A mere 15-minute drive from all the concrete, glass and steel at the Zuidas lies a quiet haven at the Vinkeveense Plassen called ‘Zwier’, an inspiring 10-acre place where city-dwellers with a hectic life can unwind and recharge their batteries.
Getting out of the car at Zwier, we see the lake, swaying reeds, a lot of green, a big building called the Werfplaats and a couple of sturdy bell tents. Despite a lot of activity in the marina the whole place oozes calm.
Until the 1940s, this idyllic spot was a farm at the Vinkeveense Plassen. After the war, the farmer realized that renting mooring space to fishing boats was much more profitable than raising cows and he opened the Winkeloord marina. And in the summer of 2017, Yordi de Bruin (35) and his wife Mariska Griffioen (33), the founder’s granddaughter, opened Zwier here.
The power of relaxation
Zwier mainly receives management teams, boards and committees of large companies and financial institutions. Bookings range from half-day visits to stays of multiple days for meetings, brainstorms, presentations, workshops, business retreats or for personal development and reflection.
‘By leaving the city behind and being outdoors, people can really relax and recharge their batteries’
“We strongly believe in the power of relaxation,” Yordi says. “By leaving the city behind and being outdoors, people can really relax and recharge their batteries. Finding inspiration, enjoying nature or doing nothing, just hanging around! Over here, guests can experience what happens with them when they’re simply staring out over the lake or sitting on one of the big swings near the water. Total relaxation!”
Zwier consists of various buildings, cabins, tents and areas including the Werfplaats, the Kas, the Buitenplaats, the Eilandhut and the Pakschuyt. The Werfplaats is the place to be productive. It’s a beautiful building with an industrial yet cosy atmosphere and a lot of light. The upper floor is often used as a yoga room, the downstairs area functions as a dining room.
‘Zwier mainly receives management teams, boards and committees of large companies and financial institutions’
Good food is an essential part of looking after oneself, according to Yordi and Mariska. All meals are vegetarian and prepared with local organic products. “We’re not overly promoting our veg philosophy and we don’t mention it on our website. Recently we had a group of employees from a large construction company, all men. When we served them a vegetarian meal instead of a big steak, they had to overcome their inhibitions but in the end they all were very enthusiastic about the food! How wonderful for them to experience that an inconvenience can actually bring some new insight! That is, if you could call it an inconvenience at all, because our kitchen is excellent. We serve a 3-dourse dinner prepared with fresh produce from our vegetable garden and in winter we have dishes like beet bourguignon and chili sin carne. Of course, accompanied with a nice glass of beer or wine.”
During multi-day events, guests can stay in one of the 18 luxury bell tents with a wooden floor, comfortable box springs with heated matrasses, a fridge, locker, electricity, WiFi, and a sitting area. “There’s a bathhouse with underfloor heating and luxury bathrooms. These are hotel rooms with cotton walls, but out in the open. In other words: this is an outtel.”
Guests can engage in all kinds of activities. There are sloops, electric boats, canoes, and SUP board for them to use; they can have a swim in the lake or make a fire in the large fireplace. There are no fixed packages to choose from. Yordi: “We’re flexible and we like to put a schedule together with our guests. We always incorporate a moment for relaxation, e.g. yoga or meditation. In the morning, we usually start with half an hour of meditation to loosen up.”
Tall stories at the campfire
“This summer, we put several people who were on a business retreat in a sailing boat. None of them had any sailing experience but they had to get from one side of the lake to the other. That’s when people are showing their true colours. Sometimes I’ll use the Pakschuyt to bring a small group to the middle of the lake where we anchor the ship. At that point, I’ll be leaving with a small boat, only to return at the end of the next day. This means they’ll be sharing a pretty small space and are totally dependent on each other all that time.”
“Of course, it’s very cool to have a beer and a chat sitting around the campfire. Sometimes we hire a storyteller or we organize a nature walk with a guide who knows all about local flora and fauna. We sail back in the dark and people can have a swim around one of the islets in the moonlight.”
A business in transition
In its current set-up, Zwier has only been operating for 18 months. The business is still developing from a traditional marina to a quiet haven. Yordi: “I hope it’ll never get finished, that would be so boring! Next to the Werfplaats we’re building the Huiskamer, an additional location to receive groups, plus a restaurant for the guests staying at Zwier. And we’re looking at opportunities to let people stay the night in cabins on the water in winter as well. We keep on responding to the demands of our guests but we stay true to our mission: helping guests to recharge their batteries!”
3645 AP Vinkeveen
T 0294 281 426