Founded during Roman occupation over 2,000 years ago, Nijmegen is allegedly Holland’s oldest municipality. The small city of roughly 160,000 people sits on the heavily armored banks of the River Waal (the main distributary branch of the Rhine flowing through central Netherlands). I enjoyed nine dreamy days in Nijmegen from August 18 to 27th and quickly fell in love with this place. It has several of my favorite things in a place: exceptional bicycling, great parks and natural areas with birding opportunities, and some very fun and accessible opportunities to dance tango. I was drawn initially by the dancing at El Corte, a major center for Argentine Tango in Europe which has fostered a particularly unique and very international community of tango enthusiasts. El Corte is a special place (more on it later) but Nijmegen, I learned, has a lot more to offer.
My camp with bike.
Nijmegen has a large forest preserve to its southeast that is laced with biking and hiking trails. With sunny skies and Heike Luu’s tent in tow, I found my way too a fantastic camping area with showers only 15 to 20 minutes by bike from town that cost only 6 Euros a night.
Trail near my camp.
Another trail in the forest preserve.
A pleasant, treed cycle path in Nijmegen.
The bicycling is outstanding, even by Holland's standards. There is even a national bike museum, Velorama, which I will post on soon.
Several large tracks of land within the forested area SE of Nijmegen support an open shrub plant community dominated by purple-flowered heather. The heather comes into full bloom in early September so these shots are just before the peak.
Nijmegen has a population of only 160K but is very dense (7,780.3/sq mi), considerably denser than Portland (4,288.38/sq mi). The downtown is very pedestrian-oriented and the neighborhoods extremely bike-friendly.
Nijmegen has some great public water features that add character to the streets and provide functional value for cooling down. They were in use during my week in Nijmegen; the temperature was in the mid-80s (while it was in the 100s in Portland).
In Nijmegen I had my first www.couchsurfing.org stay with the fantastic Eve Van Dijk. Eve was a most excellent host, putting me up in her living room for 6 nights, taking me bicycling and bringing me to an incredible dinner party with her friends. I am very grateful and looking forward to spending more time with Eve aand her friends when I am back in Nijmegen in October. Here’s a photo of a light breakfast Eve made me one morning.
We went on a bike ride to Ooij and Kekerdom. The bike ride goes along a major dike on the River Waal with views of various riverine lakes and wetlands full of birds. The most notable sitings on this trip were an Eurasian Spoonbill and some European Goldfinches. We ended up at this gorgeous tea garden near Kerkerdom and ate strawberry cheesecake. People lounged around the garden as a quirky guitarist sang to them.
One night Eve took me to the home of her friends Maus and Per with their two sons Thijmen and Matthijs. We were joined by her other friends Ciel and Warner with their two sons Wolle and Xibbe. It was an absolutely delightful and scrumptious meal in the backyard as the sun set. It felt like one of those many dinners I have had in the PPC courtyard.
Clockwise from the left: Per, Maus (the chef), Eve, Ciel, and Warner (from behind).
Eve, Ciel and Xibbe.
Maus the amazing chef. We had fish and lamb. OMG it was good.
Per and me.
Fish with fennel. MMMMM.
Wolle, Thijmen, Matthijs (rear) and Xibbe (front).
Xibbe, the youngest and cutest, with his strawberry hat.
Xibbe was quite a singer, most fond of singing "We will, we will, rock you!"
I arrived in Nijmegen in time for El Corte’s Summerdaze tango festival. We danced in some amazing venues and I greatly enjoyed the workshop with Stephan and Komala. My favorite night was dancing at Vivaldi’s restaurant on the waterfront. The moon came up over the River Waal as we danced in a room with balcony overlooking the river. Magnificent, but I did not get any photos. Here are some shots of the dance in Goffert Park:
Twice while in Nijmegen I took the train to Arnhem to dance at the Flor de Fango Wednesday night practica.
Here is a series of shots of an incredible building in downtown Arnhem.
Well that's an intro to Nijmegen. I am in NYC this week for my friend Emilie Sommerhof’s wedding. But there is a lot more on Nijmegen to come. Stay tuned.
A final note. As of September 3, I am an uncle. My little brother, Chris, and his wife Tiff gave birth to a healthy boy, Samuel Kai Huson Labbe! Here are some photos: