After crossing Belgium in 2 days, we stopped at the first Dutch town, which was Breda. We used an official camper area along a canal, from where we could easily walk into the centre. Coming to the Netherlands without a bike is a mistake of course, but as we were on the way to Africa, we had left the bikes behind, so no cycling this time.
We first visited the Begijnhof, an enclosed complex of houses and a church where Beguines lived, a Christian lay religious order that was active in Western Europe, particularly in the Low Countries, in the 13th–16th centuries. Their members lived in semi-monastic communities but did not take formal religious vows.
The Grote Kerk or Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of Our Lady), is the most important monument and truly a landmark of Breda. The church was built in the Brabantine Gothic style starting from 1410 until 1540, with a beautiful 97 metres tall tower.
In 1566, the Reformation took place and the church was robbed of most of its valuables and decorations. No longer a Catholic church it finally became Protestant in 1637. Nowadays the church serves as an event hall. We are not sure if it is really used as a church anymore.
The Prinsenkapel (Prince chapel) is the old mausoleum of the van Nassau-Dillenburg dynasty, ancestors to the Dutch Royal Family, the House of Orange-Nassau. Seventeen family members are buried in this chapel.
The four half-kneeling bearers represent the four main virtues: bravery – represented by Julius Caesar, perseverance – by the Carthaginian general Hannibal, prudence – by King Philip of Macedon, and generosity by the Roman Marcus Atilius Regulus.
Outside of Breda, we visited the Bouvigne Castle, which is surrounded not only by water but also by a huge forest once used for hunting. In 1614, Prince Philip William of Orange bought the castle, which in the end belonged to a total of eight princes in succession before it was sold to a wealthy coffee planter. Today it belongs to the water board and is used as a wedding location.
The castle is surrounded by a park, which we could visit, the castle itself is not open to visitors.
From Breda, we will now head to Utrecht, to pick up our son, whom we will kidnap for a week of exploring the Normandy – more on our next post!