Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Back to Arnhem

In 2006, I moved to Arnhem to take a general management role in the Medtronic subsidiary outside of town.  It was a two-year posting, full expat package: unthinkable these days.  I moved into a flat on Burgemeester Weertsstraat, just across from Sonsbeek Park.  I pulled out in 2008, reluctantly moving to Maastricht after the mothership decided to close the division.

There was never much reason to go back for a visit, so it’s bee fie years.  But yesterday, in Nijmegen with  couple of spare hours, I took the train up for a look.

First impression is of change: the new train station is I place.  It was an artist’s conception with gritty construction everywhere when I left, now it’s gleaming new, airily modern in the Luik-style.


Beyond that, little has changed, though.  The neighborhood is still red brick, the houses trimmed with a whimsy seldom seen in Limburg, the gardens everywhere overgrown with flowers and trees.  The local AH, the  Banketbakkerij Jansen De Koning, the florist are still there; my apartment looks well maintained and familiar.  I took a few photos as it started to rain.


Across the Park toward town: the ducks, swans, waterworks , museum are all still there.  I found that I was enjoying the fields more than I remembered, all the shops were closed o Sunday and a stroll seemed like a forced alternative.   I arrived at the crosswalk that used to be so confusing,  a maze of colored paths, indicators, and zebra stripes.  Now it makes perfect sense and I waited for my green.


The town was more familiar than it was when I left five years ago.  The architecture was exotic back then, the words and signage unfamiliar.  I watched the cars zipping around the ring road and into the tunnel.  That was how I traversed Arnhem each day, taking the bike to work or the train to Schiphol was an adventure.  I wonder I the car cut me off from the city, from walking it and understanding it as I would today.


The St. Eusebius Church is being renovated: the MoBA exhibition of Fetish Fashion is irreverently inside.  20 euro to enter, no way.  The shop windows along Ketelstraat have examples enough, all representing women as objects to be bought or eaten.  Calvinism may finally be dead in Arnhem.


My daughter’s favorite store window, with legs blocking the sidewalk, is still there, so is my favorite sculpture outside he Dudok coffee shop.


The streets are a bit dirtier than I remember, the contrasting old and modern architecture more jarring.  It seems smaller than I remember it being.  It’s familiar, nostalgic, but not as compelling as Maastricht.

I stop at Koepelkerk and order a snack (in Dutch), take a phone call (in English).   The sun made the trees and buildings glow as the bikes clattered past.  I remember when this seemed the height of European living, when I thought I had expat living down cold.

‘Funny world, that one, back in 2007.

More photos at my Flickr site.

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