Yes, I know Holland is only part of the Netherlands, but I couldn’t think of a better alliteration. After a night camping somewhere near Zevenaar (which I found out two days later I’d been mispronouncing for the last three months), I made it to Arnhem to meet my host for a couple of nights. As ever, I aimed for the train station as they are always moderately central and well signposted.
There I met up with Tamara. Her first task as Official Representative Of The Netherlands was to march me to the nearest KFC should there be one in the vicinity. There was. Oh, joy. One large Mexican Wrap meal later and my KFC target had been hit – one (at least) in each country that I have visited. I can also report that the serving of fries/chips you get in Holland is bigger than anywhere else and that they also sell whole corn cobs as well as the pathetic cobbettes we are stuck with the in the UK.
My original plan had been to spend a night or two in Arnhem with Tamara and then head down to Nijmegen to stay with Dagmar. Thing is, I’d have to walk all the way back to Arnhem to continue the walk. Instead, I turned Nijmegen into a day trip.
So I had a day to explore Arnhem, see the bridge that was built to replace the one that kind of got sunk in 1944, examine the monuments, have a look at the big church and wander the shops. Then I had another day to go round Nijmegen, look at the cathedral, examine the buildings in the great market, look at the church that’s being remodelled, walk through a park and… wander the shops.
Arnhem doesn’t have a lot for the tourist (that I could find), though it’s a very pelasant place. The plaque on the bridge has to be visited as does the memorial to the soldiers who died trying to stop the Germans using it. If you’ve seen the film A Bridge Too Far this is that bridge. The new one was renamed the John Frost Bridge in honour of the leader of the Allied forces who reached the bridge during Operation Market Garden and – amazingly – held it for four days despite the odds and numbers being hugely against them.
On the way along the riverbank between Tamara’s and the bridge is an area where graffiti artists have been given free reign. You can even smell the fresh paint. There’s some amazing work there. Unusual, but worth a look if you’re in the area.
There is also an Allied cemetary outside of the city, but sadly I didn’t have time to visit. Next time, for sure.
In Nijmegen, I walked around the city and located the older area. There’s a magnificent cathedral – St Stephens – which is surrounded by other old shops and the like. Very picturesque. I couldn’t get into the cathedral but I’ve been told it’s rubbish inside anyway as it was remodelled not too long ago. A shame.
Outside, I had a little time to kill. As luck would have it, just around the corner is the Blue Hand – the oldest pub in Nijmegen. Well, it’s touristy so I had to do it. They sell some beers that are only available in that one bar and are brewed locally. Half an hour and one very nice beer later, I walked back to the train station to meet Dagmar.
We did a quick shop them headed for her house where her girlfriend, Arianne, whipped up a lovely dinner for us. After this, we headed back out into Nijmegen where we picked a random bar and found a pub quiz going on. The questions were the usual inane ones that I love, and it’s a shame we weren’t there earlier so we could actually compete as we didn’t seem to do too badly.
What’s scary is that the more I drank, the more Dutch started to sound like English. To the point where I was answering the questions before Dagmar had translated for me. And I was one of only two people in the pub who knew in which Bond film his Lotus had turned into a submarine. I guess being English helps for questions like that. I sure as hell couldn’t get the ones on Dutch history.
After three very satisfying bevvies (including one that was like drinking Christmas pudding) for which Dagmar insisted on paying, I was walked back to the train station to catch one of the frequent services back to Arnhem.
The next morning was an early start and a looong walk to Zeist, just outside of Utrecht. I said my goodbyes to Tamara as she left for work and got packed up. We hadn’t spent much time together while I was there, but I would like to say she was a great host and what time we did get to chat was really good!
The Netherlands are great for walking as just about everywhere has a cycle path. These are all signposted in red and cover routes both within and between cities. If I get hit by a bike, it’ll be annoying and a lot less worrying than being clobbered by a speeding car.
Despite the weather, which alternated between overcast, rainy, drizzly, pelting it down and monsoon, I made it to Zeist in a better time than I expected – about an hour before Margreeth got in from work. One of her flatmates, Frederic, showed me in and I collapsed on one of the sofas in the kitchen.
Again, Dutch hospitality came to the fore and despite being exhausted after her third day on her new job, Margreeth took me to the supermarket and bought food, beer and chocolate. Yay!
All three of us sat around and chatted over dinner before Margreeth called it a night. It was fairly early by my recent standards, but I needed it and as I was sharing a room with my host (it’s a student hall type of place) I turned in before midnight.
OK, I spent 45 minutes while she was snoozing to watch the last episode of season one of Heroes… Woah. I have got to get hold of the season two episodes!