July 31st – The Bridge

The second day began bright and early with Thijs once more. We played a bit of the game ‘Dead Space’, and then proceeded back into Eindhoven. I picked up a cigar for my next companion, Kasper, and Thijs decided to share one with me too. Unfortunately, Thijs inhaled the smoke, and spent the last hour with me trying to recover what was left of his lungs (we considered it his own ‘ditch moment’!).

From a friend’s recommendation, I went to the local market and bought some fresh Dutch cheese. We got some bread from a local supermarket, but I possibly ended up spending more than I should have through faulty labels. It didn’t spoil the joy of eating it though – Dutch cheese is indeed really good, with a creamy rich texture.

I bode Thijs farewell at the train station, and wished him well on his upcoming journey to Slovenia. It was quite sad – I suddenly felt quite vulnerable without a companion. But my attention now turned to the target of the day – Nijmegen Bridge. Thijs helped me with getting me a ticket that went to Arnhem via Nijmegen, as the automated system in the Netherlands doesn’t recognise foreign cards.

I got a train that supposedly took me straight to Arnhem. However, we made an unscheduled stop for about twenty minutes in a field somewhere, and then carried on to a town called Oss. When most people got off the train, something didn’t feel right, so I asked the conductor if the train was still indeed going to Nijmegen. It was not – by my guess, it had broken, and we were all diverted onto another train. I managed to jump off the broken train and just catch the one I now needed to be on. I’d only just sat down when an attractive, smiling dutch girl came and sat next to me, and started talking. I just smiled back, shook my head slowly, and told her I didn’t speak dutch. She wanted some help with her ticket or something – no idea. She quickly left to find someone more familiar with the ticket system. This was not an unusual thing to happen though – I observed several other strangers getting to know each other as we proceeded to Nijmegen on this new train.

We passed a place called Boxtel which had a really big church in it’s centre. Then we passed a place called Pierson College, which had meme ‘Rage Faces’ all over it’s entrance (which, let’s face it, is pretty darn awesome!) Then we crossed two bridges – one of which I assumed to be my mission for the day. After pulling into Nijmegen station, I started to follow the tracks back down the line.

I walked out of the city centre and into some dodgy district full of Dutch chavs on BMX bikes (yeah, even the chavs over here have ‘em!) I followed the train tracks back for around a mile, before finding a crossing. Standing in the middle of the crossing and looking back, I saw at least another mile of straight track. Wherever the bridge was, it was absolutely miles behind me, and it was just not worth chasing it up.

Upon my return journey, around forty minutes after arriving in Nijmegen, I go up a high road, and I suddenly see the bridge. Ahead down the line. I don’t know where the lookalike bridges we’d crossed en route had gone, but I did notice there were four different track exits from the station, as opposed to the usual two. Whatever had happened, I’d found the unmistakable shape of the criss-cross iron arching over the river Rhine, and after a second cheese sandwich at the station (man’s gotta eat) I followed pursuit in earnest.

It didn’t take me long to find the bridge, at which point I took as many photos as I could. Whilst standing on the bridge, I contacted Kasper (who was still in bed at two in the afternoon!) to let him know I was now on my way to Arnhem. I walked across the bridge, and then back again, imagining what it would have looked like during the war, after the third day of both sides trying to take control of it. Then it was a case of re-treading my steps to the station, hopping on the next train to Arnhem, and crossing Nijmegen Bridge the final time to my next destination.

I expected Arnhem to be a countryside town. Whoops. It dwarfed Eindhoven significantly – Arnhem is huge. Kasper arrived a few minutes late, still half-asleep. Although one can tell his approach to life is quite different from Thijs, I remembered all too well his lust for life and for partying. We took a casual walk back to his house, where Kasper took joy in realising he was the only one I was visiting in the Netherlands who had a house of his own.

