The Nijmeegse Vierdaagse (Walk of the World) in Nijmegen, the Netherlands

The Nijmeegse Vierdaagse (Walk of the World) in Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Like most reasonable people who have recently committed to renting an apartment, and who have a multitude of tasks ahead of them (including but not limited to: installing new appliances, painting till their arms fall off, eviscerating dust bunnies, and constructing furniture from plastic nails and hopeless dreams), we decided to do literally none of that, and go away for a couple of days last week instead. Because, you know. Priorities.

Here’s the thing: we went to Nijmegen, a city in the Dutch province of Gelderland, for the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse (which translates roughly to “Nijmegen-ish Four Day-er”). In English, it’s usually referred to as “the Walk of the World” or “the Four Days March.”

Whatever you call it, the Vierdaagse is one of the biggest Dutch events of the year, and the largest walking event held anywhere on Earth. As such, we commoners don’t have a whole lot of control over when it’s held.

Too bad. Those holes in the wall were just gonna have to wait.

Shoes hanging over the street to celebrate the Walk of the World in Nijmegen

During the Vierdaagse, more than 42,000 participants walk either 30, 40, or 50 kilometres each day for — of course — four days. (You can say a lot of things about the Dutch people, but you can’t say they aren’t literal.) Everyone starts and ends each day in the same spot in the city; the goal isn’t so much to get anywhere as it is to complete your allotted distance and feel like a boss.

People walk for all kinds of reasons: for a cause, for loved ones who have died, because they feel like it. Many of the walkers are Dutch, but we also saw people carrying flags from Canada, South Africa, Norway, Suriname, the US, and more.

Initially, the Vierdaagse was largely a military event, and many military personnel still take part (though most are civilians these days). In addition to dressing in full uniform, military participants must carry a pack weighing 10 kg (22 lbs) during their walk.

Participants finishing the day's walk in Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Walkers returning to Nijmegen on day three of the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse

All along the day’s route, people camp out to cheer on the walkers as they pass. The crowds are especially large at the finish line, where spectators gather to meet and greet family, friends, or perfect strangers as they complete the day’s journey.

On the fourth and last day, things really get ridiculous. Stands are set up along the street for the grand finale finish; those wishing to use these seats must purchase tickets in advance. Marching bands play, and the crowds clap and chant as the participants come in for the last time.

People get very into the spirit, dressing up in funny outfits, waving flags from their province or country, and shaking maracas, tambourines, or anything else noisy they can find. It’s also customary to bring gladiolen, flowers that symbolize strength and victory, to present to your loved one(s) as they finish walking.

The final day of the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse in the Netherlands

Spectators wait to welcome walkers back on the last day of the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse -- Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Walkers celebrate as they complete the fourth and final day of walking during the Vierdaagse in Nijmegen

Speaking of loved ones walking: Simon’s dad and his sister Anneke participate each year, and the primary reason for our visit was to cheer them on and meet them at the big finish.

Nijmeegse Vierdaagse

Trots op mijn papa (proud of my dad) -- Nijmeegse Vierdaagse

Our secondary reason was to explore the city and check out all the festivities. The walkers aren’t the only ones who head to Nijmegen for the Vierdaagse; thousands of supporters (and party animals) come out as well, transforming the city into a big festival. You’ll find live music, rides, decorations, and heaps of food and drink kiosks all over, from the Grote Markt (the main square) to the Waalkade (the area on banks of the Waal river).

Grote Markt -- Nijmegen, the Netherlands

City center -- Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Celebrating the annual Walk of the World in the Dutch city of Nijmegen

Boats on the Waal River in Nijmegen

Carnival on the riverfront -- Nijmegen, the Netherlands

During our stay, we camped in what can only very generously be referred to as a “campground,” and what would more accurately be described as a “giant field” just outside of the city. With hot running water and an on-site restaurant, it easily qualifies as the fanciest camping trip I’ve ever done — not that I’m complaining. It may not have been the most rustic of accommodations, but the atmosphere was a lot of fun.

Camping out during the annual Walk of the World in Nijmegen, the Netherlands

Camping out for the annual Nijmeegse Vierdaagse

Camping ground near Nijmegen, the Netherlands

The Vierdaagse has been held annually since 1909, with a few exceptions during the First and Second World Wars (as well as one cancellation in 2006 due to heat). 2016 marked the 100th edition of the event.

Interested in walking the Vierdaagse yourself? Walkers must register well in advance and spaces are limited. For more information, see the official website here (available in both Dutch and English).

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All about the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse -- the world's largest walking event, with more than 10,000 participants and even more spectators. The walk is held every July in the city of Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and people come from all over to support the walkers and take part in the festivities. | #Netherlands #Vierdaagse

All about the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse -- the world's largest walking event, with more than 10,000 participants and even more spectators. The walk is held every July in the city of Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and people come from all over to support the walkers and take part in the festivities.| #Netherlands #Vierdaagse

All about the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse -- the world's largest walking event, with more than 10,000 participants and even more spectators. The walk is held every July in the city of Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and people come from all over to support the walkers and take part in the festivities.| #Netherlands #Vierdaagse

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