Vier het leven en de liefde

Springwalk in Flevoland

Spring is nature’s way of saying, let’s party!
-Robin Williams-

Springwalk in Flevoland

It’s almost summer and for the very first time I have written a great part of this blog on location. How funny is that? Until now I always wrote my blogs when I got home, or even some of them a few days after I walked.
Today is different. Today I was a volunteer for a very large association in the Netherlands, called the ANWB. In English it is called the Royal Dutch Touring Club. They started way back ( I believe it’s already 130 years old) and nowadays they describe themselves an association that looks after the interests of its members regarding travel, mobility, holidays and spare time. If you’re interested you should look them up. There are similar associations in a lot of other countries, I believe in England they are called AA and in America AAA!
On a beautiful day in May they organized “Springwalks”, in every region of the Netherlands. When they came up with the idea of organizing these walks they couldn’t have imagined it would be almost 30°C (86°F). It felt more like a Summerwalk!

A couple of months ago I decided to sign up as a volunteer for this event. Not totaly to my surprise I was sent to Natuurpark Lelystad, another beautiful location in my own backyard, and a part of Flevoland I hadn’t been for a very long time.
The Park was created in 1972 and allows visitors to view a lot of animals in their natural environement ( on 371 ha). You can spot wild pigs, red deers, storks, otters, horses,and so much more. As I mentioned, it has been a long time since I was here and the first thing that I noticed was that the appearence of the area was so much more natural then it was fifteen years ago.
I was surprised by the park’s beauty.

The high temperatures made it a bit difficult to spot all the animals because manywere hidden in the shadows of the trees or bushes. Some of the deer stood in the water.
But you won’t hear me complaining about the weather. I love the warm weather! I often say bring me this kind of weather until christmas, then two days of snow and then back to nice warm weather.

My job as a volunteer was to welcome the people who came to walk,hand them the route (5,10 or 15 km), and after they finished the walk give them a nice goody bag.
We also gave everybody a bottle of water to take with them because of the high temperatures.
We were with 4 volunteers and one employee of the ANWB.
It was the first time I volunteered for something like this. How nice is to combine the two things you love most; walking and meeting other people.

In the afernoon I was lucky enough to get the chance to walk one of the routes by myself. So I chose to walk the 10km route. It made me feel a bit uncomfortable, because I know that walking 10km means being gone for almost two hours. On the other hand, there were enough volunteers to do the job.

As soon as I was gone I realised that it has been quite a while back since I walked all by myself;
mostly I walk with my friend or my love. But sometimes it’s good to do a walk by yourself. I took a deep breath and inhaled the fresh air of trees, bushes and flowers, and then I walked.
I had already gone some distance when I ran into one of the park rangers and told him I was surprised by how this park had developed itself. It all looked so natural. He was glad to hear it because that was (is) their intention, to keep it natural.
Further along the walk,I had to stop now and then, for I thought I saw something moving between the trees or behind the bushes. But it was hard to catch a glimpse of the animals.

I crossed a cattle grid and saw a bench that I decided would be a lovely spot to write something down. The view from where I sat was amazing.
I looked across a large lawn with a couple of high and mighty trees, and behind them a pool of water. At first all was peaceful and quiet. At the time I wrote that previous sentence, however, a couple of young people loudly opened a fence that encloses the area where the deer are living.
The distraction almost made me forgot where I was and what I was doing. I enjoyed every minute of sitting there, and I had to encourage myself to walk on.

Somewhere further down the road I passed the area where the wild pigs live. When the term “wild pigs” is mentioned in our family we always have a bit of a laugh.
A couple of years ago one of my friends wanted to see wild pigs, because she had never seen them, and decided to go with her family to a forrest where they should be. I believe there was even somebody who told them if they would go tot hat particular spot they should see them. They waited and waited but never saw a wild pig.
I was lucky on my walk, though, because there were a few wild pigs by the gate. I saw them but they didn’t give me one look. They were busy sticking their noses into the ground, hoping to find something to eat.

Although it was already later in the afternoon it was still very warm.
There were few people walking and cycling past me, and the only other thing I heard were the birds. There were so many of them, and they all sang a different song. It’s almost like an orchestra without a conductor.

When I came back the other volunteers had already cleaned up the place.
As I drove home, I felt satisfied. I had seen another piece of my own backyard and came to the conclusion that living below sealevel has a magic of it’s own….. a magic you should come, see and feel for yourself.

