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Bergen (North Holland)

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Bergen [1] is an artist village and upper-income suburb in North Holland, popular among travellers for its seaside beaches and dunes. A few kilometers further north are the villages of Schoorl and Groet, both near enough to walk from Bergen, with the Schoorlse Duinen nature reserve as its main tourist attraction. South is Egmond aan Zee, also a calm seaside destination.

Understand

The main village of Bergen has been known as an 'artists village' since 1900. In the 1920s and 1930s a 'Bergen School' of painters developed. It is located behind the North Sea dunes, just west of Alkmaar. The name is often written as Bergen (NH), or Bergen-NH, which stands for North Holland, as there is also a Bergen in the Province of Limburg. Bergen developed into an upper-income suburb of Alkmaar, and has a somewhat snobbish air. The village has two museums and an art center.

Get in

  • Bergen is connected to Alkmaar by bus (number 6), which runs every every 15 minutes on weekdays. A precise up to date schedule can be found at the Connexxion website.

Get around

The most efficient way of getting around Bergen is by bike, however, both local supermarkets offer adequate parking space for cars.

See

The dune reserves to the west are easily accessible from Alkmaar by bicycle. You can also walk from Bergen, the largest of the villages alongside the dunes. It was known as an 'artists village' since around 1900, is now primarily an upper-income suburb of Alkmaar, with two museums and an art centre. Bergen has a good bus service from Alkmaar (bus 160, every 15 minutes). A few kilometres further north are the villages of Schoorl and Groet, also at the edge of the dunes. They are served by bus 151 from Alkmaar, every 30 minutes.

West of Schoorl, the 'Schoorlse Duinen' are a dune nature reserve open to the public, [2] run by the official forest agency Staatsbosbeheer. The forest was originally planted in the 19th century - not for tourists, but to prevent the dunes burying the villages. The reserve covers 1900 hectares, accessible on foot and by bike at several points. There is also a visitors centre, Bezoekerscentrum Het Zandspoor, Oorsprongweg 1, 1871 HA Schoorl, with a 'play forest' for children. Access to this reserve is free. However, the dunes and forest nearest Bergen are controlled by the Provincial Water Company PWN, the reserve is called the 'Noordhollands Duinreservaat'. Here you need a day ticket, € 1,20 from machines at the main entrances. The PWN reserve is cut by the road to Bergen aan Zee: the Schoorlse Duinen reserve is wilder and more forested.

There are three villages called Egmond. The oldest is Inner or Inland Egmond, Egmond-Binnen, the site of the Abbey of Egmond, the oldest in the Netherlands. The present abbey is a modern re-foundation, only its location is authentic. The original abbey was founded around 950 by Dirk I, the first (perhaps second) Count of Holland. It was originally a nunnery: Count Dirk II replaced the nuns by monks. The abbey became a cultural and religious centre for the County of Holland, in the early Middle Ages. The fishing village of Egmond aan Zee was founded in 977, and was later controlled by the abbey. The (Catholic) abbey was destroyed during the (Protestant) Dutch Revolt, by the troops of Diederik Sonoy. The ruins survived until about 1800.

  • The present Benedictine abbey [3] was built in the mid-1930's, another religious building (partly) designed by the traditionalist architect Kropholler. [4] It is named after Saint Adelbert, an early missionary to the region.
  • Monasteries typically derive income from craft work by the monks. In this case, the abbey makes candles: it is the only maker of religious candles in the country. There is a candle shop - Abdijkaarsen, Vennewatersweg 27, 1935 AR Egmond-Binnen. Tel: 072-506 2786, fax: 072-506 6254, e-mail : abdij@abdijkaarsen.nl. Open Monday 13:00-16:30, Tuesday to Friday 10:30-16:30, Saturday 10:30-16:00. [5]

The village of Egmond aan den Hoef (Egmond-at-the Manor), grew around the manor of the local nobles. Later a substantial castle was built: it was destroyed three times, the last time in 1573, also by Diederik Sonoy. The surviving ruins were demolished in the early 19th century, but the castle foundations and moat were re-excavated in the 1930's, and are now visible in a park. The castle chapel (Slotkapel, originally 1229) survives.

  • The two inland Egmonds lie amid the bulb fields at the edge of the dunes. The strip with bulb farms extends to Castricum and Heemskerk. The season is from late March to late May.

