Joining a cycle gang, going to a nightly rave to create light art, cycling in weird industrial areas only to pull up at a giant inflated refugee and wake up the next morning in a cute little historical city. Although it does sound like the plot of Hangover 4, it’s actually just a recollection of how I spent a weekend in Brabant!
I was kindly invited by VisitBrabant for a weekend to experience the best of the province of Brabant. I opted to go to two intimate cities: Breda and Bergen op Zoom, but this isn’t the only jewel in the crown of Brabant; there were no less than 17 locations that put their best foot forward to show what the province has to offer.
I’ll have to admit that I’d never been to Breda before, so I took this invitation as an opportunity to explore the city some more first. Up on my to do list were a little bit of history and a little bit of fun (and a little bit of you makes me your man… eh? eh? I’ll see myself out). For the history part I would recommend the Beguinage for the typical cute little houses and gorgeous courtyard. This is a very quiet place close to the city centre so it’s really something to savour. Another historical recommendation is the Bouvigne Castle, this place is 100% something straight out of a fairy tale with a moat lined with tall grass, and a bridge with cobblestones.
Breda also has plenty to offer on the fun side as the city is littered with cool independent shops and coffee places. My personal recommendation for a solid breakfast/brunch is Yirga. Alternatively I would recommend in kannen & kruiken, I only had a drink there but I saw a few of their sandwiches pass me by and I have to admit they made my stomach grumble a bit. The great plus of this place is the beautiful yard.
When it came to the actual BrabantNacht (Brabant Night), I do have to admit that I was slightly unhappy with some apparent miscommunication: I mistakenly got send a wrong program, so I turned up to the museum Graphic Matters too early for the bike tour but too late to view the exhibition. Luckily the museum came through and the director Dennis gave us a quick tour of the exhibition ‘the Design of Dissent’ and provided us with some insightful commentary. I can’t thank Dennis Elbers and Niek Nellen enough to come through like that. It wasn’t their mistake to correct but they still provided a great experience. Thanks guys! Graphic Matters has even been selected for the Brabantse Erfgoedprijs (a heritage prize contest), these people and this amazing museum really deserves it. You can see the Design of Dissent up until the 22nd of October.
Blind Walls Gallery
Later that evening, I dove headfirst into the world of street art and graffiti and getting around by bike in the night only seems fitting. We biked a good 10km along all sorts of beautiful (and meaningful!) street art with a guide that provided us with the backstory to the pieces. And yes, we did kind of crash a rave party to make some light art, and yes we did get to talk to the artists that made a giant inflatable refugee to spark a conversation about one of the more controversial topics in Europe right now. If you’re interested in recreating this interesting street art tour well…there’s an app for that! This app is updated regularly so you can be sure that even the most recent works are included.
We spent the night in the Apollo Hotel. Located in the old Breda post office, Apollo Hotel mixes a historic façade with a modern interior. A good hotel in a quiet area near the city park Valkenberg and conveniently located next to the train station.
Bergen op Zoom
After delicious breakfast on Sunday morning, we headed to Bergen op Zoom. I must admit, I had the wrong image in my mind about this town. I’d expected it to be yet another average dull city. It turned out to be quite the contrary! The city centre oozes cosiness. Cosiness, coziness, cosyness? How do you write this word? A solid amount of cosy! Bergen op Zoom is marked by a friendly intimacy. And what do you do when the weather is nice and you find yourself in the most welcoming province of the Netherlands? That’s right, you get the bikes out, like any proper Dutchie would do.
First thing we visited was the St. Gertrude Church, with its tower that resembles a pepper pot. You can climb the full 183 steps and visit the tower, but only on a guided tour. Or so it seemed! We were supposed to go on one of those guided tours too, but once there, I got in touch with a member of the clergy who had a passion for photography and had noticed my Sony A7RII. We chatted for a while and he decided to give me and my girlfriend exclusive access to the top of the St. Gertrude Church tower in the morning when light conditions were optimal. The perks of smalltalk!
After that, we went to the Markiezenhof, the oldest city palace of the Netherlands and got some ice cream at Crusio. My god, their ice cream is absolutely delicious!! We spent the rest of the day on our bikes and swapped the cobblestone streets for a little bit of nature and headed to Fort de Roovere. It turned out the fort is long gone and only the moat remained. They did create a very interesting ‘bridge’ calles Moses Bridge that lies like a trench in the water in a way that you’re walking partly under the waterline. Very cool!
Brabant, being only a 2 hour drive away from where I live in Belgium, made me wonder why we had never spent a weekend in Breda or Bergen op Zoom before! If you find yourself in the Netherlands and want to see more than just the obvious Amsterdam or Rotterdam, spend a weekend in Brabant!