Dwingeloo, Drenthe, Netherlands, Earth

Dwingeloo, Drenthe, Netherlands, Earth
Mostly For Old Tourists
Dwingeloo Radio Telescope And Observatory,Dwingelderveld National Park, Drenthe, Netherlands, Earth
Westerbork Array, Westerbork, Drenthe, Netherlands, Earth
Miniature Golf

Roel van der Meulen

1994/06/27, 1996/11/24

The Dwingeloo Radio Telescope as seen from the institute. The Dwingeloo Radio Telescope on a nice day.

Dwingeloo is a small village in the east of the Netherlands that is almost completely aimed at tourism. Farming is the only profession besides tourism. In the winter season Dwingeloo is dead. It is the place where the word "zombie" was invented.


In the winter, the most exiting thing about Dwingeloo is the Dwingeloo Radio Observatory, with their radio telescope. When you've seen a radio telescope at work, you'll understand how much happens there. Observing a radio telescope you can see a large metal wired dish on a mount, ...

... aaaaaannnnnnnnnnddddddddddd...

     ... ssoommeettiimmeess...
... iitt...
     ... mmoovveess...!!!

Inside the Dwingeloo Radio Institute there is a lot more to see. Computers, for one. There are about 90 people who work at the "Dwingeloo radiosterrenwacht." Most of them are technicians who support the Dwingeloo Radio Telescope and the Westerbork Array, which lies approximately 25 km north, and the Mauna Kea and La Palma observatories abroad.

There are only a few astronomers, who mainly work in the field of radio astronomy. That includes a small VLBI group (Very Large Baseline Interferometry) called JIVE (Joint Institute for VLBI in Europe). Also a bit of optical astronomy is conducted, but I don't know what exactly. The Netherlands Foundation for Research in Astronomy is housed at this place. Everyone has recently moved to the new building, with nice modern architecture; the good type, as long as you don't lean against the cardboard-thin walls. The old building was very leaky.

Where To Stay

If you, as a hitchhiker, want to have nice lodgings around Dwingeloo, you should preferably be an astronomer, and second, get invited to the institute. That usually implies that you will have to do some astronomical work there, but that's not so much if you see what you get back for it.

The guest house is big enough for six and has a large kitchen and a living room with furniture in the style of the 1950s. It has been refurnished recently, so I don't know what it looks like now. Still, I advise you, based on old personal experience, to try and stay there. The people are very friendly, provided you're not there illegally.

Other places to stay in the Dwingeloo area are camping sites and hotels. When in the area, it is absolutely impossible to miss them, or a sign to them, so don't bother to look one up beforehand. It seems that they just grow there.


The Dwingeloo radio telescope lies in the middle of a national park. In this park you can walk or cycle, provided you don't mind going around in circles, for several hours. It is maybe the oldest or least changed forest in the Netherlands, yet nothing in it is as it was hundreds of years ago; how sad. It is also the largest united wet moor area in Europe. The area is indeed rather wet, so you can sometimes find your path blocked by large pools. Walking off the paths to circumvent them is one of the more exciting things to do, not only because it is very difficult not to get wet, but also because hunters have a license to kill: a permit to shoot everything that is off the paths during hunting season, which is approximately between spring and autumn. At least one hunter has shot, just for the hell of it, a cat of the caretaker of the Dwingeloo Radio Observatory, which was wondering just outside the garden. When the caretaker asked the hunter not to shoot his other cat, the hunter replied he'd shoot anything on forest terrain that he damn well pleased to. Therefore it is amazing you can still find some wild [1] deer over there, even more because wild animals are very uncommon in the Netherlands.

When standing in the forest, suck in the atmosphere and think of Tolkien. Imagine you're a bird and this is your room, with some noisy neighbors, though. When you "awake" and innocently take a step back, you will find that you have just bumped into one of the countless old people cycling and walking around the place. They are friendly, as long as you don't bump them over (too often).

There is a large moor area in the national park. The moor isn't very exciting, because it is just a large plane filled with low growing purple shrub and an occasional "tree" (juniper). Yet, environmentalist groups try very hard to preserve this landscape all over the country. Trees are cut down, and grass and weeds are removed by letting sheep graze on it. What is peculiar about this, is that moor is absolutely not natural landscape. It came into being because sheep ate all the grass and prevented trees from growing there, so it is partly caused by man.

Anyway, a lot of people like the moor, even more if they carry magnifying glasses to observe the local flora: bell-heather, ling, "zonnedauw," harebell-gentian, and lots of grass. The grass grows there because the soil is "too fertile", if that's possible. It is nice, purple and empty and fun for rabbits.

It is hard not to notice that a lot of other, silly animals live there too. There are vipers, amphibians, insects, and stupid birds who fly up every time you get near, and then fly away, frantically trying to get your attention by hysterical chirping so that you won't notice the nest they were sitting on. It tends to get annoying and you start to wonder what this flaw in your personality they refer to is.

Again, I have to give you a warning, but now of a complete different nature. Even though someone might tell you the vipers are there, don't attempt to look for them. Not because they are dangerous, but because they don't want to be found. If people say there are vipers, let them point them out themselves, otherwise the search will be futile and you will find yourself looking for them for days on end.

