I love to visit and write about surreal places! Earlier I have been showing you surreality from around the world (part 1 and part 2). But did you know we have some surreal places in the Netherlands as well?
This is the first one I want to share with you: Radio Kootwijk. It’s not a place that one will easily find in travel guidebooks. But if you are a true slow traveler, interested in lesser known (but fascinating!) places, you will love this mysterious ‘cathedral’…
What is Radio Kootwijk?
Today it’s an abandoned building, deeply hidden in natural park De Hoge Veluwe. It’s actually a former radio station built in 1918! It served as the main communication connection between the Netherlands and Indonesia in the first half of the 20th century. More about it’s history later on.
What a surreal place this is! If you arrive by car the building stands at the end of a dead-end road… Walking towards it your curiosity grows; why was this station built at this spot…in the middle of nowhere?
When you look around you will indeed notice that the area around the station is desolated, intensifying the spooky atmosphere. Mysterious, also because the building is made completely from concrete and in art deco style.
What exactly happened here so long ago? Let’s step back in time for a moment.
The Netherlands has trade in its DNA. The country has always been one of the world’s leading trading nations. Early 20th century there was a strong need for good and fast communication with Asia. Actually the need was focused on Indonesia which at that time was a Dutch colony and contributed to the Dutch prominence in global spice trade. In 1918 the Dutch government decided to build their own radio station to communicate with Indonesia: Radio Kootwijk.
There is a reason why Radio Kootwijk is in the middle of a flat, desolated area. During the building phase an circled area of 1200 meter was actually flattened, no single tree or bush was left. This area was needed to create a ring of five 212 meter high communication poles, all connected with wires. The poles are now gone, but the area is still flat…
The architecture is truly interesting. Radio Kootwijk was designed by Amsterdam architect Julius Luthmann. Luthmann was inspired by a sphinx when he designed the main building. Do you recognize it?
Radio Kootwijk was one of the first concrete buildings in the Netherlands. With all its transmitters and as a consequence the danger of fire, Radio Kootwijk just could not be built in wood.
Right above the entrace you will find a relief: a mask with its mouth opened, symbolizing the release of sound waves. On both sides you will find a listening female figure, a European and an Asian one, symbolizing the connection between East and West.
On the backside of the building you have to look for the eagle, representing the freedom of radiowaves in the air; the flight of sound.
Why all so mysterieus? Well, it’s actually quite simple. The perfect symmetrical building in sphinx-style had to amplify the mysterious aura of radio techniques in those days. People these days were so impressed by the ability to call with the other side of the world…
Where to find it?
The building is close to a small village with the same name: Radio Kootwijk. Only 100 people live here, where in the earlier days they were all connected to the radio station one way or the other. The closest city is Apeldoorn, around 1 hour drive from Amsterdam. A great day trip from Amsterdam! For more tips when visiting the Netherlands (also with your kids), click here to read another post.
Of course the area around the radio station is also a great place for hiking and just having a bit of fun!!
If you plan to visit Radio Kootwijk, don’t forget to visit my hometown Deventer which is close by. See you!