Friday, April 28, 2017

The Urban Hike: Nijmegen.

Suffering freezing winds and sudden downpours, my darling daughter and myself treated ourselves to an urban hike through Nijmegen.
Town Centre

Nijmegen is practically the oldest town in my country; only Batavorum (now non-existent) has been documented as older. The Romans thought the high hill next to the river Waal a very good vantage point and place to build their army camp. Thus Noviomagum was founded.On the whole the Romans and the Bataven tribes who inhabited the river delta and the hills got along. There were skirmishes, though.

Nowadays Nijmegen is a student town, and an eclectic mix of old buildings dating from the 17th century and hideous new buildings from just after WWII. If you want to know about this period, have a look at the epic "A Bridge Too Far". The German army proved rather persistent in wanting to keep Nijmegen occupied, and hence the entire town centre was destroyed, only sparing one of the many gothic churches.
During WWII

Darling daughter and me started our urban hike on the bank of the river Waal, where we dropped off our luggage on the wonderful river barge b&b Opoe Sientje, which lies moored practically underneath the Waal Bridge.

Opoe Sientje B&B

From there we immediately rambled up the steepest Nijmegen hill, leading us along the Valkhof Park (the largest green blob on the map above)towards the town centre.
It being Monday, the market stalls rather spoiled the view, but at the same time the hustle and bustle was fun to watch.
The Grote Markt proved to be easy to find, as the enormous St. Stevens church can be seen from every point in the town. 

Grote Markt with St. Stevens and the Waagh

I like old churches, not from any religious point of view, but simply because it awes me that people have built these giants without any kind of mechanical device, and they managed to construct them without bits dropping off. So we walked around it, spotting a wonderful tearoom in the narrow alley behind it, Philips.

Once of the entrances to St. Stevens

After taking a quick peek inside, we followed the street with the most people in it, which went sharply downhill and reminded me of Wells (UK), with well water running swiftly down the middle. This street had wonderful little shops and restaurants on both sides, so we took forever walking down.

One of the very nice shops

We ended up in Kronenburger Park, the other green lung of the town, and famous to Dutchmen of a certain age for having been both the place to meet the ladies of the night and the song by Nijmegen troubadour Frank Boeijen that memorises said ladies. To translate: "Leave that world, leave that world,... and don't ask me for the right road, because everyone is lost". These last two sentences: "en vraag me niet naar de weg, want iedereen is de weg kwijt" have become iconic in Dutch culture. I'll provide you with a link; even if you cannot understand his Dutch (with a thick Nijmegen accent), you can enjoy the very good music and Frank's wonderful voice.Kronenburg Park - Frank Boeijen

Kronenburger Tower

From Kronenburger Park we walked uphill again, back to the Grote Markt, where we had dinner in the Waagh. This word stems from the verb "wegen", which means to weigh, and here the goods were weighed before they were sold in the markets of Nijmegen. The historical Waagh has been city hall and then the local police headquarters for a while, but now it is a restaurant, and a very nice one!
Wonderful beer!

After a very good dinner we slogged back to Opoe Sientje, where we had a few biological home brews and enjoyed the open wood fire and our book before retiring.

The next morning it was still very chilly (5 degrees C, in late April!), but we braved the rain showers and took a look at the Valkhof ruin, the Valkhof chapel and the Belvedere, before heading down the other side of the hill to the Valkhof Museum.

Valkhof kapel (chapel)

Me in front of what's left of the original Valkhof. Note the winter coat!

This tells of the history of Nijmegen, and has many Roman artifacts, all found in the cesspits and fields around the town.
It made me reflect that the jewelry of Roman times and of my own time hasn't changed one bit. So have we changed ourselves? Probably not. So much for civilization!

We wanted to visit that tearoom we saw the day before, so schlepped our way uphill once more (sorry about all this talk about hills, but you have to understand that we are from the wetlands, river delta near the sea, flat as flat can be, and we are not used to hills!). Afterwards we walked around the town centre once again (even though we had walked the same route the day before), because we liked it so much.
The Belvedere

view over river Waal from the Belvedere

The nitty gritty:
Nijmegen demands parking fees everywhere! The best thing to do, if you are by car, is to park in the Eiermarkt parking garage, as they offer a €11,00 day tariff (unfortunately I only found this out the second day; the first day I paid over €30,00 to park on the Waalkade).
Opoe Sientje B&B is situated on the Lindenberghaven 1C, 6511XT Nijmegen, €75,00 a night for 2 persons.
Philips is behind the St. Stevenskerk, in the alley called Achter De Hoofdwaght.

Inside Philips tearoom