A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
As the months go by, I finally experience my first autumn in Europe. I feel so excited because it is my first autumn and so far it’s been my favorite weather! I know all about how autumn is the comfiest season of them all, being known as the ‘sweater weather’, but I’ve never really experienced it, and once I do… I must admit it is very comfortable.
Besides comfortable for staying in and eating hot meals, who knew that autumn could be comfortable for going out to the woods? Yesterday was a sunny and a very beautiful autumn day with less wind, so I decided to go wandering to the woods with my friend, Deny. She is an Indonesian expat living in Den Haag, and she has been married to a Dutch man since last year. Deny was the one who introduced me that there were several forests and walking paths near her house, and being an avid fan of forest trekking, I directly asked her if she wanted to go with me to the woods on the weekend.
The first forest that we went to was a huge land called Westerpark, located in Zoetermeer. I biked from Den Haag Ypenburg to the forest, and it was about 30-40 minutes ride. When I arrived inside the Westerpark, I went to a place called Natuurtuin, a small conservation forest. I had to park my bike outside the forest so I did and I walked inside. There was a walking trail path along the forest and it was very easy to learn.
It didn’t take too long for me to finish walking around Westerpark, only about 45 minutes and I was done. After that, we went to the second forest. This time it was a little bit further. From Zoetermeer, we were going to Bieslandse Bos, a forest located in Pijnacker, bordering to Delft.
The bike trip from Zoetermeer to Pijnacker was very fun. I passed a sheep farm and a large golfing field (which I assumed was for free, since it was located directly next to the highway). We also passed Nootdorp, a small, idyllic neighborhood filled by cute houses. By houses, I mean real houses, not apartments. Deny said that Nootdorp was famous as an elite residence. The ride from Westerpark to Bieslandse Bos took around 30 minutes.
When I arrived at Bieslandse Bos, I was shocked to see that the forest was very big. I had been to several forests in southern and eastern Netherlands, and they were big too, but I did not expect that I had a forest this big in western Netherlands. Deny took me walking (no bikes allowed inside the forest), and we passed this very beautiful small pond (or lake?) deep inside the forest.
After walking for about an hour, we went back to our bike parking station and went back to Den Haag Ypenburg, where Deny served me a hot meatball soup as dinner.
I was very happy for this outdoor adventure yesterday. To be honest, I had been under pressure for the past week, with the thesis and the reading materials to be read for the upcoming exam, and this weekend trip to the forest did nothing but relaxing me in many ways. For the first time, I brought my bike (which I named Shadowfax – cue LOTR theme!) outside Leiden, and I could see two forests among many in western Netherlands. I just hope someday (in autumn) I can go to the forest again and bike outside the town again. For those who haven’t tried it, please do. It will be a very relaxing, exciting, and a new experience for you.
Love the nature and parks in (Zuid) Holland! For some reason it makes me think of historic times when Kings and Queens were still in power. I am planning on doing a bike tour in Holland this year. Do you or anyone reading this know a good touring company? I found a few so far (http://www.hollandcycletours.com/ and https://www.travelydays.com/index.php/en/home being the most decent) but I haven’t really found one with a tour I like. Thanks!