Monday, June 9, 2008

Tour de Nijmegen

While in Nijmegen it's hard to find a well-located bench.

Yet there are plenty of panoramic spots in this town and you can have many spectacular views on river Waal.

Nijmegen lies on the southern shore of this large gray branch of river Rhine and offers more than expected. A former Roman settlement, the city claims to be the oldest in Holland, although people in Maastricht have a differ
ent story to tell.

Whether the oldest or simply old, Nijmegen does not have much to share with
most of the Dutch cities. You will not see any canal here. In compensation, a surprising number of scooters, motorcycles and even electric bicycles (!) crowd the streets.
This might have something to do with the conformation of the town, which is pretty hill-marked. I am not saying that people in Nijmegen are lazy even if looking at them walking and dragging their bikes instead of cycling on painless cobblestoned uphills more than a suspect may rise.

The town is often referred as the warmest in the Netherlands and local legends say that once the temperature reached a Mediterranean top of 39°. Today there might be 20 Celsius or something and yet I can confirm how the sun here hits the skin with a power unknown elsewhere in these Lowlands. But no decent sun-bathed bench may be found.

It's a charming Sunday early afternoon. Along Waalkade, the river promenade, young and old couples are strolling hand in hand while lapping ice creams or picking at French fries from their mutual vlaamse friten gigantic cornucopias. They walk straight from the rail bridge to the impressive car bridge that alternatively mark the beginning and the end of Nijmegen.
Above the riverside stand a couple of hills punctuated by old brownish stones, half burned towers, ancient walls, ruins of churches and a Michelin starred restaurant. Add lawns, trees, a bunch of Nordic walking teenagers and many poorly located benches and you will have a picture of Hunnerpark.

Although many of its inhabitants prefer to put a motor under their seat, Nijmegen houses the Nationaal Fietsmuseum Velorama, the only Bike Museum of the Netherlands.
Open your ears folks: this is the best thing I saw in Holland so far.

And this even if, oddly enough:
- there are no bike racks outside the museum and I had to tie my Batavus to a utility pole;
- the custodian does not speak any English
(Waar ga je naartoe? Wij hebben een tweede etage boven!);
- as usually, there is no discount for students.

Yet, believe me, this museum is a gem. Here you can find the weirdest kind of bikes, mono cycles, tricycles and even roller skaters from the late 18th century on in a clever arrangement.
There are bikes of all shapes named, say, Boneshaker,
The Swift Safety, The Matchless, Xtraordinary Challenge or Diamond Rambler No 2, (my favourite one).
For those of you who are Orange fetishists there is even a section dedicated to the bikes rode by the Dutch royal family. The tandem of princes Bernhard and Juliana still radiates a majestic aura. Definitely entertaining the Velorama is also didactic being its signs Dutch written only.

Besides, at the ground floor you can choose among a large selection of funny old-aged posters and postcards. You just have to mime your choice to the inscrutable custodian who is not only Dutch speaking, but also half deaf.

Even if you are not a bicycle nerd like me, Nijmegen definitely worths a visit.

The second and final stage of this Tour will be decisive to convince you. Trespassing Germany.

(on the left side one of the nice posters I bought)

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