A Dutch Peaker Tulip walk

A Dutch Peaker Tulip Walk

In the garden
Tulips grow
Straight and golden
In a row.
Each one holds its
Empty cup
Drinking rain
And sunshine up

-V.W. Lachicotte

Tulips and I have always had some sort of love-hate relationship.

There isn’t a season I don’t love, but when winter is coming to an end, the early spring sun warms the day a little and all the spring flowers come crawling out of the black fields, I long for the summer to come. The variety of colours displace the last bit of winter’s darkness and let you know that it will only get better every day from this moment on. Days grow longer, the sun gets stronger and nature awakens. To bring this feeling of early spring into my house, I buy tulips; mostly red ones, but also yellow, pink or purple ones.

The hate part of the relationship is based on me putting these lovely flowers into the wrong vase, cutting them off in the wrong way, or putting them in the wrong temperature of water. I am no florist. Within no time my tulips are hanging down, and the original beauty of the flower is gone. Over the years I have learned more about caring for my tulips, and so my love for this flower grew.

Whenever I walk, cycle or drive through Flevoland in these days I see thousands and thousands of tulips everywhere I look. Flevoland has over 5000 acres of tulips. That’s about half of the tulips in the Netherlands! Knowing that, I couldn’t leave this subject unwritten.

Most of my stories pop in my head by seeing something, such as a phrase in a book, a line of a song or just a word from a friend. This time my story began in January when my love and I were walking in Egmond at Sea, a village in another region of the Netherlands. He pointed out the tulip fields that the area was well known for. We discussed that our region also has a lot of tulip fields. Just few weeks later as I was walking with a friend, she told me that there was a walk called The Tulpenbollenroute. That’s when my new blog was born (in my head).

The coincidences got a little bit creepy because another few days later when I told somebody at my job I was going to write about the tulips, she gave me an invitation to a workshop painting tulips. Although I’m far from an artist and my drawings look like those from a toddler, I spontaneously signed up for it, and so another story was born.

A little bit of history
Did you know that the word tulip comes from “tulipa”, meaning the flower that looks like a turban? Men in the Middle Ages wore turbans in Turkey, and that’s exactly where our tulips originally descend from (Hortus Botanicus).
Tulips were brought to the Netherlands in the late 1500s from the Ottoman Empire and planted in the botanical gardens at the University of Leiden. The trading of tulips began when the tulips were stolen from the garden. Up until a hundred years ago, tulips were rare and expensive.

Every year in October and November, the tulips are planted. Tulips require specific growing conditions. They will never bloom if they haven’t had a cold winter and after that a little bit of warmth. Originally they were planted in a sandy soil, because it was very difficult to harvest them from clay soil. Nowadays they do come from clay soil because it produces better tulips and makes the bulb stronger.

For the farmers in Flevoland, the flower on its own is not very interesting; it’s the bulbs that matter. By Kingsday, at the end of April (if the weather is on our side), the tulips are in full bloom and that’s exactly the time for the farmers to cut the flowers from the bulbs. Cutting the flowers off directs all the energy and nutrition into the bulb, which is important. These bulbs are reaped by the end of summer, layed out to dry and thereafter peeled. Almost every teenager in Flevoland has done that as a side job. It’s a horrible job, and your fingers get very ugly from doing it, and it doesn’t pay off that well.

Walk through the fields of tulips
With the sun high up on the sky and knowing that it’s almost the end of April, I walked through Flevoland with a couple of my friends to enjoy the beauty of the tulips. I couldn’t have picked a better day! If I had done this one week before, I can assure you that there would not have been a flower to been seen. It has been cold for a long period and, as I mentioned, the tulip needs warmth and sunshine to open up. You might think, “Don’t we all?” Yes as a matter of fact we do; at least I do. I also think that somebody in the universe knew that I was eager to show you more of the beauty of my backyard, because for the whole week it has been beautiful weather with high temperatures.

We started our walk in the area called Rivierduinengebied, an area north of Lelystad and Swifterbant. When this area was created they stumbled upon an prehistoric landscape. An old calf barn has been transformed into an educational centre where you can learn about this area and its creation. The farmyard also has beautiful and creative hotels for insects and bees. As we walked through the fields of thousands and thousands of tulips, we got an added treat. We passed a farm where they invited us to come and look at their cows and calves. We were lucky: just ten minutes before we arrived a calf was born!

Back at the barn we enjoyed our cup of coffee and moved on to our next stop: the Shortgolf (Swifterbant). We ate lunch and watched other people playing golf on the green. I’m not a golfer myself, but on this course you can play without having a license to play. Maybe I should go back one day and try it.

