After many trips to the Netherlands this time I really wanted to visit Hunebedden. My partner is Dutch and our Daughter half Dutch so with a love and interest of all things prehistoric this was a trip I was really looking forward to. I wasn't disappointed.
The Autumn Equinox seemed like a good date to start my investigations into these monuments.
So where to begin when choosing the first Hunebed to visit? We opted for Great Borger, not only the largest but possibly the most famous and definitely the most visited. Very easy to find, with museum, gift shop, cafe and a very pleasing reconstruction of a hut built to represent how people would have lived at the time. This may all be superficial to the site itself but was sensitively done and helped with the educational side of things for Dutch school children and adults alike. The focus is on the Dutch language but their are translations into English among other languages. I think the visitors center had a nice feel and the National Trust could learn a lot about what the Stonehenge experience could be like with a similar approach.
So to great Borger itself. As Julian Cope wrote in The Megalithic European the Hunebed does remind one somewhat of a dinosaur skeleton. My first impression was a similar feeling to seeing those dinosaur skeletons in the Natural History museum as a child. Although there were many visitors on site we had the place to ourselves more than once during the visit. It's hard to compare the structure with anything I've seen in the UK, and the place felt different too. I spent some time walking around, looking at Borger from different perspectives, checking alignments, and also tried dowsing with interesting results. My One year old daughter finds the site of the Dowsing rods hilarious, as did some of the other visitors but the mother (not in law) had fun with them and was a natural!
I would say that this place does have a soul but you have to concentrate, and need to want to find it. A shorter visit might give you the same feeling as somewhere like Stonehenge, not in scale but in the feeling of being a tourist attraction as much as somewhere of great importance and interest. Don't be fooled though, tune in and you shall reap the rewards.
With a list of places to visit but without a whole week to dedicate only to Hunebedden the next place to visit was the Bronnegar complex.
This place is more remote, but still very accessible. This being the Netherlands I would suggest arriving by bike a good way to arrive. You wont be alone with this form of transport.
Bronnegar is made up of five Hunebedden in varying states of disrepair. At best with D21 you will visit a magnificent example, It's right next to D22 as well in a nice little semi enclosed area.
Both are intriguing in their own way. Both have Oak trees growing right next to them, at D22 the tree almost appears to have split the cap stone from one angle, in fact it's just up close but looks fantastic. At D21 the Oak tree is also right next to this very well preserved monument. While sitting there meditating on the place I found myself drifting and thinking about the trees. Of course they wouldn't have been their at the time the monuments were in use but there still seemed to be a great relevance to my modern perspective of the monument. I was thinking about a recent permaculture course I took, and about pioneer species, natural succession and Climax community, when the stable community that is reached and no further succession occurs. This seemed very relevant to me when considering these old stones and the people that put them there, coincidental? Maybe but still a beautiful vision of life beyond words and history.
The other three Hunebedden here are not in such good shape, at worse being quite ruinous, as a whole complex though the place is magickal, and far more that the sum of it parts. Viewed and experienced with an open and inquisitive mind Bronnegar is an essential place to visit.
I look forward to the other treasures that the Netherlands hold, until next time.