Aalten is a village close to Lichtenvoorde. The municipality has the same name. The shape of the village is typical for The Achterhoek. The collective acres are situated just outside the village (on the brim), mostly on higher grounds. The farms were built in groups. Aalten had to be a settlement already in the 6th century, they found a graveyard in the village and examined the human bones who proved that.
Although the village is not so big, there are six churches in town! Aalten is located on seven hills, therefor they sometimes call the village ‘Jerusalem of The Achterhoek’. You can reach the village by train, there is a small trainstation. The most famous inhabitant is definitely Angus Young, guitarist of AC/DC.
Really worth a visit is Farm Museum The Neeth. In 2019 there will be a camping site as well! There is a museum inside the farm which will give you a good idea of life in The Achterhoek in the past. Besides that there is a big outdoor playground and a pancake restaurant. A combination of activities is possible, they offer different arrangements for adults and children. www.deneeth.nl
Another museum about the past is the National ‘Onderduik’ museum, about people in the Second World War who were in hiding (onderduiken in Dutch) or joined the resistance. The museum tells you about the daily life that period in Aalten and the choice people had to make. During the occupation a lot of inhabitants of Aalten gave shelter to refugees. The museum is located in a monumental building, brought back in the exact state as it was during the war. The museum has an exciting and educational Escape Room (from the age of 14). www.nationaalonderduikmuseum.nl/en
If you visit Aalten in june, don’t forget to go at least one day (out of three) to the Farm & Country Fair! This event is organized by the Ruesink Family, who own two farms themselves. One with dairy cows and one with pigs. Father Erik and mother Joke started the Dutch Farm & Country fair after seeing a likewise event in England, realising there wasn’t anything like that in The Netherlands. They have three daughters who all take part in the family business and in organizing the yearly Fair. Daughter Joyce for example takes care of the sheep and goat breeds and small pets fulltime. They are kept especially for the Farm & Country Fair. Daughter Suzanne travels all over the world to give lectures and advice. Daughter Mariël works on both farms, and spends a lot of time organizing the Farm & Country Fair. She doesn’t have to do that alone of course. All uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins and in-laws help out on all three days of the event. The have a perfect English site. www.countryfair.eu
If you like hiking, there is nice guided walk through the village. We call it ‘the alley route’, because there is a quite unique route of alleys. Mostly no more than two barrows wide!
Vineyards are to find all over The Achterhoek, also one in Aalten. Vineyard The Hennepe is one of the united wine producers in The Achterhoek. The grapes are cultivated in the most natural possible way with an undergrowth of grass, clover and flowers. The clovers make the use of artificial manure unnecessary and the flowers attract useful insects. In July and August The Hennepe offers a guided tour every Wednesday afternoon. Groups can make reservations from May until September. www.wijngoeddehennepe.nl
Bredevoort is a city belonging to the municipality Aalten. Bredevoort is a fortified city with a stronghold. The city was until the year of 1795 independent, with their own laws and jurisdiction. It was a very important area within the province of Gelderland. Our king, Willem Alexander, still owns the title ‘Lord of Bredevoort’. Inside the stronghold were seven castles and estates. Nowadays there is hardly anything left of all of them.
The castle of Bredevoort got destroyed in what is known as the “(gun) Powder-Tower Disaster. On Sunday the 12th of july in the year 1646 (around 04.00 p.m.) lightning struck the tower of the castle that stored more than 320 barrels of gunpowder. More than forty people got killed in the explosion. Almost all the houses in the surrounding lost their windows and roof tiles, the houses next to the castle completely collapsed.