After a nice lunch we continued on for the surprise of the day: painting our own tulips. Sometimes you need to leave your comfort zone and do things you thought you were never able to do. A lady taught us how to make a landscape of tulips. In the instructor’s painting there was an old mill, but since there are no old mills in my region, I included one of those modern windmills. It was there and then, sitting in a livestock stable with the smell of cows all around me under the watch of a cow who was about to give birth, my love-hate relationship with our national pride became more and more a relation of true love.

Under the Sea (2)

Life under the sea is better
Than anything they got up there
-From the movie: Little Mermaid-

A couple of weeks ago I bought a book by Cameron McNeish. It is a beautiful book, mostly worth reading. It also made me think: This man has so much passion and love for his native country of Scotland, as well as for all the walking and climbing he has done during the past forty years. He calls his book There’s Always the Hills. I have lived almost all of my life in Flevoland, the region in the Netherlands that lies beneath sea level. It feels like there is no greater difference between those two things, up the hills and below sea level, and maybe that’s what attracts me most about Scotland. Isn’t that what they say: opposites attract?

But anyway, in my last post I promised you another story about my backyard, Flevoland, the region I have been living in for over 49 years. Hey, that calls for a celebration next year! Flevoland is not a very large region, encompassing 1419 km2. In comparison, Scotland, for example, is 77,933 km2 and Edinburgh is 264 km2. Despite its smaller size, I am continually surprised by the beautiful spots this region has in store for me. Walking through Flevoland is like walking in my backyard. There are hardly any great distances, and that’s an additional advantage for someone who may not always have that much time to go on walk far away from home.

This area is over 6000 acres and was created at the end of the 1960s as a polder, meaning that part of the sea was enclosed in dikes so that land could be reclaimed. Originally, Oostvaardersplassen was meant to be an industrial area, but large pools of water remained standing in the new polder. As a result, the builders decided to plant reeds and leave the wetland for what it was. Soon many types of birds found their way to this part of Flevoland and settled down. The Graylag Goose made the continued development of this natural area possible. They keep the reeds in check by eating them, which assures the Oostvaardersplassen can provide a home to a variety of birds and plants.
In addition to the Graylag Goose, there are many more birds to be seen in the Oostvaardersplassen. So take with you your binoculars to see starlings, lapwings, several types of ducks, wading birds, and many more. And don’t forget your camera!

Don’t get me wrong…I don’t know enough to name all the species of birds as they fly over.
At those moments, I regret not having paid more attention in biology class. I am sure my teacher back then thought the same thing when I couldn’t distinguish a daisy from a dandelion. I do know the difference between a duck and a goose, and I do know a woodpecker, but that’s mostly it. As I have been walking more and more, however, I have learned a lot.

On one morning during an early walk, I snapped this photo of a tree full of birds, so numerous that you could hardly see the branches. I am sorry I can’t tell you what kind of birds they were (for they were not ducks, goose or woodpeckers), but I do know it was a wonderful view and for a moment, Hitchcock’s movie The Birds came to my mind.

All these beautiful birds attract flocks of birdwatchers. I have never seen so many fancy cameras and telephoto lenses, at least not in a place where there are no celebrities. But maybe, in a way, these birds are some sort of celebrities to these birdwatchers! Maybe the photographers are the bird paparazzi.


As we walked on we had to take a meandering course. We didn’t lose track; the road was blocked with horses. In the 1980s about eighty Konik horses were released into the nature area, and now there are over 900 of them. Signs warn you that these horses can be unpredictable and that you best stay at a distance of 25 meters. If you do want to pass them, do not go through the herd! Since I am a rule follower, we decided to take a detour around the horses. Before doing so, however, we stood still and observed these wonderful creatures from a distance. The wild horses looked back at us with no interest at all, for we were only some of the many who pass by them each day.Oostvaardersplassen is a place that inspires discussion. Some say that there are far too many animals, and that the horses don’t belong there. Others want the area to remain as it is. I recently signed a petition to connect this area and other natural areas so the animals can travel and have more space.

Another place I love to walk is Roggebotzand. This wooded area is situated in the northern part of Flevoland along the lake called Vossemeer. The soil is sandy, and therefore there are a lot of conifers in the forest. It’s a really nice walking wood, and whenever I have little time but need to go for a walk, I take my car and drive for about 15 minutes to reach it. I have several routes I walk, and every time I discover new places, new routes, and new views. It never gets boring around there.

Roggebotzand is an active place. There are a lot of runners and mountain bikers in this wood. The mountain bikers have made a nice path through parts of the forest. In April of this year I’m planning on going over there to do some mountain biking with the Dutch Peakers.

