Het Elsenburgerbos: Rijswijk (NETHERLANDS)
It is sort of a given that most people don't really know the area that they live in as well as they should. Often tourists or newcomers to an area will discover new and interesting things about the place, whilst those who have lived there for a long time will have likely settled into a rhythm of sorts and will keep returning back to old favourites. There is nothing wrong with that, but without an constant reminder to just step just a little bit off the beaten track... we all fall into familiar routines.
In our dying days of living in Netherlands (well... dying months...), our family has been taking the occasional opportunity to step out and see some more things and just take the time to step outside our normal routine. It is interesting that we only really push ourselves to do that when we see an end coming...
... part of that has been to explore and take extra trips throughout Europe. Well, Europe is a lot harder to visit on a casual weekend from Australia than it is from the Netherlands!
So, this is one place that my wife recently discovered when she went for a walk with a friend... and then shared with the rest of us a few weekends back when we were trying to decide on a place where we could all ride our bikes to.
Het Elsenburgerbos is a small wooded area (not really that natural, but few places in Europe are anymore... perhaps it should be more like a park than a forest) that lies just of the motorway and between the small road connection between The Hague and the tourist town of Delft. Most people will take the motorway in their cars between the two towns, and people that cycle will pass this wooded area (I have many times...) without really noticing. Actually, many times I've seen the wooded entrance and car park, and have just thought that the motorway lay just behind it!
Interestingly enough, I was quite mistaken! It is a relatively large area of parkland behind! So, from the road side of the park, you can park your cars or bikes in a little car park that is just beyond the motorway flyover. The entrance to the park is a touch menacing... all shaded over and looking quite dark. In fact, we had a bit of trouble convincing our toddler that it was safe to enter... and that there were no witches, wolves or bears that were waiting to eat her.
... but the walk through the "dark forest" is rewarded on the other side with a open and brightly lit park area! Really, this is one of the little hidden gems in the area... it is incredibly quiet and restful, probably due to the fact that it is off the beaten path and that most people will go to the more obvious and easily found parkland areas that also exist in the area. That said, I think it is more the place that you would visit in the daylight hours... I can imagine that without lighting, this would be a pretty damn creepy place at night or in the middle of winter!
So, in the middle of the day... in the weekend, and there were basically NO people here! Just the occasional dog walker or young couple enjoying the Sun and company. Crazily peaceful... you wouldn't even notice that there was a motorway a few hundred metres away!
On this particular day, we had only come for a bit of a discovery walk... both the girls were pretty tired, and we had to save their energy for a bike ride home as well. However, this would be a lovely place to bring a little picnic, a frisbee and a book to read!
So, this is my little tip for the area between Den Haag and Delft... the Elsenburgerbos... you wouldn't know it was here, and it is a perfect place to hide away and just pass the day in relaxing quiet.... when the weather is good that is!