What a cutie! The baby blue Renault 4 oldtimer that is being driven in front immediately brightens up the gray day. A classic from 1986, with an uneven wheelbase due to the technology of the rear axle: the right side is ten centimeters longer than the left.
Unequal or not: today it is our companion during a tour through the Achterhoek. He is immediately renamed the blue Smurf. Which requires the necessary explanation: the gear is next to the steering wheel and consists of a lever that must be pulled forward, back, left and right with coarse force.
That is very important, although you do not immediately feel whether you are in the right place. You hear it: if he accidentally slips into his 1 while you really meant the 3, the blue Smurf grunts warningly. Braking is also slightly different: as small as it is, it takes a while before it comes to a complete stop after pressing the brake hard.
After some practice I got the hang of it and in a good mood we chug from Doetinchem into the interior of the Achterhoek. In the back is a filled picnic basket. From organizer John Timmer we received an old-fashioned folder with inserts with the route; the oldtimer atmosphere is meticulously implemented. Fortunately, he has also programmed the route on the mobile phone and we let ourselves be guided by that.
The starting point is Doetinchem, the largest city in the Achterhoek. An old place: the first mention dates back to 838, as a settlement with a church. Since 1263 it has been allowed to call itself a city, thanks to the bishop of Utrecht who gave the city rights. A mysterious city too: all data was destroyed by a fire in 1527. In 2021, it is a great base for the various walking and cycling routes in the area, with the 17th-century Slangenburg estate and Kasteel de Kelder being recommended.
We attract quite a bit of attention, as it appears when we carefully turn back onto the road. There is honking, waving and staring. It is of course also striking, such a rolling blue ball with two cheerful faces in it.
When we stop to admire the panoramic view near Laag-Keppel, a hiker stops smiling. “What a nice little car, I used to have one like that too.” He pauses and you can almost see the memories in his head. “A burgundy. Children in it, all luggage and then Yugoslavia and France. Hard work, isn’t that shifting? ” Look, confirmation from a connoisseur!
John Timmer of EventPoint, who mapped out the tour: “It is a nostalgic way to enjoy the Achterhoek. Many people who book with us have a memory of one of our vintage cars. Sometimes it was their first car or father or mother had such a vehicle. We also notice that young people are planning a surprise tour for their parents. ”
Colorful houses in Doesburg.
Ⓒ Sigrid Stamkot
On to Doesburg. Bumping over the cobblestones we enter the center. The town hall is the first thing we see, just as classic a pearl as we are driving. The Schepenhuis on Koepoortstraat – the national monument has a wine house behind it – wouldn’t look out of place on a postcard with its stepped gable and brown-red / white shutters.
The town hall with the Waag behind it, in Doesburg.
Ⓒ Sigrid Stamkot
On the corner of the building, the white statue of Martin of Tours, also known as Saint Martin, stands out sharply against the rusty brown stones. The founder of Catholic Christianity in Gaul is honored here on the Blue Stone, a last remnant of a former pillory.
Diagonally opposite, a group of cyclists rest on the closed terrace of the Waag, built in the same late Gothic style. A little later, the sports enthusiasts cycle over the stones with just as little suspension as we do in the Renault. Furthermore, the center with its surrounding streets with houses painted in pastel yellow and blue seems deserted on this Saturday afternoon.
Behind the town hall we peek into the Van Brakelhofje, where commander of the city and fortress Doesburg squire Willem de Vaynes van Brakell lived. He too is worthy of honor: in 1813, he saved the city from pillaging by French troops.
Hobbit village Bronkhorst
The castle road in Bronkhorst.
Ⓒ Sigrid Stamkot
When we drive into Bronkhorst, or rather bump into it, a (positive) comparison with a hobbit village comes to mind. The vegetable garden where the necessary vegetables emerge, surrounded by the triangular gabled roofs of the old and, apparently, renovated city farms, gives a peaceful feeling. As if time stood still for a moment.
That feeling only gets stronger as we turn into the center: the old Kasteelweg with its old buildings and further on the trees can serve as a film set, so charming. The old pavement of small round stones leads to the artificial hill where Bronkhorst Castle of the eponymous lords once stood. One of the most powerful, oldest (estimated to be from the 10th century) and, because of its strategic location, most important castles in the county of Zutphen.
Bronkhorst is not big. Officially the smallest city in the Netherlands, the picturesque hamlet has had city rights since 1482. At the same time, it is also a favorite stop for cyclists from Arnhem to Deventer, with the result that for such a small place there are a striking number of restaurants and terraces.
We park the Smurf on the cobblestones to wander. Back at the oldtimer, it is again exuberantly viewed and photographed. It fits well, such an old cart in such a historic setting. Since the weather is still gray, it also gives this city center the necessary color. Not that it is necessary; it is already photogenic of itself with the not-to-be-missed Bronkhorst chapel as its centerpiece. Furthermore, an inn (De Gouden Leeuw) and a candle factory located in the old buildings along the Bovenstraat.
There at that mill
The Bronkhorster Molen, a flour mill from 1844.
Ⓒ Sigrid Stamkot
The Bronkhorster Molen is the next stop. The blades of the corn mill, built in 1844, have just been brought to a standstill by two volunteers. Previously there was a post mill here, but it burned down in May 1844. Here too the Renault steals the show. The green grass with a typical Dutch windmill in the background and the bright blue of the car is a photogenic picture.
With the opened picnic basket we return to Doetinchem. A day of chugging through the Achterhoek, we can conclude that such a classic car is a very nice way to go back in time. The Blue Smurf is at least as photogenic as the places we have visited.
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