With a loud "Choo - choooo!", our journey had begun. The destination: Hoedekenskerke, a town within bike-ride distance of our house, but who can resist the charms of on an old steam train?
As expected, the ride was quite the treat for Lukas, my traveling toddler buddy, who was fascinated with the sounds of the train, the conductor, and, of course, everything appearing in our window. Large fields, scarecrows, small rivers, and windmills flooded our window pane with impressions of Zeeland, made complete by the earthy smell of freshly-dunged fertile farmland.
It's a 40 minute train ride from Goes to Hoedekenskerke, and those wishing to disembark early can get off at Kwadendamme. What I'd love to arrange sometime is the package which includes a horse-and-carriage ride ("huifkar") through the neighboring towns, followed by a visit to the Langeweegje butterfly gardens ("Vlindertuin"- closed on Mondays), and culminating in an hour-and-a-half stop in Hoedekenskerke (to be reserved through "De Toffe Peer Huifkartochten" in Vierwegen: 06-38934868).
So what's in Hoedekenskerke? Lots! During high-season, there's a miniature train for the kids to ride; a playground; and a museum complete with a café, souvenir shop, wooden shoe-making display, huge model train and town, and more. Then there's the harbor area and accompanying "Grandcafe Paviljoen De Steiger" and the town center - which is just a short walk from the train platform.
I can't even begin to tell you how much Lukas enjoyed our afternoon, and my only regret is that we didn't make a whole day of it, beginning with lunch at the charming old station restaurant in Goes (look for signs to the "Stoomtrein" - as it's not connected with the main railway station), then heading out to Hoedekenskerke on the 2 PM train, and returning to Goes on the 4:20 train (arrival time - 5 PM).
Traveling in the "Stoomtrein" was like traveling back in time, and the enduring tranquility of rural Zeeland is underlined by the simplicity of the land, people, and daily life. No question that this is a fantastic experience for the whole family, and its one that I know my son won't soon forget.