|Late summer afternoon in Breda|
|Aa of Weerijs-route (ANWB map)|
Now down the road a piece. I came to this spot, Meersel-Dreef in Belgium, because it was recommended to me by Yvonne Lewin, my hostess this evening right in the center of Breda. And here I am, and it's as she described it, in a park opposite a playground. It's a shrine to the Virgin Mary which a woman outside told me is home to "onze lieve vrouw." Yvonne said the place strongly evokes Lourdes and that people come here to pray for miracles. She also lamented that it was the sort of thing not found in Holland, or lost perhaps, because the Dutch had become a faithless race. To me it evokes the Virgin of Guadalupe (in Mexico City), not as tacky but the same aesthetic. The shrine is at the center of a large park with densely clustered tall trees, which creates a canopy effect and makes it feel deep in the forest and conducive to reflection and meditation. Also similar to the Desierto de Leones (near Mexico City), though that is a real forest. This one has subdivisions behind it. There is a big rock structure made to look like a grotto. In a niche above is a statue of praying Mary in white robe with a halo of text. In the center is a sort of cave entrance with a case of lit candles and a figurine of a peasant woman kneeling as she gazes upward at the Virgin. At the left is a stone font with faucets so people can cleanse their hands.
|Meersel-Dreef: faith across the border|
After having a Belgian trappist ale at the pub opposite the shrine, I decided to continue with the Aa of Weerijs-route despite the late hour. It would be tough - 40 or so kilometer loop to Breda - so I'd have to hustle to return by nightfall. But the afternoon was gorgeous.
From Meersel-Dreef I took the riverside fietspad, parallel to the road, back to point 43, then found the path to point 70, taking a bridge over the freeway. It was a long ride through cornfields, onion fields, horse pastures to knooppunt 3, where I stopped for a paté sandwich. No one around but the occasional cyclist or tractor.
|Zundert, after the races|
Now reading the description of the route from the ANWB classic fietsroutes guide, I realize that Vincent Van Gogh was born in Zundert: "Oh Zundert, de gedachte daaran is soms al te sterk." Google translates: "Oh Zundert, the thought (of you?) is sometimes too strong."
|Traversing the Pannenhoef|
|Last stretch back to Breda|