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Surreal places in the Netherlands: Radio Kootwijk

by Emiel Van Den Boomen

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?

ALSO READ: Most surreal places in the world

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’…

Radio Kootwijk

Radio Kootwijk area

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?

Family walking towards Radio Kootwijk

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.

Concrete building Radio Kootwijk

History Radio Kootwijk

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…

Heather area Radio Kootwijk


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.

Looking up Radio Kootwijk
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.

Details Radio Kootwijk
On the backside of the building you have to look for the eagle, representing the freedom of radio waves in the air: the flight of sound.

Backside Radio Kootwijk

Details Radio Kootwijk
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!!

Walking area of Radio Kootwijk

If you plan to visit Radio Kootwijk, don’t forget to visit my hometown Deventer which is close by. See you!

Our family at Radio Kootwijk

ALSO READ: Deventer in the Netherlands – great day trip from Amsterdam

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Philip Shiell May 10, 2020 - 15:38

Great story and photos. Have to put this on my “places to go ” list.

Bama March 23, 2014 - 07:40

It’s always interesting to learn about things, even small ones, which connected both of our countries, Emiel. Due to its proximity to Amsterdam a day trip to Radio Kootwijk is really a must for me when I go to the Netherlands one day. By the way I just realized that you’re from Deventer, a name made familiar to Indonesians by Conrad Theodore van Deventer who wrote a book, Een Eereschuld.

Emiel van den Boomen March 23, 2014 - 10:49

I am so glad you like it @harindabama:disqus . We indeed have a interesting history together of which the stories need to be remembered and told. Do you know about the very first words that were transmitted through this radio station? It was “Hello Bandung”, by our Queen Emma on 7th of January 1929. And I just checked Conrad Theodore van Deventer on Wikipedia, because I did not know him! Seems that there is a street named after him (Jalan Van Deventer) in….Bandung!
Thanks for returning to my blog Bama.

Bama March 23, 2014 - 11:31

I didn’t know about “Hello Bandung” at all. Now I know why the state’s telecommunication company’s headquarters is in Bandung, instead of Jakarta. My pleasure, Emiel! Reading your blog always makes me want to visit the Netherlands! Hopefully sooner than later.

World Travel Chef March 22, 2014 - 01:48

Great read. I know a lot of Dutch people. Wonder how many know of this?

Emiel van den Boomen March 23, 2014 - 10:51

Not all do James. I wasn’t aware of this place for a long time as well…seems our small country still has some hidden gems. Hmm, now I think of it, I should write more about these hidden but fascinating places in the Netherlands..

World Travel Family March 18, 2014 - 13:48

Fascinating Emiel! Thanks. And a great photo of you!

Emiel van den Boomen March 23, 2014 - 10:52

That’s a cool picture isn’t it! Thanks.

Andrew Wyatt March 18, 2014 - 12:16

I love these kind of places Emiel, it looked like you guys had the whole place to yourselves too! It must have been really impressive back then to be able to communicate with the other side of the world; now we all take this kind of thing for granted! 🙂

Emiel van den Boomen March 18, 2014 - 23:41

So true Andrew. How everything has changed….in order to call the other side of the world we only need that small smartphone rather than a huge concrete cathedral!

Heidi Wagoner March 18, 2014 - 11:59

Wow, what great information. Fascinating. We are briefly heading up that way this summer, so perhaps we can track down this building. How in the heck did you hang from that tree? Yikes! Thanks for sharing Emiel.

Emiel van den Boomen March 18, 2014 - 23:37

Me hanging from the tree looks great doesn’t it? It’s a combination of strenght and clicking the camera at exactly the right moment 🙂 If you need more tips when you head this way, just let me know.

JourneysOft'Fabulist March 17, 2014 - 15:13

Love it! Such a beautiful building and with a great story to tell. Not sure I’d be swinging from the trees like that, but glad you got that little extra out of it 🙂

Emiel van den Boomen March 17, 2014 - 20:15

This was the second time we visited. Now it’s hard to imagine why we waited for so many years… 🙂 And about swinging the trees…looks quite impressive doesn’t it? Thanks for leaving a comment.


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