To the southeast of ’s-Hertogenbosch lies the municipality of Sint-Michielsgestel. A unique combination of five villages and two hamlets that together form the so-called Green Open. These small, characteristic Brabant communities are the perfect place for anyone out to enjoy historic mansions, nearly unspoilt nature and the well-known Brabant hospitality.
Since time immemorial city dwellers have enjoyed the natural beauty and peace of this area. De Dieze, which is now the most beautiful city river in the Netherlands (at least when viewed from a distance), was a large, open sewer in the Middle Ages. Wealthy merchants and nobles in the 17th century moved away to the environs of De Heerlickheit in Sint Michielsgestel. There they lived on estates such as Sterrenbos and Gruiterbos, on large farms, or in castles such as Nieuw-Herlaar and Seldensate. Sint Michielsgestel flourished which was a blessing for this region.
Nearby in Den Dungen crops were grown for more than 30,000 city dwellers. The many rivers and creeks in the area offered plenty of chances for industry and agriculture, but also caused danger in this boggy landscape. From as early as the year 800 farmers built dykes and dams to protect their harvest from the floods that could cause much misery. The dykes surrounding Den Dungen, Sint Michielsgestel and Berlicum were formed in this way.
Today these are beautiful places to explore while walking or cycling. There are also plenty of paths for horseback riding and mountain bike routes in this green oasis. Families with children can use the Gestelse swimming pool or try a game of miniature golf or paintball. Golf enthusiasts will certainly enjoy the surroundings at Zegenwerp, a location that entices even the Royal Dutch family to occasionally visit the links.
The traditional Catholic lifestyle of Brabant can also still be seen here in all its glory. But Sint Michielsgestel hasn't rested on its laurels and offers visitors a wide range of activities. There are plenty of bars and restaurants and tourists can choose from a wide variety of accommodation from campgrounds and hotels to B&Bs.
Don't forget to sample tasty regional dishes such as kipkap and holepeekes that are on the menu throughout the area. If you’re curious how cheese is made you can take a look at a traditional cheese farm. A somewhat more exotic experience can be had in Berlicum, where a unique dairy called Smits creates creamy camels’ milk and delicious bonbons. On rainy days, culture-lovers can enjoy the archaeology museums of Sint Michielsgestel and Den Dungen. The various mills, churches, castles, German war trenches and mansions are also a major draw. Visit www.hetgroenebuiten.nl to discover many more exciting possibilities.
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