Around the year 1990 there was a lot of depopulation in Bredevoort. The retailers earnt less and less. They needed a plan to make the beautiful historical centre of the city brisk again. After a visit to Hay-on-Wye in Wales they decided to make Bredevoort a book-city. Around the Millennium the city counted almost 30 bookshops! In 2015 there were only six of them left, they couldn’t compete with all the online bookstores. Nevertheless the city still organizes a lot of bookfairs for private individuals (yearly July) and international ones (yearly in may). A former church in Bredevoort is reconstructed as cultural centre and book-café, the perfect place to organize lots of activities around books and art. www.koppelkerk.nl en www.boekenstad.com
Bredevoort became famous because one of the inhabitants in the 17th century became the mistress and art-model of the famous Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn. Hendrickje van Stoffel was born in Bredevoort in 1626. Her father died during the Powder-Tower disaster in 1646. Her mother re-married in 1647 with a widower neighbor who had three little children. This was probably the reason Hendrickje moved to Amsterdam that same year, finding a job as maid-servant at Rembrandts house (who was at that moment still together with the mother of his son). In 1649 she became the lover of Rembrandt, together they got one child (Cornelia). In 1663 Amsterdam got struck by the pestilence epidemic, which probably also killed Hendrickje. She died in July that same year. In the centre of Bredevoort you will find a statue of Hendrickje and between April- October you can join Hendrickje Stoffels herself on a guided city stroll.
There is a website where you can read some information about Bredevoort in English: www.bredevoort.nu/english.php
Every year in September the city organizes a festival called ‘Bredevoort Sparkles’. All the streetlights go out, the only light comes from candles and chains with bulb lights. There are several street-acts, music performances, and expositions all over the city. www.bredevoortschittert.nl
Don’t forget to visit the Bastion-park Saint Bernardus. The 18th century gardens were laid out after the bastions got dismantled. The former monastery garden is situated ride beside the big moat of Bredevoort. At the end of the 19th century they build a tea-house in the English style gardens. Somewhat later the sisters build a small Lourdes cave and a few tuberculosis treatment huts. In 1989 the park was sold and since then the gardens are open to the public from sunrise till sunset.
If you like photography as much as I do, Foto21 in Bredevoort is a great place to visit an exhibition. Every year Foto21 organises 4 themed photograph expositions, like press-, and documentary photography. Three exhibition rooms give you the idea of being in a museum. Sometimes Foto21 approaches a group of amateur photographers to show their work, based on a particular subject. www.dutchfoto.nl/foto21
Dinxperlo is a village located directly on the border with Germany, belonging to the municipality Aalten. The German village Suderwick forms an uninterrupted cultivation with Dinxperlo. Therefor it is called ‘the twinvillage’, the border runs right through it. There is a street in Dinxperlo- Suderwick (dinxperwick) which has a Dutch half and the other side of the street is German. It’s funny to see the difference on both sides, for example the streetlights and the architecture. Around christmas Dinxperlo and Suderwick organize The International Exposition of Cribs. People are invited to show their most unique cribs in shop windows, churches, bank buildings and the local nursing home. Visitors can follow a route and read more about the beautiful cribs.
Farmers established themselves near Dinxperlo already between the year 500 – 800. In the year 1281 the finished the first church. Until 1850 there were a lot of hemp plantations, delivering to the ropery industry and shipyards (for sailcloth). In the years after World War II a lot of smuggling took place around Dinxperlo. In the village you will find some bronze statues as a reminder to this period, like a smuggler with a chicken and a border police man with binoculars (he is actually watching the smuggler further down the road). The Borderland Museum is wort a visit! www.grenslandmuseum.nl
In Dinxperlo you can also visit the most tiny church in The Netherlands! The Rietstap Church is mentioned for that in the Guinness Book of Records. It has just enough space for 12- 15 people. Nowadays it is functioning as exposition space, free entrance. Every month the collection is changed. www.kerkjederietstap.nl
The ‘Welink Forest’ is a nice place for a walk. In the park you can see a pond with fountains, a deer-park and aviary. The park was first mentioned in the year 1890, back then there was also a music dome. Around The Achterhoek you will find a lot of parks like this, with a deer-park. If you really want to see a beautiful wildlife park, you can drive 7,5 km from Dinxperlo to nearby Anholt (Germany). There you will find the Biotope Wildlife Park Anholter Schweiz. The website gives information in English also. www.anholter-schweiz.de/en