While we were recently visiting the Netherlands we set our home base in a quiet and soothing web of villages and farming fields in the Southern province of Noord-Brabant. During one of our rest days between trips I went for a walk, this time without a bike and I wanted to share some of the views and anecdotes.
During the walk I saw people of all ages riding bikes: grumpy old women, smiling old women, road bikers, a young blonde women with a ponytail, a teenager riding his bike with his legs splayed as if they were sitting on a sofa. I was the only one on foot.
At one point as I was walking on the Belgian side, which was very close to where we were staying, and I noticed someone crouched on a harvested field. At first, I thought it was a farmer, but something was odd: he had a backpack and what looked like a metal detector. He also didn’t look like a farmer, wrong body frame and silhouette. Perhaps a freshly-minted farmer looking for a pipe1? I was looking at him indirectly, from the corner of my eyes because I didn’t know what to make of the situation, but I caught him also looking at me sneakily a couple of times. I greeted him with one hand, he shouted something that may have been a nonchalant “Hi” and started to raise his back. To wrap up this ceremony I approached him and we started talking, luckily for me, in English.
He told me he was looking for buried treasures. He first showed me his findings of the day: a coin-shaped pendant and 2 coins. Then he went to his black unmarked van to get his phone and show his most recent findings from the last few weeks: more coins, one from 1741, another from 1623, hair brushes, a mostly shapeless Celtic hairpin that he said should be more than 2,000 years old, a live rifle bullet from either WWI or WWII, a metal ball from a musket, rings, and a silver piece of jewelry that he brought to jeweler and confirmed that it had authentic diamonds worth 1,500€.
The conversation reached a natural stopping point and we said bye. We didn’t ask each other’s names, I won’t see him again, but for a few minutes, I felt connected to him through his passion for digging up treasures from the past.
On the Belgian side, I had the impression that the houses looked different but I couldn’t really describe how, perhaps a darker tone, shorter? But I saw many houses on both sides that looked very well taken care of, both buildings and gardens.
In one of the Belgian streets, I met a boy and two girls who were playing with a dog on a driveway. The girls were trying to prevent the dog from coming to greet me, while the boy was engrossed with something he had in his hands.
Every time I’ve gone through the fields and forests in the area, it feels as if time becomes still. It’s a very peaceful area.
I once had a farmer in Andorra come to my house to ask me if I had a metal detector because she had misplaced a pipe. I kid you not. ↩︎