Over 30 sculptures have been created along the river Vechte in and around Nordhorn within the last three decades. Today these objects exemplify, on an international level, some of the most recent aspects of the history of public art. At the same time, artworks have been set up at several railway stations on the Dutch side of the Vechte valley since 1987. The remaining gap on the border of the two countries was finally closed around the year 1998 when 15 international artists created new works closely related to the local history and landscape.
Since summer 2000, over 60 artworks, going under the name »kunstwegen«, have constituted Europe’s largest open museum, along a route of approximately 150 kilometres. Most objects are installed in the open air, so they are accessible at any time and for everybody. The more recent art projects in particular respond closely to regional conditions by taking up natural phenomena, historical events and local peculiarities to enrich the landscape with innovative artistic focus. Ilya and Emilia Kabakov for instance, in their sculpture marking the Dutch-German border, are concerned with what separates and what unites people. Peter Fischli und David Weiss guide visitors through the ecological variety of the moor and eventually evoke memories of the prisoner-of-war-camps during the »Third Reich«. Or Till Krause time and again offers unusual views on the traveller’s route, offering meticulous observations and carefully drawn maps along the way.
These are only three of many fascinating artistic encounters in the Vechte valley. Within the moor and heath landscape with its small woods, canals, wide meadows and romantic hamlets, »kunstwegen« invites the visitor on a tour through history and around many local stories, always using art to elicit these multiple aspects in unexpected ways.
a richly varied county in the border triangle
»Grafschaft Bentheim« – Bentheim county – offers a varied natural habitat of great recreational value. It consists of quiet heath- and moorland areas in the north-eastern part and the original sandstone terrain with inviting forests and idyllic spots in the south. Nature and art attract visitors, as well as sport and relaxation facilities.
The Bentheim sandstone is a striking feature . As early as the year 1000, sandstone was one of the most important natural resources and consequently the county’s pre-eminent export item. The castle at Bad Bentheim, one of the oldest fortresses in northwest Germany, was built of sandstone. Other structural evidence of the county’s eventful history is provided by the prehistoric cairns near Uelsen, the monastery at Frenswegen, founded in 1394, and numerous water mills and windmills.
The county has 125,000 inhabitants, of which 50,000 live in the main city of Nordhorn. Although relationships were strained during the Second World War, Dutch influence is omnipresent in the vernacular »Plattdeutsch« as well as in traditional customs that are still practised throughout the year. The main economic factors in recent decades are the development of new enterprises in the trade and service sectors and an increase in tourism.
While Bad Bentheim with its natural sulphur springs is mainly a health spa, Uelsen has become an officially recognised family resort. The county town, Nordhorn, which grew up around a flourishing textile industry, today invites visitors to stroll and shop in the city centre. Nordhorn also has various leisure facilities and cultural activities to offer.
the province of overijssel: nature and art by the riverside
The Dutch side of the Vechte river valley is marked by a balanced blend of unspoiled nature and valuable cultivated landscape. The varied forests, waters, heathland and farms give this region notably species-rich wildlife and vegetation, which are subject to particular protection. Old arms of the river and sand dunes, embankments and woods, moors and green hills create an idyllic holiday area, made accessible by numerous cycle tracks and footpaths.
The river Vechte has played a major part for centuries: it was the lifeline for the earliest settlements and in the Middle Ages it served as a transport route for the Bentheim sandstone. Today the river attracts as a leisure resort for fishing and bathing, as well as water sports. The landscape along the Vechte is part of the province Overijssel, which ranges over an area of 3,337 km, 124 km of which are inland lakes and waterways. Overijssel also includes the Salland and Twente regions, and the estuary of the river Ijssel.
There is a sense of living history in old castles, picturesque windmills and historic city centres. The unique model gardens of the region, like for example the experimental gardens of Mien Ruys or the Ada Hofman pond garden, are worth seeing. The best places for sightseeing in the Dutch Vechte valley are Ommen, Hardenberg, and naturally Zwolle as regional capital.