Sunday, November 10, 2019

Maastricht - Nijmegen - Arnhem (pt 7)

In Maastricht. The day is picture perfect with a taste of autumn. Hanging by the Maas at the Bonnefanten Museum's missile tower, observing the fietsers as they zip by. After marveling at the Maas and basking in the sunshine, I got to work editing a translation (on the recent Mexico quake), first inside and outside the Bonnefanten café, then at the Bibliotheek Ceramique.
(original date of this entry: Aug 28, 2018)
Fun Maastricht
Later it clouded over and some kind of big fest was going on in the center of town, everyone in designer jeans and leather top coats. After investigating the soused cafés around the Onze Lieve Vrouwkerk and drifting through the Vrijthof, I grabbed a falafel at at a Turkish joint and ate it in the lovely Stadspark by the scaffolded ramparts. Then it started raining. The peaceful park made a nice contrast with the noise of the Vrijthof and I read In a Free State by VS Naipaul.

Cycling around, I later found a gallery of vivid graffiti art, then discovered a 'coffeeshop' on a boat called Mississippi. Pretty lively below deck. But I was denied entry, as I didn't possess a local ID. "If you even step into this place, the authorities could come and shut us down," I was told.

The next day I went to Maastricht station and got an NS train to Roermond, and from there an Arriva train to Nijmegen: 11 stops including Venlo and Boxmeer.


Maastricht is ok but I prefer Nijmegen. Though I've been here several times before, I have no recollection of the central shopping district which is lively and gezellig, lacking the snooty vibe of places like Breda, Den Bosch or Maastricht. I'm at the Café De Deut, one of a string of cafés on Koningstraat, a pedestrian plaza with a little fountain, all manner of fietsers and strollers coming through at around 5 pm. It's relaxing to sit here on well-worn cushions as a couple next to me play mah jongg. I sip my koffee verkeerd and watch all the beautiful and not-so-beautiful characters passing through in such randomness.


The last day of my fietstocht looks to be a good one. What a grand beginning. Around the corner from my Vrienden op de Fiets, Miryam & Marcel and son Luka, the River Waal, the freighters and tankers and barges plying the muddy waters of this vital waterway. It's warm and the sun is peeking through the clouds. I can see at least three arched bridges from here, trains rolling across the one to the west.

Return visit to the Fiets Museum (last time was 7 years ago!), return to the Oortjeshekken café, return to Bisonbaai beach, today practically deserted though it is warm and sunny at moments. It feels splendidly remote. Some hikers came through, not many cyclists. What a delight to swim in the cold clear water and lie in the sun.

The way out here looked the same as it did then: swamp, lakes and marsh scattered in parallel with the big river, populated by many birds. This is the Oude Waal.

Nijmegen to Arnhem via LF-3

I've just rounded the point where the Waal splits, the northwest branch being the Pannerdensch Kanaal, which channels into the Nederrijn, Arnhem's river. (In turn the IJssel splits off the Nederrijn at Arnhem.) I am simply following the LF-3b, a spectacular ride for much of the way. 

After swimming I rode back to the café, stopping for a moment to check the map. Just then, Mirjam, my Vriendin op de Fiets, popped up. She was just out for a spin. Wat een leuk toevaal! We cycled together along the Waal and conversed in Dutch. Mirjam is patient and conversant, if not exactly talkative. She takes it as a given that I speak Dutch, even if I stumble and often ask for help. Mirjam pointed out that the Waal is exceedingly low at the moment. Due to this, the ferry service between Kekerdom and Doornenburg has been discontinued indefinitely. Then she took a turn off the main route through a forested bit to the Millinger tea garden... 

What I am now riding along is the Groene Rivier Pannerden, essentially a great oval excavation (dating from 2015) which handles the overflow from the rivers in times of high water. It is also supposed to function as a sort of "nature recovery" zone, a truly Dutch concept. Now the overflow threat seems distant indeed, it's been so dry. Though my route skirts both the Groene Rivier and the Pannerdensch Kanaal behind it, all I see is an endless flat green field dotted with occasional grazing horses or ducks. I am heading for Arnhem.
Coming into Arnhem

It was easy to get there though not as inspiring as the previous section along the Waal. The exception was the approach to Arnhem (following LF-3 to kp22 below the "bridge too far" aka John Frostburg bridge). As usual in Holland the countryside transitions seamlessly into the urban area--none of your American/Mexican franchise blight at the city's edge. You're going down the Nederrijn valley, cows grazing on the banks, cyclists and walkers on the trails, and the arched bridge comes into view. Then you exit the LF (to kp35) and slip right on to the bridge. At the other end is the brilliant cycling rotunda, then you're going right through Arnhem's car-free shopping district. 

Just then the saddle started wobbling. It appeared the support had snapped. Well, better then I guess than cycling along the Waal with 20km to go. But it marred my grand return. 

Arnhem -> Amsterdam Amstel under an hour's journey!

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