A Moving Side Trip from Assen
After the German army occupied the Netherlands in World War II, Camp Westerbork, a refugee camp for German Jews south of Assen, became a transit center for Jews, Gypsies, Resistance fighters, and other victims on their way to the Nazi death camps. In memory of the 102,000 people transported from here, an equal number of stones have been laid out on the camp's parade ground, and at the Memorial Center (tel. 0593/592-600; www.kampwesterbork.nl), exhibits and film footage afford some idea of their fate. Among those who "transited" through Westerbork were Anne and Margot Frank, en route to Bergen-Belsen.
The camp terrain is open permanently; the museum is open Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm, and Saturday, Sunday, and holidays from 1 to 5pm (closed Jan 1 and Dec 25). Admission to the camp is free; to the museum it is 5€ ($8) for adults, 2.50€ ($4) for children ages 8 to 18, and free for children 7 and under. To drive there from Assen, take the minor road parallel to A28/E232 south to Hooghalen and then turn east for 4km (2 1/2 miles). Or go by train to Beilen and then take bus no. 22 from outside the station to the center of Hooghalen, from where the camp is a signposted, 15-minute walk.
The nearby National Radio Astronomy Center, where an array of 19 radio telescopes tunes in to the music of the spheres, is a fantastic and -- after the sad experience of visiting the camp -- uplifting sight.
31km (19 miles) NE of Emmen; 17km (11 miles) NE of Ter Apel
This unique fortress village has been restored to its former glory. Constructed from 1580 onward, it withstood many battles over the centuries, only to fall into disrepair as methods of warfare changed. Two wooden drawbridges span a star-shaped moat and lead to traffic-free streets within the ramparts, where you can visit barracks, gunpowder storage rooms, a synagogue, and officers' quarters. Various relics of military life are displayed. The fortress is permanently open and admission is free. Its museums are open mid-March to mid-November daily from 10am to 5pm, and mid-November to mid-March Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5pm. Admission to the museums is 6€ ($9.60) for adults, 4€ ($6.40) for children ages 6 to 12, and free for children 5 and under. Bourtange's Visitor Center is at Willem Lodewijkstraat 33 (tel. 0599/354-600; www.bourtange.nl), on the west side of the village. In July and August, military living-history events take place. The highlight is a uniformed reenactment of the 1640 Battle of Bourtange during the Eighty Years War of liberation from Spain.
10km (6 1/4 miles) E of Emmen
Set outside this village, on 1.6 sq. km (2/3 sq. mile) of the peat moors along the German border, is the Open-Air Museum Veenpark (Peat Park), Berkenrode 4 (tel. 0591/324-444; www.veenpark.nl). At a reconstructed peat cutters' village, 't Aole Compas, watch demonstrations of peat cutting, butter churning, weaving, and clog making, as they were done at the end of the 19th century. There are nostalgic stores and an antique barbershop, and you can take a short canal trip onboard a turf boat. The park is open late March to late October daily from 10am to 5pm (to 6pm July-Aug). Admission is 12€ ($19) for adults, 11€ ($18) for seniors, and free for children 4 and under. To get there, take bus no. 45 from outside Emmen rail station to Barger Compascuum, or drive on minor roads via Nieuw Dordrecht.
12km (7 1/2 miles) NW of Emmen
Named after Ellert and Brammert, two giants who once upon a time robbed travelers in these parts, the Openluchtmuseum Ellert en Brammert, Tramstraat 73 (tel. 0591/382-421; www.ellertenbrammert.nl), is a trip down Drenthe's memory lane. Sculptures of Ellert and Brammert stand guard at the gates, behind which are sod huts, a Saxon farmhouse, a tollhouse, an old school, a prison, a smithy, a sawmill, an apiary (bee farm), geological exhibits, and a children's farm. Watch living crafts, like pottery making, and the recreated farming methods of yesteryear, and then enjoy a snack and a drink at an old country inn. Children can relive the legend of the two bandits in their cave hideaway. You'll need a couple of hours at least to make a visit here worthwhile. The museum is open April to October daily from 9am to 6pm. Admission is 5€ ($8) for adults, 4€ ($6.40) for seniors and children ages 4 to 11, and free for children 3 and under. To get to Schoonoord, take bus no. 21 from outside Emmen rail station. By car, go west on N364 and north on N376.
18km (11 miles) NW of Emmen; 6km (3 1/2 miles) W of Schoonoord
In a beautiful, forested landscape, Museumdorp Orvelte is a genuine old village, but one that has been preserved as a living-history monument that gives a fine insight into the way things once were in Drenthe. Rustic, thatched-roof buildings are grouped around the village square, the Brink. Real people live here and go about their daily lives, and though you can visit some houses and buildings that have been opened for display by masters of traditional crafts and trades, like the clog maker, the blacksmith, and the carpenter, others are private and can't be visited. There's an old-fashioned country cafe and a restaurant. For more information, check out the Visitor Center, Schapendrift 3 (tel. 0593/322-288; www.orvelte.net).
You can reach Orvelte by signposted country roads off N364 (leave your car at one of the car parks just outside the village), and by bus from Emmen, Assen, and the rail station in nearby Beilen.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.