When we agreed to housesit in the village of Beek-Ubbergen in the Netherlands, we expected small town charm – and we got it. Beek is a one grocer, one post office, one church, one pub, two baker kind of town.
The Village of Beek-Ubbergen
The village is home to 3,400 residents who all know each other and live on quiet streets in red brick homes with smoke puffing out the chimneys. What we didn’t expect – but were pleased to find – is the abundant nature that surrounds the village.
Beek-Ubbergen is less than 10km east of Nijmegen, a city with a population of 160,000; yet it has a distinctly different vibe and doesn’t necessarily feel like a suburb. The village is tucked between Duivelsberg (Devil’s Mountain) and the Meertje River- and is practically on the German-Dutch border.
The hills (not really mountains at all, standing at only 250 feet) are the result of glacial ice melt from 150,000 years ago. In the Netherlands, hills are an anomaly – and this small range of topography is practically in our back yard (or side yard, more specifically).
Several paths (some that double as driveways) lead south from the main street into the forested park. The trail closest to us passes by one house and a pasture, where we often have to contend with a herd of cattle before continuing deep into the 308 acres of nature reserve. Connecting trails weave through mostly deciduous trees and (on any day besides Sunday) we could very well not see another soul during our hikes.
In all the solitude, if we are searching for the masses, we simply head in the direction of the Pancake House, where we can quickly replenish the calories we’ve just burned. Pannenkoeken de Duivelsberg, which sits on the top of the hill, has been selling pancakes since 1963 from an old, early-1900s farmhouse.
Unlike pancakes as Americans think of them, these big-as-your-plate pancakes are both sweet and savory – and serve as lunch and dinner, not breakfast. As odd as it was to order a single pancake topped with ham, cheese, tomato and fried onion for lunch, it surely satisfied.
A lake and river in Beek-Ubbergen
At the east end of Beek-Ubbergen, just meters from Germany, is Wylerbergmeer. The small lake is circled by paths, home to a variety of birds and has a sandy beach that we are sure is popular with kids in the summertime.
In the winter, however, it’s not so crowded. On our early morning walks we sometimes encounter camping fishermen or fellow dog walkers, but often have the wide open space to ourselves. We’ve witnessed stunning sunrises and trees filled with fog – and we find it heavenly to breath in the fresh air.
Paths lead from the lake north of the village along the river and into farm land. Scattered even further north are other villages, including Netherland’s smallest hamlet, Persingen, with only 89 residents. The entire area is connected with narrow one-lane roads that are biked more than driven.
Although much of our time housesitting in Beek-Ubbergen was spent updating our blog and social media, we have still managed to break free and experience the outdoors. With all of the options for hiking and biking in the area, even after two months we are discovering new routes.
We want to know: Have you been to Beek-Ubbergen in the Netherlands? What did you like about the village? Did you get to enjoy a bit of nature? Tell us in the comments!