Rustic Living: Drachten, Friesland

Part of my job as a lifestyle writer back home is travelling. I get sent to beautiful places to cover events and write about it. At least few times a year, I’d look forward to discover new places and meet a lot of interesting people. When I moved to Holland, this was a major part of my life that I have to give up, the pleasures of traveling for free.

When an opportunity to travel to nearby Germany came at a very last minute, I was ecstatic. My boss calls it a business trip but for a writer like myself, any work-related, free travel outside my everyday working place feels like an assignment. Just spending time on the road going to inspections in nearby ports like Terneuzen and Ghent becomes a delight to me.

Originally we were planning to stay in Groningen. That was our main and last destination but the 100,000 bikers and participants of TT Motor Grand Prix in Assen seemed to have booked all the hotels and B&B’s in Groningen for themselves. I had to scout for a last minute bed and breakfast accommodation *with a modest budget, in the nearby town of Drachten. It took at least three more phone calls to three different B&B’s to find Helianthus Zathe. The owner Kerstin van Kammen was able to provide two accommodations for the next day.

But of course, not without a catch.

There was only one room left at Helianthus Zathe. They can accommodate us but one has to stay in the “Pipowagen”, a wagon turned into a room outside the main house. The sense of adventure immediately kicked in and I took it in a heartbeat. And last Saturday morning, I had one of the most wonderful mornings in a long time. One spent with Mother Nature and all the glorious sounds of the countryside, just like home.

After a long Friday, starting from 7:15 in the morning, ending almost midnight, at least half a day on the road and two change of clothes from dock worker to corporate girl, I was just very happy to spend a quiet evening in my pipowagen.  Because it was summer, even deep in the night, there was still a faint light from the sky. It did not get completely dark until at least half past 1am.

There was still a sense of hesitation of sleeping in the wagon, sometimes reinforced by the strange sounds  from the outside. I am spending the night alone, in the open, at least 200 meters away from the main house. Thankfully, the donkey who greeted me with a loud and long hee-haw during check in has remained quiet for most of the night. Still there were the sounds of the nocturnal birds and the occasional bleat of the sheep. There was a small canal behind the wagon, separating the rest of the property from the sheep’s field and at night, the water glistens under the moonlight.

It was a full moon Friday night and the tiny window above my cabinet-bed makes the perfect frame for a moonlit night. Peacefully I went to sleep, dreaming of my old beat-up bed in the province, in my tiny room where I watch the moonlight in my pane-less window, the same sky, the same creek and the same nostalgic feeling.

The bed was very modest, the mattress is not the softest while the pillows are too fluffy. I think it will be very uncomfortable for an average Dutch but perfect for the kids. The bedding are candy-colored even the pillows and the blanket. Every corner of  “pipowagen” is designed for kids. There was even a coloring book on the table. I felt like sleeping in a 10-year old bedroom, camping out in the summer and enjoying a day of freedom.

In the morning, I was woken up by the warm sunlight hitting my skin. The pigs, donkeys, horses, goats and birds in the farm are already up and loud, probably already had their breakfast while this little working girl is too lazy to get up because it’s a Saturday. But the thought of breakfast under the sun, in a beautiful Saturday morning was more appealing than staying in the bed for another hour. When the donkey saw me coming near their enclosure, it ran fast towards me. I almost run away, afraid that it will jump out of the fence to attack me. Fortunately, all it wanted was a pat in the head.

I had a very healthy breakfast  brought all the way from Rotterdam pver stories of  summers as children. It was amazing how for some people from the First World days like these are planned events often restricted by the sun and the weather. For me, a rural girl from the 3rd world, this is a daily life. We don’t need to hire wagons or farm houses to experience life in the countryside. I grew up surround with rice fields, farms, trees, creeks and animals running all over the place.

There was also a small man-made lake at the backyard, a tarpaulin and a slide so the place was really kid-friendly. Kerstin also owns this rat-like dog who greets and licks everyone he meets. When I went inside the house to pay, I also saw Kirsten’s kittens, silently eating its food in the corner. I was dreaming that if I have the money, this would be the kind of place I will build for my kids.
About Drachten

Drachten is not the first place you will think of for a weekend in Friesland. The province has more beautiful places to offer. Kirsten even said herself, the place is not touristy. It is more popular as the experimental town where they remove almost all the road and street signs to give motorists and commuters the same right to the roads. As a result, they are more careful and responsible there when it comes to road usage.
Helianthus-Zathe Bed and Breakfast

The B&B offers only three rooms but all are big and comfortable  enough for two persons. For 90 euros (incl breakfast) it might be a bit pricey for Drachten. Meanwhile my pipowagen is only available from April to September and cost 70euros without breakfast.
For more information you can visit their website or send Kirsten a message at or call her at 0512-342488.