Some areas of moor are interesting simply because of their names: the murderer's moor and the burial mounds. Spooky!

Pubs And Other Places To Go

The Forest Pub

If you are lucky and not mislead by signs pointing in random directions, in the middle of the woods you may be able to find the cozy little place known under a number of names: the forest pub ("de bospub"), the pancake barn ("de pannekoekschuur"), and the farmer's firs ("de boerdennen") miniature golf course. I have been there twice, two years apart, and this is what I can say about it:

When you enter the place, it looks a bit like a bicycle shed. In fact, it is a shed. On top of the roof beams lie a number of weird objects that, I guess, can always come in handy: cross-country skis, an exhaust pipe, and a lot of undefinable other things. There are crude wooden benches lit by candles and the atmosphere you haven't seen anywhere else.

Your host(s) treat you like you are guests in their own home, and make a special effort to make sure you have a good and special time. The pancakes are delicious, yet one is enough, especially if you take a bacon and cheese topping. It is possible that a friendly, large, dog will beg for bits by putting its head on your knee. Please protect the dog from itself and don't give it anything. The pancakes will cost you between 10 and 15 guilders, but you get a free round of miniature golf.

The golf course lies in a garden which is very nice to look at, because with a lot of rubble the owner has created an organic, Gaudi-like, small park. It also contains a very small amphitheater where in high season stories are told. It is claimed that plays are be held here, but they have to be plays that can be performed on a two square meters small stage.

I have been to this place with a large group too; we had booked it out of season. We had a wonderful barbecue, with the most delicious salads and side dishes. We came too early to be welcomed by torches, but the owner called the local storyteller, who told us two stories.

The signs that point to this place ("Bosrand 18") that have generously been spread all over the Dwingeloo area indicate that you can also go there for: parties, children's garden parties, droppings (not the odourous ones), "klootschieten" [2], cycling, covered wagons, and the exhibition garden (oh, I mentioned that one already).

All in all: visit this place when you're in the neighbourhood. Although I have heard that the license has been revoked a couple of times due to poor hygiene in the kitchen, due to the dog, both visits left me unscathed and highly entertained. This place doesn't have its like anywhere else.

Other Pubs

Besides the forest pub, there is also a pub called "de dubbeldek." When you enter the place, you get the feeling you're starring in a cheap western. Opening the door you create a massive silence and the whole saloon gapes at the new stranger in town. Another pub, at the town square (de Brink) is "the Pizza Pub". I have heard it is OK.

Places To Go

If you're interested in ancient relics, go to the "Number One" disco. I think that sentence is quite self-explanatory. What Dwingeloo also has is sauna called the currantblossom ("krentenbloesem"), and a cafe/restaurant called "vogelsangh," roughly translated as "Chirp!". For a swim you can go to the swimming pool "De Paasbergen" (The Easter Mountains), but don't go to the blue lake, a hole of water where they dig sand for the industry; it is a dangerous place.

There is also a tennis court, and you can rent horses and covered wagons everywhere and go bowling and miniature golfing at hotel "De Boerken." At the town square you can rent bikes to get yourself to all those places I mentioned. There are also, twice a year, horse markets, and sometimes square evenings with a fun fair and folkloristic dance groups [3].

Dwingeloo has exactly two musea, one of them is the museum of old and antique prams. It is opened from April 1st to October 31st from 13:30 till 17:00, except on Mondays.

Somewhere outside Dwingeloo you can find the "planetron" which is open during hunting season. Here you can enjoy a planetarium and a movie theater with a dome-like surround projection screen (350m2). There is also a museum of space-thingies and an observatory where you can look at the stars in the evening. Too bad it's never open later than 22:30 in the summer so you won't see a lot of them.

Final Bits

As I said, Dwingeloo itself is a place that exists only for the sake of tourism, so outside the tourist season (another word for "hunting season") there is nothing at all to do. In the winter you can go cross-country skiing there. Some 1,700 people live in the village. Dwingeloo is also the name of the municipality within which lies the (original) village of Dwingeloo, Dieverbrug, Eemster, Geeuwenbrug, Leggeloo, Lhee, Lheebroek, and Westeinde, making a total of 3,800 inhabitants. The Dwingeloo municipal area is 6,882 hectare, with about 1,400 ha forest and 1,075 ha wasteland.

As far as politics are concerned, Dwingeloo is in every way a farming village. Only the interests of the farmers count, and there is even a political movement with the slogan: "Dwingeloo for the farmers!" Maybe as a consequence of this, or maybe not, shops are closed on Monday plus every day between 12:30 and 13:30. Saturday the shops close at 17:00, instead of the usual 18:00.

How To Get There

By bus:  take line 20 from the Meppel and Assen railway station (every
         hour), or line 35 from the Hoogeveen railway station (irregular).
By car:  Dwingeloo lies 2 km east of the Assen-Meppel highway and 8 km west
         of the Zwolle-Groningen highway.

[1] "Wild" meaning: "afraid of humans due hunting experiences." This, opposed to the true "wild": "what kind of upright walking animal is that!"
[2] I will not translate that sooner than I know exactly what that means; the Dutch know why.
[3] Dutch folkloristic dances suck!

See also

Mostly For Old Tourists
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