The ambassador of Balgoy

In the eyes of Rudie van Haren of B&B de Holtsehoek, it is a capital mistake that our route does not pass through his village of Balgoy. Balgoy is located at the tail end of our route (for those who recognize a bird in the vicinity ), between Nederasselt and Niftrik. Rudie praises the historic charm and tranquillity of his village and suggests a ‘Walk of Wisdom +’ that goes through the village. He does it regularly, but not annoyingly: a cheerful line under a Facebook post, a provocative email – sometimes.

Someone who can tickle so kindly and tenacious makes you curious, and on a cloudy afternoon in March, I walked up to him.

I left the Walk of Wisdom from Nederasselt and immediately understood why we don’t change the route: Balgoy is 3 kilometers away and would give a strange kink. But those 3 kilometers also reflected Rudie’s right: I felt peace in my shoes and passed one monumental farm after another. Not too polished, with lots of greenery in the yards and a wide landscape around it. Standard trees. A crumbling old wall with ivy gracefully draped over it. Traces of history and the care for it everywhere.

An old woman got out of a car in the driveway of a cottage. She paused for a moment and then called out to me from afar: “Look, a hiker!” We exchanged a few words in a friendly way, looking from the sky to each other and back to the sky. She liked Nijmegen, but when she came home here Balgoy certainly did too. “He who can open his heart will find beauty everywhere,” said one of us, and we found pleasure in it.

Rudie’s B&B turned out to be a colourful and green oasis. Rudie: “When I bought this in 2009, it was a cornfield. I was able to make some money from it every year, but I could also do something else with it. And it has become different: the old farm became a B&B with, among other things, a box bed with a hatch: “where the farmer used to be able to look through the barn to see how the cows were doing.”

With the help of the Dutch Cultural Landscape, Rudie created a garden with pollard willows, fruit trees and hedges. There is a path through it with wisdom sayings (“you have to take care, not make”) and everywhere owls stand or hang as a connecting element. Recently he built a characteristic hay house with overnight accommodation. He made a wishing well from old stones in the ground. At the end of March, he opened a tea house on the site.

Amused I listen to his plans for a campsite, for a work shed, he takes me to a large pond, shows me the geocaching. Rudie is a freelance pig farmer by day and also a councillor for a local centrist party in Wijchen – he does the B&B on the side. “People sometimes ask how I do so many things at the same time. But when I come home from work, I go here to work in the garden and clear my head. “ A fruitful way to relax. His wife Yvon takes care of the guests.

Of course, the coffee with stroopwafel comes with a surprising suggestion: a Walk of Wisdom plus variant? With an extra bird ring for Balgoy? “People like that!” He winks. Nowadays, he and his wife pick up pilgrims by car and drop them off again. If the route does not come to Balgoy, Balgoy will come to the route.

“Who knows,” he says when saying goodbye, “maybe I’ll be able to bring the Anima Mundi temple of Huub and Adelheid Kortekaas here on the dike.” If we don’t change the route, we must be very stupid. “All those who are wise once started out as owl chicks,” I read on the last sign I come across on the site. As if he put it there for me.

About the B&B de Holtsehoek in Balgoy: “Cosiness, outdoor living and the atmosphere of yesteryear”

Rudie van Haren (left)