Monday, July 26, 2010

Vierdaagse 2010

For the past week, our quiet little town has been overrun with masses of people and turned into party land: the vierdaagse had arrived for the 94th time. In English, it's better known as the international 'Four Days Marches' and is the largest walking event in the world. Basically, a maximum of 45,000 people walk either 30, 40 or 50 km each day for four days in Nijmegen and the surrounding area. Anyone can participate and I think that how far you walk depends on your age. The military also participate but they must carry 10kg packs. From the moment we arrived in Nijmegen, everyone we met was telling us about this renowned event. I didn't realise what a big deal it really was until it all began a little over a week ago...

The weekend before: the party like atmosphere that continued well into the week was kicked off with the start of the vierdaagse feesten on Saturday night. The town centre was filled with a number of stages (I think, maybe 20?) with plenty of live music and even more beer stalls. We met up with some friends and checked out the 'beach' (setup along the river at Lent with a sideshow, stage, drinks etc) and then wandered around town, ending up at the main stage to see Shantel, which was absolutely brilliant (see here for a sample) - reminded me of my favourite Australian band The Cat Empire...

Day 1: Sarah and I had plans to go watch the group walk along the Waaldijk, but when discovering that the first group of walkers started at 3.00am that morning (due to the nasty heat we've been having here), we didn't end up seeing them. At a more reasonable hour of the morning though, we went for a 'jog' (my version of a jog is a fast paced walk with running sprints of about 10m, any longer and I keel over) through Lent and were rather amused at how the oldies who were settled in along the side of the ride to watch the walkers clapped and cheered us on and said a bunch of things in Dutch I couldn't understand - I think they felt sorry for us, probably thought we were the poor unfit people trailing behind the 45,000 participants...

Day 2: Chairs started appearing along our street in preparation for the final day, and even a leather couch covered in plastic was strategically placed along the side of the road so that someone could claim their ideal viewing spot. It amazed me that none of these chairs, couches or even a mattress were stolen between when they appeared on the Wednesday and the finale on Friday.


Day 3: With some delicious home made chicken & avo sushi and a thermos packed in my bike bag, we took a ride out towards Berg en Dal to sit down with a picnic while watching the walkers. We found a pretty tree lined road along the walkers path and settled in only to have the better part of the 45,000 people tell us upon sighting our sushi picnic - mmmmm lekker! And eet smakelijk! And a whole bunch of other words that I only vaguely understood but were very friendly and I think along the lines of - did you bring any for us? It was hilarious and Sarah and I were having a good laugh and a bit of fun practising our Dutch (I have been teaching Sarah the basics) - we said goedemiddag too many times to count, but I still can't seem to get the 'g' noise right... Apparently having Dutch genes doesn't help in this instance :-( Finally we gave up and reverted to G'day - worked well when the few Aussie walkers came along, although I think they thought we were silly European girls trying to be clever with some Aussie slang...

Day 4: The finale! Our street is the finish line of the marches (which by the way, is not a race) and is renamed Via Gladiola during this time. This is because the official flower of the marches is the gladioli, and is handed out to participants on the final day. We were up around 8am and I was surprised to see very few people on the street, considering how everyone had been telling me how crowded it would get.

We had the perfect viewing place in our big windows and by mid-morning, the chips were out and the beer was cracked open...



People slowly started trickling in and more chairs appeared, a little old lady even put her chair out in the middle of the bus lane (this was before the road was even closed - she was brave) to claim her spot and was soon joined by some friends...


Stages were set up for live music & radio stations - we had about 3 different choices of music blasting us all day. A urinal (the first time I saw one of these at a festival here, it took me a minute to figure out what it was and when it clicked, it gave a whole new meaning to the good old porta-loo) was set up in the worst possible position, right below our window - lucky they moved it shortly after...


The first walker powered through at 9.15am and by midday, the sidewalks were crowded with cheering spectators.


There were kids handing out lollies to the walkers and giving out hi-fives...


There was a policeman outfitted in white, dancing on a podium while directing traffic (it was fantastic - he looked like he was having a blast. No photos though, it was a had-to-be-there moment)...

Family and friends were stopping their loved ones and hugs, kisses, and gladiolas were handed out all round...


A lot of walkers appeared to be in pain (not surprisingly) but despite this, they were all dancing, skipping and running down the street with looks of pure joy on their faces. The crowds cheered everyone on, it was almost like the walkers were celebrities for the day, making their way down the red carpet...



We cheered the Aussies on (had plans to blast 'Land Down Under' out the window for them but the noise from the 3 stages drowned out everything else)...


Plenty of wacky outfits and hats came out for the last day...



Lots and lots of military with their packs, and even a few marching bands...




This continued until a little after 5pm - it was incredible to see so many people walking past our front door. 45,000 sounds like a lot, but seeing the constant stream of people filling the road for hours on end made me realise just how huge this whole four day march thing really is...


Maybe, just maybe, I'll do it for myself one day...

3 comments:

  1. Hi,

    This is a wonderful blog! It was a very good read.

    I was wondering if you would be interested in guest blogging on my blog. It is a collection of my travels and the travels of my guests. If you scan the site you can see that now almost 100% of the posts are from guests. Lately I’ve been finding many people interested in guest posting.

    Included in your post will be a link to your website using whatever anchor text or key words you wish and a description of your site (if you choose to include one.)

    My blog (onetravel.wordpress.com) receives about 2000 visitors a day and that number is steadily growing.

    So if you are interested in being a guest, please let me know.

    Send me an Email:
    gchristodoulou(-at-)OneTravel(-dot-)com

    Warm Regards,
    George Christodoulou
    Travel Blogger | OneTravel
    gchristodoulou(-at-)OneTravel(-dot-)com

    ReplyDelete
  2. Wow that's crazy! Is it purely a tradition and an excuse for a laugh, or is there some deeper meaning/purpose? (i'm kind of hoping there isn't :P)

    ReplyDelete
  3. As far as I'm aware, it's purely tradition - it's not a race so there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of point to it other then that it's a HUGE achievement - most people here seem to want to do it at least once it their lives, it's one of those things to cross off your list. They all seem to love it - it's hugely popular, and I think the 'medal' is a big motivation to finish. Although, if you don't make it to the finish line by 5pm on the last day, you only a get a certificate, no medal :-(

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for reading, your comments make my day :-)

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails