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Wandering in the duke’s forest

Springtime drove me out of the house and into the lovely old city of Den Bosch, that has a lot more to it than just its stunning cathedral.

Let’s start with a disclaimer: if you come to the Netherlands from abroad, you will probably notice that there is no Den Bosch on many maps. That is not because of its size - it’s not that small, it is, after all, the capital of the province of Noord-Brabant - but because its official name is ’s-Hertogenbosch, ‘The Duke’s Forest’. Over here, that name is commonly abbreviated to ‘Den Bosch’.

The city’s name echoes in that of its most famous inhabitant ever: it was home to the Northern Renaissance-painter Hieronymus Bosch, who is Den Bosch’ claim to world fame. Strolling around the old city center, we came across some of the visible signs of the ‘Hieronymus Bosch Year’, celebrated in 2016 to mark the 500th anniversary of his death. Statues depicting mysterious and sometimes rather chilling characters out of Bosch’ master piece “The Garden of Earthly Delights” could still be found spread over town. If you want to see the real triptych you have to go to the Museo Del Prado in Madrid. Ironically, not one of Bosch’s original artworks can be found in the town of Den Bosch.​​

​​Den Bosch’ shopping area with its exclusive little boutiques is definitely worth it but a rather more peaceful (at least in our days) experience is the walk along what once were the city walls. Den Bosch saw its fair share of fighting during the Dutch War of Independence, until the rebels finally conquered it in 1629. For centuries onward, it remained a garrison city. At one of the old bastions, some nineteenth century cannons serve as a reminder. Luckily, the ‘enemies’ at the gates are now colorful crocuses. The only two soldiers you will see, are a silent tribute to the men of the Welsh division that liberated Den Bosch in 1944.


Another symbol of Den Bosch is the Bossche Bol, an invention of patisserie Jan de Groot that is famous throughout the country. Many people shortly interrupt their daily commuting to buy this treat at the shop, that is conveniently located within walking distance of the railway station. A line is usually forming even before opening hours. The Bossche Boll is essentially a big puff cake filled with way too much whipped cream and smothered in chocolate. Famous as it may be, I decided to opt out…

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