After our emotional return to RAF Laarbruch we were off to Nijmegen in Holland for a few days to meet up with some old friends that we hadn’t seen since the start of our little JWalking adventure over three years ago. But first we had to get there …………
Not so efficient Germans
German efficiency is known the world over and held up to be second to none but they let themselves down a bit with our pre-booked minibus at Weeze Airport. I’d booked the seats months earlier but as the passengers confirmed their names with the driver I was told ‘only one seat for you’. I tried explaining and even holding up the email on my phone but he wasn’t interested. ‘Only one seat for you’ was all I got. He shrugged his shoulders and started to leave as another driver approached. The new guy immediately apologised and just said ‘Our fault, a new bus will come for you’. Then he drove off leaving us standing there in the sunshine wondering what had happened and when we’d be leaving!
Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Half an hour. Starting to worry a little when the new minibus raced in with a smiling jovial driver whisking us away in seconds. Just us in our own van with Herr Chatterbox but finally on our way.
It was actually quite an emotional drive as we passed through the town of Weeze where we lived back in the 1980s. So many memories came flooding back as we passed bars that we had drunk in, restaurants we’d taken good friends to, and even the animal park that we always visited with any visitors from the UK. Plus we passed the end of the road and saw our old flat which again stirred up those old feelings. Magical.
The Hotel De Prince
Even the drive to Nijmegen was emotional evoking so many memories of times gone by as we passed the villages and towns of Goch, Pfaldorf, Kranenburg and so many others. Then on into Holland and dropped off in the centre of Nijmegen where we quickly found our hotel.
The Hotel De Prince was just a few rooms over a bar in one of the sidestreets but what a cool little place. In fact the whole of the town is pretty cool with laid-back coffee bars and boutiques interspersed between trendy bars and restaurants. As we wandered around we remembered just what we loved about it all those years ago. Apparently Nijmegen is the oldest city in the Netherlands founded over 2000 years ago and sits on the River Waal. It’s probably best known for being one of the bridges taken in Operation Market Garden in World War Two and is featured heavily in A Bridge Too Far.
The Kirmes 2018
After a necessary snack of frikadellen and chips (with mayonnaise of course) we headed off to see the Kirmes. Each year every town in the Netherlands has a festival that originated from a church mass but is now just a funfair. It’s a week-long celebration and actually seems to happen twice a year in most villages.
The funfair in Nijmegen was huge but unlike England where these type of fairs are held in fields, this one was crammed into alleyways and small roads running right across the town. Took us 45 minutes to walk from one end to the other. Rides galore and lots of crazy Europop being pumped out. Must drive the locals nuts but it looked a lot of fun.
We even had time the next morning for a buffet breakfast out on the street! Sounds a bit tacky but it was lovely sitting in the sunshine watching the locals cycling past as we tucked into our continental breakfast and coffee.
Old Dutch Friends
When I say old I mean they’ve been friends for years not that they are particularly old. One of the reasons for this trip was to catch up with my old RAF mate Andy, his lovely Dutch wife Anja, and their even lovelier daughter Anouk. We spent a lot of time with them on our first month JWalking back in 2015 (Ghost Buster Pasta and Who said Holland was flat?) and have known them since our Royal Air Force days at Laarbruch in the mid 80s.
The best thing about great friends is that as soon as you meet up it’s as if you were never apart and that’s exactly how it was with Andy and Anja. Lots of laughs, stories, and of course a few ‘do you remember’s thrown in. So nice to spend time together. Just don’t mention Brexit! We spent a wonderful couple of days at their place in Molenhoek.
Return to Plasmolen and Groesbeek
On our previous stay we spent our days cycling mile after mile around the Dutch countryside and Andy kindly drove us out to see a couple of places from then. We walked along the harbour at Plasmolen before stopping for a coffee in Groesbeek which is where we had actually lived previously (Exploring in Groesbeek)
Next day was even better as we headed off for the medieval-designed town of Heusden where Andy used to live. A fabulous walk around the harbour and the windmill lead us nicely to a cool little bar on the main square where we just couldn’t resist a quick coffee.
From there it was off to the nearby town of Den Bosch where we managed a brief walk around before yet another stop but this time for a beer and a couple of frikadellan. Very Dutch and very nice.
Another fond farewell
All too soon it was time to leave and as Andy and Anja dropped us at Nijmegen railway station we waved goodbye wondering when we would next be all together. Hopefully not very long.
A final memory from our stay in Nijmegen was that we did our first proper blog post from here over three years ago (Nijmegen: And so it begins). Funny to link that we had absolutely no idea how the blog would go or whether we would even take to blogging. It’s been revamped and redesigned since that first post but it’s still basically a diary of our JWalking life and fascinating for us to look back on. I wonder if it will still be going in another three years?
10/10 – 13/10/2018