part of the museum, being less interesting for our grandson.
NMM has an Espressobar and a restaurant, where one can have a drink, snack, sandwich or a classic Dutch soldier menu, called ‘Rats, Kuch en Bonen’. There is also a gift shop.
Entrance fee: less than € 10,-, parking is spacious and free
Information and signage are bilingual: Dutch and English
Opening hours and entrance fee: see website
More pictures: http://www.ruudleeuw.com/soesterberg-nmm.htmRelated to:
- Museum Visits
Amersfoort, seen from the water
Although quite an old city Amersfoort is less well known than a lot of other Dutch cities. I don’t just understand, because it is such a nice and pleasant town, which has a lot to offer to visitors.
Perhaps the best way (or at least one of the nicest ways of exploring is by a boat trip. We were very lucky catching one of these warm and sunny September days when we made our boat trip. It was absolutely relaxing on the water, no other traffic, trees with the first (yellow) signs of autumn and great views on the old monumental buildings along the moats and canals.
Quay-walls are full with plants and flowers; the guide told us there are 250 different species, among them several which are on the ‘red list’ of endangered Dutch plants. Must be a bonus when they are flowering !!
We did the so called ‘Westroute’ through a couple of canals around the inner city, passing bridges and water gates. About half way the trip we had to walk (‘klunen’ we say in Dutch) to change into another boat. During this short walk we passed the so called ‘muurhuizen’; these wall houses are typical for Amersfoort and built on the defence wall when it was no longer needed.
There is a volunteer organisation (Stichting Waterlijn) offering several different trips (if you like it you easy could do a couple of them in one day). Be aware they use smaller open boats; best thing is to make sure the weather is appropriate for such a trip. Every boat has two volunteers: one ‘captain’ and a guide who knows almost everything about Amersfoort, not overdone but very informative.
Season of the boat trips: from May1 till the end of October.
There are several different boat trips, some of them are not serviced every day.
Admission: € 4,- for adults for one trip.
See also website.Related to:
- Sailing and Boating
- Historical Travel
Cycling routes along Roman border (Limes)
About the Limes (Roman border). Part of it in Germany has become a Unesco World heritage site. But in The Netherlands there is little to see. Utrecht visualised the location of the castellum Traiectum in November 2007 by a broad band of coloured light, near the Dom tower in the middle of the city. I could not find any information about actual excavations though.
Here's an interesting map:
And another: Livius.org
There's a cycling route (in two parts, 45 and 50 kms) following the Limes route near Utrecht.
You can buy the route at the Utrecht Tourist Office (VVV) at the foot of the Dom tower. Which will include links to downloadable vouchers for discounts at various restaurants along the way.
For more information (in Dutch): click here
The 50 km route starts at Utrecht Central station where you can hire bicycles.
The Utrecht Tourist Office (VVV) is open: Mo 12.00-18.00, Tu, We, Fr 10.00-18.00, Th 10.00-20.00, Sa 10.00-17.00, Su 12.00-17.00.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Guided walking tour through historic Utrecht
From a Roman fortress to the centre of the modern Netherlands; the guided walking tours of Utrecht City Tours talk about it all.
They are very flexible. In the summer of 2010 they offer a tour almost every day, but before that time you can request your own tour if you are with a group. There are three kinds of tours, a short, a regular and a long one. The longest even includes lunch and a backpack to take home!
Very friendly people, very informative tour.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Study Abroad
- Budget Travel
Provincie Utrecht Hotels
I love this hotel. It is an old building (from the 1800's) that was originally built by Louis...more
Stationsstraat 75, Amersfoort, 3811, The Netherlands
Good for: Families
Kapellestraat 4, Ijsselstein, 3401 CP, nl
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Business
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