Exciting times for me as I’ve just finished my final exam, and I’m on the verge of finishing up my master’s thesis. Only a little while more before I can say goodbye to uni life after six years, and really start my own life. In London that is. Surely, I haven’t had much time lately to do a lot of traveling. That doesn’t mean that I’m locking myself up at home, feeling sorry for myself. Not at all! It just means that my explorations have to take place closer to home.
I feel that we forget sometimes how beautiful our home country‘s can be. We’re always looking for the most exotic and far away destinations, but we overlook our own backyards – metaphorically speaking.
Before I even had my blog, I had a Facebook photo folder dedicated to the Netherlands and Belgium, named ‘tourist in own region – because the Netherlands and Belgium are beautiful too.’ Especially when I don’t have much time (or money) on my hands, you can say that I like to take up the role of local nomad: discovering new areas close to home.
Last Saturday, I rang up my grandparents to ask if they were in for a little road trip, and luckily they said yes. Where I’d like to go, they asked. I knew that whenever I would give a suggestion, they would come up with something else (which I was hoping for. They know so many more interesting places then me!). That’s also exactly what happened! I suggested to visit the medieval town of Heusden, about 40km (25 mi.) from us, and my grandfather counteracted with suggesting The Kempen, a region in the south of the Netherlands and the north of Belgium.
Of course you’ve to respect the elderly’s wishes (*wink*), so they picked me up on Sunday morning, let me drive, and off we went to our first stop: In den Bockenryder. If you would ask me to recommend a typical Brabants’ restaurant, I would refer to In Den Bockenryder.
This historical inn lies deeply hidden in the woods of Esbeek, and its name refers to the legend of the Bokkerijders (Goat Riders): a gang of robbers that would roam the woods of the provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg in the 18th century. The Bokkerijders were thought of riding around on goats at night, robbing people’s houses. When letters were found written by the Bokkerijders, they were always signed with the stamp of a goat’s hoof. A legend that proved to be the perfect material for books, movies, and even a ride in theme park the Efteling, not far from Esbeek.
We enjoyed some ice tea’s and apple pie at Inn In Den Bockenryder and admired the beautiful setting. You really feel like having stepped back in time while visiting the place. The historical buildings of the inn are decorated with antiques and other accessories, which all blends in perfectly. Luckily for us, we are Brabanders ourselves, because the menu and info screens were all written in a Brabant dialect. If we would have liked, we could’ve even opted for a horseback riding ride, or a ride in the horse wagon.
When we had finished indulging on our apple pie’s, we continued our trip through the Kempen. We were constantly surrounded by either forest or countryside, and at those moments it’s hard to imagine that the Netherlands is one of the nations with the highest population density in Europe.
Soon enough we crossed the border and found ourselves in Postel, Belgium. At first sight, I thought we were in the middle of nowhere, which was kind of true. Wouldn’t it be for the fact that my grandfather let me park the car at a beautiful abbey. When I saw all these tourists carrying their cameras and taking photos like there was no tomorrow, I felt embarrassed that I’ve never visited this place before. It’s only about 40 minutes drive from home, yet this was my first time being there.
Another thing I’ve to admit is that I only knew Abbey Postel from the ride at the Efteling. This ride is a madhouse set in a villa. The story that is told before you enter the room that turns upside down, is the story of Hugho of the Bokkerijders. Yes, the Bokkerijders again. According to the story of the ride, Hugho was one of the leaders of the Bokkerijders and robbed the Abbey Postel back in the day. A lady visits him at home and casts a curse over his villa to punish him for all the crimes he and his gang had committed. For eternity he will be stuck inside his home, which is turning around. Only the one who is without sin can lift the curse and free Hugho… (do you notice that I’ve a soft spot for the Efteling?) Anyway, Abbey Postel is the one that Hugho and his gang robbed according to the story that the theme park came up with. It was good to see the real thing after all this time!
Postel Abbey is still inhabited by 20 Norbertines, the monks that live there since many hundreds of years. Even though it was busy the day we visited, there was still a very tranquil and peaceful ambiance to the area. Definitely worth a visit is the herb garden and the chapel, which is connected directly to the abbey. After having strolled around a bit, we headed for lunch at the restaurant that is located on the abbey’s grounds.
After lunch, we got back into the car and drove again trough the beautiful nature, while crossing unfamiliar terrain so close to home. I start appreciating the Netherlands and Belgium more and more, each time I’m going on another local nomad trip.
Do you consider yourself to be a local nomad?
Note: all photography in this post is mine, as well as all the views and opinions. I was not paid or sponsored by any of the companies mentioned in this post.