Cordiality in the countryside


The bakehouse of Ronald Baksteen and Machteld Meij is one of the most popular places to stay on our route. It is located almost halfway along the route, in the middle of the Hatertse Vennen nature reserve. Damiaan Messing stopped by for an interview.

It is cloudy and a bit rainy when I walk into the Hatertse Vennen. I am warmly greeted with a large frog concert: to the left and right of the paths, the animals croak, supported by the twittering of birds scattered across the heath. Here and there, flowers in white dots appear above the soft green and purple heather. I take shelter under a squat oak tree. The oak, a few other trees and I are a vertical exception on an otherwise extensive, sloping plain. I feel at home here.

When I walk into Ronald and Machteld’s yard, I immediately hear the moaning of a goat, who probably remembers that I once fed her carrots. Machteld walks towards me with a wheelbarrow in his hand. Ronald appears from underneath a large, open barn that is stacked with split wood. I wander around the small estate with its many flowers and cozy niches, and then sit down for lunch in a gazebo.

Why did you become a host family of the Walk of Wisdom ?

Machteld: “I think it’s important that you can sleep close to the route if you walk a walking route. In England we always came to the most beautiful places on our walks. Those places have stayed with me and we now want to be such a place for others.” Ronald: “We were already host family of friends on bicycles when we suddenly saw your angels everywhere. Then we thought: the house is there after all, let’s sign up as a host family. It’s beautiful here and we would like to share that.”

You only rent out the house to pilgrims and members of friends on bicycles, why? You could also turn it into a lucrative country house.

Machteld: “We don’t do it for the money. We already have everything we want. I can paint here, write stories. Just enjoy.” Ronald: “When you become commercial, you also get a different kind of people. And we don’t want that here. They’re going to install themselves here for a few days and then you can’t get rid of them…” Machteld: “Then you’ve just lost your privacy. We want people who come on foot or by bike for one night and then continue the next day.”

How do you like being a host family?

In unison: “Very nice!
Ronald: “There are almost always nice people. They are guests who enjoy the garden and the surroundings and are aware of nature and themselves.” Machteld: “They really appreciate it here.” Ronald: “The guestbook speaks volumes in that regard. We always like to read that ourselves. If you compare the stories of the friends on the bike with the pilgrims, you often see very beautiful stories among pilgrims that go much deeper than just ‘nice place’ or ‘nice breakfast’. We like to make people like that happy.

Machteld: “You sometimes notice that people need some extra attention and then great conversations can arise. The guests are really happy with the attention you give and that’s nice. But in principle, we let people go their own way, we don’t impose ourselves.”

Machteld and Ronald were both teachers at a secondary school in Nijmegen and were also creative themselves. Machteld still paints and writes stories. Ronald did a lot of theatre and cabaret. They enjoy the outdoors and don’t need to go on faraway vacations or cruises “then you have to do so much“. In addition: “the animals must be taken care of.” Then they clearly like to do it and with a lot of love.

It’s great to see how satisfied people can be with each other and their environment and at the same time want to stay connected to others. Host family and Walk of Wisdom complement each other well here.

What is wisdom to yourselves?

Machteld: “Hear, but don’t speak.” Ronald: “No, sometimes you have to say something!
Ronald: “Wisdom is being aware of what you are doing and taking your environment into account.” Machteld: “I can totally agree with that.”

Machteld’s website: Ronald wrote a book of fairy tales that Machteld illustrated. It’s ready for you to read. Address details on the website or our route guide and overnight list (Hatertse Vennen, almost halfway).
A painting by Machteld Meij

A painting by Machteld Meij