During the two weeks off at Christmas, lots of students go back to family or go on a holiday. But what do you do if you are far away from your family and stuck in Wageningen?
For the first part of the holiday, the Netherlands will be in a Christmas mood. Almost every Dutch household has a Christmas tree standing in the living room, whether they are Christian or not. So, start by buying a tree. They are sold in supermarkets and on several street corners in the centre of Wageningen. To transport these huge green fir trees, use your bike or rent one with a rack in front.
Once you have succeeded in putting up the tree, it’s time to decorate it: even more fun when done together with housemates who are still in Wageningen too. Look for decorations in second-hand shops or cheap shops like the Wibra and Action.
To really get into the Christmas mood, pay a visit to a Christmas market. December 17th, there is a big one in nearby Rhenen. It starts at ten in the morning and goes on until five in the afternoon, with about fifty stands in the centre of town selling all kinds of Christmas stuff decorated with many lights and fake snow. And there’s Glühwein to warm you up, hot red wine with spices. Bus 45 or 50 will get you there.
If you know someone living at the top of one of the student flats, spend your New Year’s Eve there. You will have a fantastic view of the fireworks that are let off at midnight. Alternatively, buy and let off your own fireworks. Due to strict safety regulations there are only two shops in Wageningen allowed to sell fireworks: the moped shop Van Ark on the Rooseveltweg and bicycle shop Profile on the Churchillweg. Once you are out of fireworks or the sky is clear again, it’s time to party in the town centre. Many of the pubs and cafes have parties, but remember that you need to buy tickets a few days in advance to get in.
As there’s already been some snow this year, the Dutch are pinning their hopes on a white Christmas. Sleighs are waiting for more snow fun. Haven’t bought one yet? It’s worth looking in the Emmaus in the Heerenstraat or the Kringloop around the corner for cheap sleighs. Otherwise go to a toyshop. When there is enough snow on the ground, take your sleigh to a dyke or a hill and enjoy whizzing downhill.
Even more hoped for here is a big freeze so that the water turns into ice. At the first signs of serious frost the Dutch start to sharpen their skates. Unfortunately, the past ten winters have been mild so skating on canals and ponds wasn’t possible. As a result small outdoor ice-skating rinks have been made in Ede and Arnhem. Decked out with all the traditional accompaniments to skating in Holland like music, pea soup and hot chocolate, they are very atmospheric. Never skated before? Take a kitchen chair along with you and push it in front of you. Chances are you’ll see children learning this way as well.
Open air theatre, van Pabstlaan 1, Ede (East side of Ede, beyond train station Ede-Wageningen)
Open daily 10.00-22.00, closed 25 December and 1 January.
24 and 31 December 17.00-22.00. 26 December 10.00-13.00.
Entrance: 3.50 euros, skate rental 3.50
Nederlands Openlucht Museum, Schelmseweg, Arnhem
Open daily 12.00-20.00, closed 25 December and 1 January.
24 and 31 December 12.00-17.00.
Entrance: 10 euros, skates free
If you don’t want to try the slippery ice yourself, soak up the atmosphere by watching the Dutch long-distance skating championships from 27 to 30 December. These are the qualifying rounds to decide who goes to the Olympic Winter Games in 2006. Just take a seat and recline in front of TV: before you know it, the holiday will be over and your busy schedule starts again.