All About the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse, aka the Walk of the World

People sitting and walking in front of old-fashioned Dutch buildings in the Grote Markt, a city square in Nijmegen, the Netherlands | Em Dashed

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.

Various types of shoes hanging on lines over a city street in honor of the Walk of the World in Nijmegen | Em Dashed

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.

A crowded city street as people finish the day's walk during the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse | Em Dashed

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, stands are set up along the street for the “grand finale”. (Those wishing to use these seats must purchase tickets in advance.) Marching bands play, and the crowds clap and chant as the participants cross the finish for the final time.

Crowds of people sit and watch walkers during the finale of the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse 
| Em Dashed

Walkers during the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse, celebrating as the cross the finish line | Em Dashed

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

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/or party animals) come out as well, transforming the city into a big festival for the week. 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).

View over the Waal River with the city of Nijmegen on the far bank and a carnival set up on the near one | Em Dashed

Crowds of people standing and walking in the street during the Nijmeegse Vierdaagse | Em Dashed

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.

Trailers and tents set up at a campground in a field in Nijmegen, the Netherlands | Em Dashed

Dusk falls on rows of trailers and tents set up at a campground outside the city of Nijmegen | Em Dashed

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? I can’t help you much there, cause…I would never. What I can tell you is that walkers must register well in advance and the spaces are rather limited. For more information, you can check the official website (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