Thijs had recommended me to try out some local Dutch food – a well-known delicacy being Krokets, and also Frikadels. Both were types of mixed-meat sausages – krokets deep fried, and frikadels cut and stuffed with white and brown sauce and onions. Unfortunately, nothing in Eindhoven seemed to open before midday, so I was now on the hunt in Arnhem for the food. Kasper knew many places to eat out, but they all resembled fast-food places. I was surprised to find one of the only signature dishes of the Netherlands was a fast-food item! (But then I thought about our fish n’ chips dish at home. Hmmm…)

Fast Food – A frikadel on the left, a kroket on the right. Frikadels are my favourite, but they are really awkward to eat! (You have no knife, remember!) Another amazing observation was the actual stores themselves. They feature a wall of mini ovens with pre-baked krokets in each. You just put one euro in, and the oven door opens and you take it straight out! Brilliant idea, since my last trip to McDonalds in Birmingham took me twenty minutes just to get served!

I tried both a kroket and the frikadel at the same time. I preferred the frikadel, although I can see krokets being popular after a night on the town. After that, Kasper had his chance to shine as my tour guide, pointing out all the new-build occurring all around, and taking me to a few shops to buy some food – and booze – for the night. We also stopped by his work place to have a mojito each. Kasper gave me tips on how to make my own – he would be demonstrating his own abilities later that evening (for me though, Tenerife still has the nicest mojitos going!)

After returning to Kasper’s house (visiting a local windmill on the way), we picked up with a few more episodes of ‘Game Of Thrones’. At this point, I found out Kasper’s girlfriend Kim was coming round tonight. Although my initial reaction was one of panic for being third-wheeled for the next twenty four hours, Kasper also brought his friend Robin living upstairs down for drinks as well. We put on some music, Kasper made some cocktails, and soon I was on the shots of tequila, liquor 43 and weird rice-sake from China. It could only end well.

Skinny-Dip

In the most random of circumstances, Kim had some bad news that night. Not only did the trains stop running as she was half-way to Arnhem (she lives many miles away on the other side of the Netherlands!) prompting a pick-up from Robin, but something else worried her later in the evening, and she disappeared. Robin went to look for her out in the town streets, whilst Kasper and I did karaoke-esque rap battles to Eminem songs (believe it!).

Suddenly, Robin and Kim ran back in through the front door about half an hour later, Robin having found Kim, and Kim having found a new lease of life. They told us to strip and to follow – we were going swimming.

I had no idea what that meant, but Robin quickly fetched me some waterproof shorts from upstairs. I was actually too drunk to worry at this point – I got changed, and went outside with the rest. Kasper locked up, and we went a short way down Kasper’s street to a little park area at the end (Arnhem is full of parks – it’s one of the greenest cities in the Netherlands as well!). We fumbled and crashed over a locked gate, to a paddling pool in the middle of the field. A water-fair ‘thing’ was happening tomorrow for kids, but the pools were all set up tonight. Hence, we all jumped in.

The water was predictably freezing, but that didn’t stop us from splashing about all over the place. Then, through the darkness, we found another paddling pool and began racing each other to and from each pool. Amidst much laughing, bell-ringing and shouting, Kim and Robin suddenly get halted dead in their tracks by a security man with a flashlight. Upon asking at a later time what they said to each other, it went something like:

“Oh? We thought anyone could use the pools tonight?”

“No. No you can’t. Get out.”

“Okay… we’ll be quiet.”

“Be ‘quiet’? You’ve even woke me up!”

We ‘snuck’ back out of the park, crashing back over the gate. We took a walk around the block barefoot, taking care to avoid broken glass all over the place, before finally returning to Kasper’s pad. Apparently we’d been looking for something that Kim thought she’d dropped, but she’d left it in Kasper’s house all along. I got changed, and finally crashed on Kasper’s sofa, too tired to go any further into the night at around half past four in the morning. Kim placed a little sombrero on my head, and that’s the last thing I remember. Someone, at some point, put a load of blankets over me. For that, I am grateful 🙂

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