The little ones will find that the “Goblinwood” area is especially exciting. Goblins guide the children along their trek, which ends with eating pancakes in a beautiful goblin house. Pets also enjoy Roggebotzand. Up until October of last year we had Bernese Mountain dogs, and walking with them in this wood was a weekly habit. We even scattered the ash of our first dog in this peaceful area.
Another special thing about Roggebotzand is that part of it is a memorial. In 1999, people started planting trees in memory of people who died of cancer. We planted a tree in this memorial wood for my mother who died of cancer in 2006. As of today, more than 25,000 trees have been planted.

I know that I haven’t told you everything about my backyard, but I hope my two posts give you a nice portrait of the beauty of Flevoland. For you see, “Living under the sea is better, than anything they got up there…” Perhaps for my next walk, I will find some hills that Cameron McNeish would enjoy.

Under the sea

Under the sea
Under the sea
Darling it’s better
Down where it’s wetter
Take it from me
Up on the shore they work all day
Out in the sun they slave away
While we devotin’
Full time to floatin’
Under the sea      

-From the movie: Little Mermaid-


Little Dutch Mermaid Peakers
Who would have thought, that when Disney made the movie ‘Little Mermaid’ in 1989, almost 30 years later a group of Dutch Peakers would try to transform themselves as mermaids.
Well if you had asked me that question then, I would have laughed really hard. And if you told me that I was one of those Peakers who actually became a mermaid, I would have laughed even harder. But seriously, last November 2017 we did just that. We got together in Oosterhout and became mermaids for an hour or two. We swam like mermaids in a pool while we devoted our time floating.
I have been fascinated by water ever since I was a child. Maybe it’s not that odd if you know that I am born in February, and therefore I’m an Aquarius.
In my youth I did a lot of swimming. Growing up I had asthma and my parents always encouraged me to work out, so I did a lot of different sports.
I have lived my whole live in Flevoland, a region in the Netherlands that has been reclaimed from the sea, and is about 13 feet or 4 meters below sea level.
Now maybe you understand my fascination for water. And we do have a lot of it in the Netherlands.

As I told you in my blog ‘Dutch Peaker in Glasgow’ I went to Scotland in September 2017. Scotland is such an amazing and beautiful country that sometimes I wish I was born there.
But, to find beauty and be amazed, you need not go far from home. Beauty is everywhere around you. You only have to open your heart and eyes to feel and to see it and get amazed by its beauty.
So I decided, my challenge for 2018 was: going for walk in my own country and visit all 12 regions  and discover the beauty of the Netherlands. In this post I start with the region I have lived in almost all of my life; Flevoland
31 Years ago the Netherlands were divided into 11 counties and a 12th one was included; Flevoland.
Flevoland was assembled of ‘Noordoostpolder’, ‘Oostelijk-’ and ‘Zuidelijk Fevoland’. Lelystad became its capital. Flevoland was developed by draining parts of the former Zuiderzee.
Our first walk was on Schokland.

Schokland, a long time ago, used to be an island and is now a part of Flevoland. Schokland is a mysterious, archaeological monument. Its soil is full of beautiful mineral resources. It’s a place between land and water, for centuries long inhabited by people up until 1859.
Nowadays Schokland is designated as a cultural World Heritage site (UNESCO). And this really beautiful place is only, if you go by car, a half hour away from my home.
Honestly I’m a bit ashamed to tell you that I can’t remember when I last went there. I must have been a teenager or even younger.
There used to be two churches on Schokland, one catholic and one reformed. Only the latter is still there having been restored throughout the years, and is now a beautiful church in the landscape.
As we walked across Schokland I was really amazed by the beauty of this former island. You can see remains of the old houses and the harbour but also a lot of old rocks from the ice age.
On our walk there were moments of total silence as we inhaled the history around us.

Almost at the same distance from my house is a second former island called Urk. Urk in Holland is well-known for its fishing and for being a village with a very strong religious community. I’m not a big fan of fish, so maybe that’s why I don’t visit there very often.
The last time must have been when my in-laws were still alive. They loved eating fish.
Our visit this time took us on a walk across the old village and along the IJsselmeer, through the woods, along the newest part of town and back into the old part.
I was amazed by the beautiful historic houses, churches and buildings in the old part. There were a couple of lovely views into the harbour as we walked towards the lighthouse.
Those who have been to the Netherlands and have visited Flevoland, know we have a lot of wind turbines, and that some of them are even built in the water. When they were first built there was a lot of discussion about whether they would damage nature and the sight of the old fishertown, and also the open character of the IJsselmeer. However, I think you should judge for yourself.You can’t go to Urk and return home without any fish so I took some herring with me for my love.

