As we were leaving Amsterdam on the Wednesday it started to rain, and when it rains in the Netherlands it really rains! It continued for the rest of the evening, which meant we didn’t hang around long to watch the start of the Haarlem Jazz festival that evening. (It was OK the next evening, though). The next morning seemed a little mixed but my son and I decided to risk it and took the bus to the Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland, an area of sand dunes to the west of Haarlem .
The Connexxion, line 81 bus for Zandvoort from Haarlem train station took about 20 minutes to reach the Visitor Centre. There’s a number of marked walking and cycling trails that start from there. As we weren’t sure about the weather we decided to follow the green trail
The dunes are the nearest you’ll come to hills in this part of the Netherlands!
After a short while we came to Het Wed, a freshwater lake popular for swimming. There’s a good stretch of sand too and toilet and showering facilities. I reckon it would be a popular spot for families on a sunny day. But as it was cool and overcast only a few hardy souls were braving the water.
We carried on, taking a short diversion off the green route to climb up to a viewpoint, where we could just make out the sea in the distance..
On our way back to the Visitor Centre we passed some memorial stones. We stopped to take a closer look.
During the Nazi occupation members of the Resistance captured by the Nazis were taken to the dunes to be executed and were buried there. In May 1945, after the occupiers had retreated a search of the dunes found 422 bodies in 45 locations. After they were identified the bodies were reburied and the granite headstones have been placed above their graves. 347 of the victims, inlcuding Hannie Schaft , the “Girl with the Red Hair”, are buried in Erebegraafplaats Bloemendaal, a cemetery in the dunes. The rest are buried in nine graves which are marked by the gravestones which record how many murdered resistance members are buried in the immediate vicinity. We passed two of them. We stopped for a short while to pay our respects and placed a small stone on top of the headstone.
Moving on we saw some wild ponies having a snack. Ponies, deer, highland cattle and bison roam in parts of the reserve.
We were quite lucky. Although it was overcast we had some sunny spells and there was only one, very brief, heavy downpour. By the time we’d taken our cagoules out of our backpack and put them on it had passed over!
I could have spent longer wandering around the dunes and next time we’re in Haarlem if the weather is good enough I’d like to walk the longer blue route trail which goes over to the sea shore and also pay my respects at the cemetery and some of the other monuments.