“The Miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.” ~Thích Nhât Hanh
A couple of years ago, when visiting my parents, my father asked me to join him for a bicycle ride. The region I grew up in, in the east of the Netherlands, is characterized by lots of green and even today still has a sense of space. The latter is not evident: the Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with an average of 500 inhabitants per square kilometer (for comparison: the U.S. has 35).
The Netherlands is renowned worldwide for its water management and I now got to see one of those projects from up close, right behind my parent’s house. This area, which I remember as grasslands or farmlands, had been turned into a multifunctional habitat to manage and naturally filter water, as well as to create a natural reserve combined with recreational opportunities.
Het Kristalbad, as it is called, lies between Enschede and Hengelo, two cities some ten kilometers apart. I was stunned to learn that even in a flat country like the Netherlands we have challenges because of differences in altitude! Apparently Enschede lies higher than Hengelo – something I have never noticed when cycling here – and too much water flows to Hengelo during rainstorms.
Thanks to this project water can be stored at Het Kristalbad, up to 187,0000 cubic meters. Furthermore, water from the sewerage treatment plants flows down here as well after it has been filtered but isn’t active in a biological sense. Through a simple yet ingenious system of water flowing among these compartments, together with the influence of air and plants, the quality of water is improved.
We cycled about, walked down the paths for a bit, and took in the views from the watchtowers. Even art got its place here, a perfect interaction. When following the instruction to ‘continue pumping’ you get to listen to a poem about water. How about that?!
In the Netherlands many natural areas are fragmented and a lot of effort is put into connecting them again to enlarge the habitats for wildlife. This area is one of them, which will help all kinds of small animals such as lizards, Eurasian water shrews, and polecats.
The photos show only a segment of the project, which will be completed in 2015. It has quickly grown into a beautiful natural area, high in energy, and thriving with (water) birds. I felt a double pleasure in being here. I spent time with my father, remembering the good old times when my sisters and I grew up, plus I saw the success of this project.
It is easy to complain about everything that is mismanaged in this country or that goes wrong in politics, but here I appreciated seeing and experiencing the other side of the coin.
For more information on the project (in Dutch), see this website.
- For tips on other interesting places in Netherlands, check out Insight Guides; find a copy here.
- For more sightseeing tips, see here.
All photos by Karin-Marijke Vis