The next walk in the Noordoostpolder was in the woods near Kraggenburg called; Voorsterbos.
On Schokland we walked through an almost flat landscape, on Urk we walked a large part through the village, whilst this part of our walk took us through the woods. As I told you before you have to open your heart and your eyes to feel amazed and see the beauty in your own backyard. It was on this walk, I realized the meaning of my own words.
Voorsterbos is a wood that was made in 1944 and contains of all sorts of trees. We’ve seen coniferous trees, beech trees, oak trees and a lot of bushes, like Euonymus.


As you have read, I don’t devote my time to floating under the sea, I have been devoting my time to exploring my own backyard and discovering the beauty of it. I’ve been amazed by the views I get to see so close to home, which is all below sea level!
There is so much more to tell you about my region Flevoland but I will keep that for another post.

Auld Lang Syne

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and never brought to mind
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
and days of auld lang syne

Robert Burns wrote this original Scottish folk song in 1788, but not with the melody we all know well, that was done by song editor George Thomson.
When the clock strikes twelve at New Year’s Eve, or should I say Hogmanay, this song is often sang. It encourages us to leave the past behind and let us rejoice to a whole new year.
For me, 2017, has been an incredible year with lots of ups and downs, with good and bad days. A year ago I wrote in my diary that with 2017, I had 365 days ahead of me, and it scared the hell out of me. What was I going to do with those 365 days? How would I get through them? And now there are only a few weeks left of 2017, I am proud of myself, for I made it. Maybe I was scared at the beginning of 2017, I took a leap of faith, and in the end it turned out alright.
I made it because I have family and friends that have my back and support me in everything I went through. I made it because I was able to make a few changes in my life and got back the energy I had lost over the past four years.
Making the trip to Scotland was the highlight of 2017. It was by far the best thing I’ve ever done in my life. It made me so strong, mentally and physically.
I peaked at Arthur’s Seat and burst into tears because I made it. I did it. It was that moment I started to believe in me again.
With this post I’m going to leave the past behind me and that means that I have decided to stop writing about my period of burn out, the period of my black hole. But I will not stop writing.
My posts will be different and I hope you will keep following me. For I have so much more to tell and show you. But for 2017: should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind…

I’m looking positively forward to next year. I’m feeling good and have enough energy to approach a new challenge. For the first moment in a very long time, I’m daring to make a list of things I want to achieve in 2018.
Some of them are mental and others physical:

● Find a new and challenging job
● Walking the West Highland Way
● Walk in every one of the 12 regions of Holland
● Keep on exercising in the gym
● Losing weight (lots of it)
● Celebrate love and life with my family and friends on every single day of 2018
Life is too short not to…

We’ll see what becomes of these challenges at the end of 2018. But for now I’m determined to achieve them. As I said before, there will be a slight change in my posts next year.My first post of 2018 is called ‘Under the sea’ and will tell you all about the region I live in, and after that there is more to come.
When I came back from Scotland I told everybody that it’s an amazing country with so many beautiful spots. I know Holland is quite different but never the less if you take a good look there are many beautiful spots too, and that’s what I’m going to show you next year. Together with a friend I will walk all these wonderful places and tell you about it.

Last but not least…
The end of a year is always a good moment to say thanks, and in particularly this year. So here I go.
A special thanks for the last year goes to my love. Honey, without you I don’t think I could have come this far. Love you so much, because you love me just the way I am! To my children and family who had to put up with me during the last year, when I wasn’t always the cozy one.
A big hug and thanks to my best friends; Jeanet, Marion, Marijke, Conny, Marco and Anneke, Danny and Adrie, Ronald en Jolanda and Jetje. With you I could be myself at every moment, for better or worse. You helped me through it by keeping me active and when I needed it, with a good glass of wine.
A special thanks to Raoul (Oxillion) who made this website possible. Love you and many thanks for your support. It has brought me so much.
A warm embrace for my new family, My Peak Challenge, and in particularly the Dutch Peakers. If I hadn’t found you on my way of healing, I’m certain I wouldn’t be where I am today. So let’s keep up the good work and keep each other motivated and inspired in 2018 (with or without a whole lot of lists Antonette!).
And last but not least to Leisure World, the gym where I have been exercising over the past 30 weeks.
You guys helped me through my rough moments and kept me focused. Let’s keep it that way in 2018!

I wish you all a merry Christmas and a ‘Peak’ful 2018!



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