Going Up The Country

Train to Espel

Week 33 of 52

Nico and Annemiki with Oysters

Nico and Annemiki serving a plate of fresh oysters

We love Amsterdam so much, we haven’t had much of a desire to go outside the city. But when our dear friend Sarah arrived last Thursday and extended an invitation to see her friend and well-known Dutch artist, Annemiki Bok, we headed to Centraal Station and hopped a train out of town.

Annemiki and Nico were the consummate hosts for our weekend filled with fantastic art, architecture, food, wine, and delightful conversations. We had hundreds of visitors over our 10 years in Hawaii, and the past 33 weeks we have been the guests of many wonderful hosts. Having been on both sides, we can honestly say Annemiki and Nico raised the level of hospitality to a new art form. We were showered with generosity from the moment Nico picked us up, and the positive, creative, and loving energy was abundant as Annemiki welcomed us into her unique home.

And what a unique home it is! When the Catholic Church in the Netherlands decided to consolidate and sell its church building in the small town of Espel, Annemiki knew it was the place she wanted to call home. She had the vision to transform this large space into a home, studio and office with lots of windows, high ceilings and, well, SPACE! Her artistic mind extends far beyond the canvas as she has created a beautiful and functional environment for living, entertaining and painting, and she even has a two-bedroom bed and breakfast loft!

We could go on for pages about the architecture of her house and how she designed the spaces, but the essence of Annemiki Bok is her art and words can’t do justice to that, so we invite you to browse her website AnnemikiBok.nl to admire her artwork.


Needle Tower II

Kenneth Snelson’s “Needle Tower II”

On Sunday, we all piled into Nico’s car and drove to the Kröller-Müller Museum, a world-class art collection and outdoor sculpture garden. The museum is located in the center of National Park De Hoge Veluwe, a park of over 13,000 acres east of Amsterdam. In keeping with Holland’s bike-friendliness, you can pick up one of 1700 free White Bikes throughout the park and drop it off at one of the other locations.

We started off outdoors, taking a long walk through the sculpture garden with its eclectic mix of sizes, shapes and themes. With Harrison’s background in broadcast towers, he was particularly fond of a work called Needle Tower II, a structure over 100 feet tall made of aluminum and steel wire that doesn’t look strong enough to stand up, but has been in place for over 40 years so clearly can withstand high winds. The sculptor, Kenneth Snelson, was not a structural engineer but still created a fascinating structural concept mixing flexible and rigid components that was later named tensegrity by Buckminster Fuller.

After walking through the sculpture garden we went inside the museum and were treated to hall after hall of fabulous art and famous artists, and lucky us to have Annemiki, an accomplished artist, and Sarah, an art historian, to share their perspectives! The Kröller-Müller has the second largest collection of works by Vincent van Gogh after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, and many of his best works are here, so it was nirvana for us van Gogh lovers.

By the end of the day we were on complete sensory overload, but very happy knowing we had all just been part of a wonderful weekend away.


So, now we know. The people, the culture, the scenery, the attractions outside Amsterdam are just as incredible as inside the big city.

We thank Sarah, who is with us for one more week, for the introductions, and we send our sincere hartelijk dank je wel (heartfelt thank you) to two beautiful people who offered us a memorable trip up the Holland countryside.

Wishing all of you as much generosity in your life this coming week as we turn the page from summer to fall.

As always, a hui hou!
Sharene and Harrison