Egmond aan den Hoef is served by bus 165 from Alkmaar station, every 30 minutes. Egmond-Binnen has an irregular bus service, but is within walking distance of Egmond aan den Hoef. It also has a limited bus service to Heiloo station, every 90 minutes, six trips per day. By far the easiest way to see all three villages is to cycle.

Former Egmond Castle

On the coast there are two seaside villages. The larger Egmond aan Zee is easily accessible by bus 165 from Alkmaar, every 30 minutes. Bergen aan Zee has a limited bus service from Bergen itself (line 407), connecting with the bus from Alkmaar. There are extra buses on summer weekends (line 262). The sand beach is 25 km long, from Camperduin to the pier at IJmuiden. The dunes around (and south of) Egmond aan Zee are also part of the Noordhollands Duinreservaat.

  • Sea Aquarium Bergen aan Zee, van der Wijckplein 16, 1865 AP Bergen aan Zee. Open April - September 10.00 - 18.00, October - March 11.00 - 17.00. Entrance € 7,50, children under 13 € 5,50. [6].

The dunes and beach end at Camperduin, a hamlet on the edge of Groet. The gap in the dune line is a weak point in the sea defences, and it has been closed off by a high dike, coated with asphalt on the seaward side, the Hondsbossche Zeewering. You can cycle on the asphalt at the foot of the dike, and long-distance cycle route LF1 follows this unusual path. Cycling here would be suicidal in a storm: the dike is designed to break waves, by allowing them to roll up the asphalt slope. The wind would knock you off your bike anyway, but fortunately there is a parallel road on the landward side. The present dike is a strengthened version of a 1793 dike, the crest is 11.5 metres above mean sea level. The dike ends 5 km north, at Petten, where the dunes and beach resume, extending to Den Helder. (This part of the coastline has only continuous since the 18th century. In the Middle Ages, the peninsula ended at Petten, and Den Helder was then an island).

  • The small historical museum, Gemeentemuseum Het Sterkenhuis, is in the center at Oude Prinsweg 21. Open May to October, Tuesday to Saturday, 13:00-17:00, and also open on Sunday in July and August. Entrance € 1,50. The museum is one of the few places where you can see exhibits related to the Battle of Bergen. On 19 September 1799, the armies of Napoleonic France and the Batavian Republic defeated a joint English-Russian invasion force.
  • Museum Kranenburgh has a collection of paintings, graphic art, and sculpture, by the members of the Bergen School, and other artists who worked in the region. It is located in a 19th-century neo-classical villa, at Hoflaan 26, in the centre of the village. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 13:00-17:00, website www.museumkranenburgh.nl
  • The art centre, Kunstcentrum Bergen, with exhibitions by artists currently working in and around Bergen, is at Plein 7, in the centre. Open Wednesday to Sunday 13.00 - 17.00, open at 11.00 on Saturday, website: www.kunstcentrumbergen.nl
  • Park Meerwijk in Bergen, a cluster of villa-style houses, is one of the best places to see the architecture of the early-20th-century Amsterdam School [7] architects.

Do

Bergen is a starting point for walking and cycling in the dune reserves, which begin at the edge of the village. The main dune nature reserve is the 'Schoorlse Duinen' [8], north of Bergen and west of the village of Schoorl. Much of it is dune forest, originally planted in the 19th century, to prevent the dunes burying the villages. The reserve covers 1900 hectares, accessible on foot and by bike at several points. There is also a visitors centre, Bezoekerscentrum Het Zandspoor, Oorsprongweg 1, 1871 HA Schoorl, with a 'play forest' for children.

Buy

Eat

  • De Kleine Javaan - an Indonesian restaurant (072) 5818835
  • Athene - a Greek restaurant (072) 5898854

Drink

Sleep

  • Best Western Hotel Marijke - Dorpsstraat 23 - 25
  • Hotel Florida, in the center of town

Get out

Bergen is normally visited as a day trip from Alkmaar - the bus from Alkmaar station takes just 10 minutes. For most visitors, onward destinations will be reached via Alkmaar station, see Alkmaar#Get_out. One exception is for cyclists on the long-distance cycle route LF1, which goes north to Den Helder or south to Haarlem and beyond. The route continues into Belgium.



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