by Marcie Asplin
New Year, New You?
Walking — it’s something almost everyone can do, and there are usually few costs associated with this activity. It is something you can do with or without purpose. You can walk somewhere or you can simply meander aimlessly without a destination in mind. You can do it for exercise or for pleasure (this is sometimes one and the same). Unlike some sports, little special equipment is needed to walk in the Netherlands. Since the country is mostly flat, you can get away with walking in a good pair of trainers but if you walk regularly, it’s a good idea to invest in some proper walking shoes. You certainly don’t need any technical gear, since you'll come across few hills, let alone face a mountain in the Netherlands. Walking is also one of those activities that hasn’t been hampered by coronavirus regulations, so it could be a great way to begin an exercise plan if that’s on your list of New Year’s resolutions. You can go out on your own or adapt the number of people in your group to comply with the rules.
The Dutch love to walk, and if you search for wandelroutes (walking routes), you will get numerous pages of results and other search suggestions. There is even a Royal Walkers Union of the Netherlands (Koninklijke Wandelbond Nederland) and they offer suggestions for walking routes on wandel.nl. They also have links to non-KWBN affiliated websites that offer free walking routes, including NS wandelroutes (usually from one train station to another but sometimes in a loop), Staatsbosbeheer routes and Natuurmonumenten routes. There are hundreds of walking trails to choose from on these three websites alone. AllTrails also has thousands of routes and, after signing up for a free account, you can search by location. You can use the app to guide you in real time, but to download routes for offline use, you’ll need to upgrade to a Pro account first. If exploring cities is more your thing, GPSmycity.com has many options and, closer to home, Amsterdam Experiences offers free weekly walks when you sign up for their newsletter.
I’ve created a Google map with some suggested walking areas I’ve read about in other Facebook groups or on blogs (via newsletters from outdoor goods companies such as Bever in the Netherlands or A.S.Adventure in Belgium). Most of the linked walks are to Dutch websites, but Google Translate can help if you need it. This map currently only has places to walk in the Netherlands and is by no means extensive but there are also loads of options in nearby Belgium (just a few are listed here) as well as Germany, for when traveling becomes a possibility again. If you are looking for something longer, the Gelukkigerwijspad (Happy Wise Way) is a modern pilgrimage of 125km around the province of Utrecht. It is divided up into six walks and has public transport suggestions to make day trips a possibility as well.
There are also organized wandelevenementen (walking events) throughout the year, however most events this year have been postponed, canceled or modified because of the coronavirus. You can find a coronavirus-adjusted agenda on the de Wandeldate website. There are several local events, one of which is the Dam tot Dam wandeltocht (Dam to Dam walking tour). This is a walk of 20-40 km from Amsterdam to Zaandam, depending on the route you choose, and it is usually held on the third Saturday in September. In 2020, it was called the Dam tot Dam Wandeltocht Thuiseditie (home edition) and the organizers created an app where you could record your walk and still receive a medal for participating. Other events that are easily accessible for AWCA members are the Amsterdam City Walk in October, the Urban Walk in Haarlem in November, and the 30 van Zandvoort in March. Many of these walks raise money for goede doelen (charities), although it is through optional donations when registering for the event rather than reaching a fundraising minimum to participate. Most organized events have different distance options. Some are as short as 5 km but some can be more than 40 km.
Some events take place over multiple days. And some events fill up quickly once the registration opens, although this is more common for running events than walking events. The most well-known of these events is the Nijmegen Vierdaagse which takes place over four days. This started as a military event with a few civilian participants and is now a mostly civilian event with some military personnel taking part. You can choose to walk 30, 40 or 50 km per day for four days. It even has a training program for first-timers (Via Vierdaagse, organized by the KWBN), which guarantees you entry into the Vierdaagse. An offshoot of the Vierdaagse is the Avondvierdaagse. These local walks are often organized by schools and take place over four evenings. The distances are usually 5, 10 or 15 km per evening. You can read one mother’s funny account of the Avondvierdaagse here.
Are you interested in walking? AWCA has a well-established group in Haarlem that walks every Friday. You can check the calendar for more information about the group. There are other enthusiastic walkers, some with dogs, who are always up for a walk around a park. If you’d like to organize a walking group, you can reach out in our private Facebook group. In Amsterdam, there's a WhatsApp group chat ready to welcome new walkers; again, just ask in the Facebook group. You can also arrange a walking activity for club members (coronavirus regulations permitting) here. If you have any suggestions to add to the map, please let me know by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.