APELDOORN, Netherlands — During this centennial year of Vincent van Gogh's death, many cities in the Netherlands are staking claims to associations with his early life and works. None is more justified than this city, which has a collection of Van Gogh paintings second only to Amsterdam's, as well as the richest lode of his drawings in the world.
The world-renowned Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller is set in a state-owned forest and game preserve near here, thanks to a very rich 19th-Century shipping magnet whose love of hunting brought him to these parts.
His wife began collecting art in the 1920s, starting with European Old Masters. She moved on to paintings by Van Gogh, Braque, Renoir, Picasso and any other major works she could pick up on her legendary forays into the Paris art market.
The delightful town of Apeldoorn also is home of Het Loo Palace, built in 1685 by William III and the summer palace of the Dutch Royal Family until 1974. Its massive and rather stark exterior holds 34 family rooms that are a menage of styles, furnishings and colors.
Apeldoorn, surrounded by a dozen or more charming hamlets, lies in the green and flowery province of Gelderland, where village parks were carpeted with acres of lavender-and-white crocus flowers, soon to be followed by jonquils, iris, tulips and so on through the painter's palette of a Dutch summer.
Getting here: Fly KLM nonstop to Amsterdam, or TWA, Air France or British Airways with changes. Advance-purchase costs run $588 to $985 round trip, depending on the month and day of the week. From the Amsterdam airport it's about an hour by train or car to Apeldoorn.
How long/how much? Give the town at least two days, although until July 30 you can take a KLM coach from Amsterdam's Van Gogh Museum for a day-trip to the Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller for $28 per person round trip. Lodging and dining costs in Apeldoorn are moderate.
A few fast facts: The Dutch florin or guilder recently traded at 1.59 to the dollar. Best times for a visit are from May until November, but the Van Gogh commemorative year may call for a little planning to obtain museum tickets and such. Netherlands Railway service is helpful, with all sorts of Rail Ranger tickets available at a discount.
Getting settled in: Hotel Oranjeoord (three miles from town in Hoog Soeren; $73 B&B double) is a converted 1880 Victorian hunting lodge-manor house owned by Queen Wilhelmina until her death in 1962. It's an old home of flowered chintz bedrooms, all with either terrace or balcony overlooking herb or rose gardens.
Dining is in an orangery with an inviting bar. Non-guests must make reservations for the evening meal. Oranjeoord is a relaxed place, with board games, magazines and other diversions in several cozy lounges.
Hotel-Pension Astra (Bas Backerlaan 12; $54 to $63 B&B double) is two stately 19th-Century homes in one of Apeldoorn's loveliest garden districts, a cozy place with a game room upstairs for children.
Bedrooms are simple but comfortable, and its pension plans are a real bargain. A generous T-bone steak dinner costs $11.
Motel Apeldoorn (J. C. Wilslaan 200, near town; $60 double) falls into the category of a simple, no-nonsense stop for drivers. Bedrooms are utilitarian, with a desk, two beds and black-and-white TV. The dining room serves all meals and has an extensive menu.
Regional food and drink: Dutch pancakes will take you by surprise; they're more like a 12-inch crepe topped with ham, cheeses, tomatoes, mushrooms, fruits or various sweets. You might even find one folded over a game ragout.
With all the forests and streams near here, you'll find lots of wild game and freshwater fish. The Dutch appetite for North Sea herring and mussels is always apparent.
Apeldoorn moppen is a cookie much favored at teatime . Dutch beer speaks for itself.
Good dining: Restaurant Poppe (Paslaan 7) is a mid-town, upper-class Dutch place where the movers and shakers gather. It's a bright and convivial dining spot, with flower paintings and Delft tiles on walls, flowering plants on each table.
French and local cuisine have been united in a happy marriage at the Poppe, for example in lemon sole with a raspberry vinaigrette, followed by wild boar and sliced pigeon breast in a red wine sauce. These were selections from a three-course lunch or dinner menu for $26 per person, all made more enjoyable by a background of Edith Piaf songs.
'tPannekoekhuis (Kemperbergerweg 673, also in Apeldoorn at Deventerstraat 172) are family owned pancake houses that offer 100 to 150 kinds of pancake toppings and fillings. The atmosphere is informal, with checkered tablecloths and curtains, and they're perfect places for lunch or a light supper. We sampled the venison ragout and tomato-onion-mushroom versions, both delicious. Service was brisk and friendly.