Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nijmegen (it's about time!)

I was uploading some photos Mitch took of Nijmegen recently when I realised - we have been here now for 7 months and I haven't done a single blog post on our new home town... I've been slack! I've been so distracted with all these new places and things that it's just slipped my mind - but here is a little snippet of this piece of Flatland that we are happily calling home at the moment.

Nijmegen is a reasonable sized town of around 160,000 people. It's located here, in the province of Gelderland, right on the German border. Nijmegen is considered to be the oldest town in the Netherlands - although Maastricht also claims this title, so who really knows. It's origins date all the way back to Roman times however; this history is well laid out with some fantastic artifacts in our local museum, Het Valkhof.

Located on the River Waal (it's sandy river banks becoming a local 'beach' during summer), Nijmegen is a barge lovers heaven - sitting down by the river here is a great place to sit and watch these huge boats go by. It's a really busy river and I honestly don't think I have ever been past it without seeing at least 1 or 2 barges floating by. This area is known for being one of the most hilly in Holland - although to me, it's still unbelievably flat!!! The surrounding countryside is beautiful though, and I do love riding my bike around - leisurely rides along the Waaldijk is one of our favourite things to do.

During World War 2, Nijmegen was heavily bombed by the Allies, who were aiming for a nearby city in Germany and missed. This resulted in a great deal of the city being destroyed and so the reason why there aren't too many old buildings around. Nijmegen played a key role in 1944 during Operation Market Garden in which the goal here was to protect the bridges from being destroyed. The Waalbrug pictured above was saved by a local hero and so many people here are naturally very proud of this big road bridge which links Nijmegen with neighbouring Arnhem. A fantastic movie which explains the whole scenario is A Bridge Too Far.

Despite the heavy bombing and fighting during the war, a few old buildings remain in the city centre. Typically Dutch, these buildings are gorgeous and make the perfect location for the Saturday & Monday local markets. There are a few old churches around too, but most noticeable of all is the giant St Stevenskerk which dominates the city skyline.

Kronenburger Park is a lovely spot in the town centre to sit and read a book, feed some ducks and just watch the world go by. It's so nice having somewhere so green and pretty to escape from all the buildings, shops - and bikes!!!

I've said it before and I'll say it again - my most favourite thing about this town is the mix of city & country. I grew up in a small country town but spent the past 7 years living in a big city - I can't decide if I'm a city or country girl; I truly do love both. Nijmegen seems to have the perfect mix - we've got great restaurants, shopping (it's very rare that I have to go anywhere for shopping - there is enough here for just about anything!), cinemas, things to do yet the countryside is only kms away - in just a few short minutes on my bike or by car, I can be in the midst of farmland and tiny villages. Nijmegen was also in the top 5 for the Most Hospitable City in the Netherlands award for 2010 - it sadly lost out this year to Den Bosch, but I have to say - it truly is a hospitable city. The people here are fantastic - everyone has been so incredibly friendly, welcoming and have really made us feel at home here. It might not be a hot tourist destination, but I do love our little piece of Holland :-)

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