Written by Emily Marie on 13 Aug, 2003
If you're an Emerson College student or the parent of one, this entry is for you.
Well is a small town of about 1,500 people located between the cities of Nijmegen (Nijmegen is about an hour north by the 83 bus) and Venlo (40 minutes…Read More
If you're an Emerson College student or the parent of one, this entry is for you.
Well is a small town of about 1,500 people located between the cities of Nijmegen (Nijmegen is about an hour north by the 83 bus) and Venlo (40 minutes south, same bus line). It is one of a number of small towns along route 271. The newly-opened for passenger travel Airport Neiderrhein is about ten kilometers west of Well, just over the German border. Taxis are supposed to be available from the airport. Knowing prices for taxis, I'd guess the fare would be around 20 Euro, but I don't know that for certain.
Emerson College in Boston, MA, USA has set up a study aborad program in Well (L), The Netherlands. I was fortunate to spend two semesters in the program. The "Castle" Program is aptly named because students live and study in a 12th century Dutch castle. "Het Kasteel" (Dutch for "the castle") is itself a Dutch landmark and therefore has its share of tourists milling about besides students and Castle staff. It may not live up to what many Americans would consider a castle. There's no large outside wall, only two rather short towers, and doesn't look like somewhere where a militia or a king would set up shop (I believe it was the castle of a regional Duke). There are two moats around the castle--well, one around it, one surrounding the main castle building from the outer "voorburcht" building and courtyard. Once upon a time there was a drawbridge, but modern utilization made a permanent bridge more desirable. Non-students and staff are welcome on the outer grounds surrounding the castle and I believe in the courtyard. The buildings are closed to visitors. On the outer grounds are the ruins of the Dragon's Tower, which are worth a look.
The town name of "Well" I've been told comes from the Old Dutch word for "line" or "cue." Well is situated on the eastern bank of the Maas River, and travellers would line up here to cross the river by ferry or by bridge (I believe it was the latter). A walk around the river is nice, but there are better river views up in Nijmegen IMO. The area by the river is the old part of the town. The architecture has a little of that old world feel to it, and some of the cracks in the bricks of the building I am told are reminders of the fighting during WWII. Like much of the region, Well is subject to wintertime flooding. As rain and snow melts in the Alps and France, rivers like the Maas start to swell. During the winter and spring, sandbags can be found near the river as a precaution or sometimes in use. I find this area to be fascinating during flood season. On the one hand, if you look across the river during a flood you'll see a few buildings partially submerged. To be high and dry when you're standing looking at a building not even 200 meters away and underwater is wierd. On the other hand, the reason you're dry is because of an intriguing new dike system used here, where they have metal girders embedded in the ground and they stack concrete blocks between the posts and bolt them down. The last time I was there in the flood season, I was standing behind this wall, looking down at water that would have been up to my waist if the dike wall wasn't there!
New Well isn't that exciting. Much of it is just residential off the main road (The Kasteellaan). There are a number of shops in new Well, including "Alles Onder Ein Dak" ("All under one Roof"). As far as I can tell, this is the only place to buy postcards of the Castle and of Well. The town's post office is located in the rear of this store.
Americans looking to get way off the beaten path may enjoy Well, or might feel more comfortable here. After all, Americans live here six months out of the year, so seeing Americans there is not an oddity. Personally, I visit a couple of times a year, staying with some of the great friends I made during my studies. Being so close to the German border, many Germans come here as well.
Food: Look for the entry on Cafe Vink in this jounrnal. This place has a lot of sentimental value for me and for many of the former students. It's the only place I can really write about because many of the other places have either changed hands since I've had food there or are only fast food places. Including the Vink, there are six restaurants I can think of. There is a fast food place in each section of the town, and along the Maas there are a couple of nice places to eat looking out on the river. On route 271, heading only maybe 100 meters south on the route, is the Groote Waaij ("Great Road") hotel and restaurant. Prices are a little high here, but the food is good. There are also slightly obstructed views of the river from the dining room.
Lodging: The above mentioned Groote Waaij is the only real hotel in the immediate town. Just as with the food, it's a little pricy. I've been in a couple of the rooms on occasion, but was never overly impressed. One friend says he once had his camera stolen from his room, but I guess that can happen anywhere. For alternate lodging solutions, there are a couple of camp grounds just on the northern edge of the town. Or for hotels you can go south. The hotels around Klein Vink and the Thermalbaths (see corresponding entry) are ten minutes south by bus, or about six minutes by car. Bus travel ends as early as ten on some nights, so this is probably not a great option if you want to spend a night in Well (although there's not much to do besides drink at the bars at night). Rumors are there will soon be a number of chain hotels opening around the new airport, but I don't know what kind of transportation they plan into Well or any other nearby Dutch towns.
Written by Emily Marie on 13 Oct, 2003
Venlo is one of the bigger cities in Limburg. It has some features which fit in with the eastern cities of the Netherlands, such as it's situation on the Maas River, and it has a very middle age feel to it. For instance the city…Read More
Venlo is one of the bigger cities in Limburg. It has some features which fit in with the eastern cities of the Netherlands, such as it's situation on the Maas River, and it has a very middle age feel to it. For instance the city square in front of the fantastic City Hall is all still cobblestones, matching well with the hall.
The square itself is a hot spot for the city. Restaurants and bars offer outside sitting in the spring and summer days. If you walk from the train station towards the hall and then past, there is a more modern square, where there are frequent markets (many of the Dutch population centers have a weekly market).
Venlo is a lot like Nijmegen (see the "Around the Island" journal). Both offer river views and the size and the shape of the streets. The two cities feel very similar. Nijmegen is larger than Venlo, and is much more hilly. Therefore Venlo is easier to see on foot. Also, Nijmegen suffered more damage in the war, so it has a more modern feel around much of the city. Venlo however has its own reputation, good or bad depending on your point of view. Being the Dutch city closest to the German border and the easiest city to get to by train or car, it is considered by some Germans as a place to get a pot fix.
As a football fan, I like that the Venlo stadium is easily walkable from the station. The stadium is smaller, and the team was relegated from the Eredivisie after the '93-'94 season, but it still has been slightly modernized since my first visit (in an effort to make stadium safer, most or all of the standing room has been changed into seating of some sort).
The new Limburg Museum is right opposite the train station. I have yet to get in here, but the building looks nice and my friends have had good things to say about it.
Venlo for me was one of the better places to find CDs. The biggest "Free Record Shop" - a Dutch/Belgian chain comparable to a Sam Goodies or Coconuts -- I have seen so far in The Netherlands is here. Between the main walking/shopping street and the river are some good mom-and-pop CD places, where I have often found out-of-print, boots and European-only releases. These small stores also had some old vinyl for sale.
Along Rt. 271 heading toward Nijmegen is Taurus, a bar and restaurant that also has bowling and laser games (the latter being a lesser hobby of mine). It's a good place to kill some time.
Overall, however, Venlo doesn't offer too much to the sightseer. If you've got a train transfer between Holland and Germany, and you have an hour or two to kill, a quick window shopping spree is a good way to spend the time.
Written by Emily Marie on 10 Aug, 2003
The small town of Arcen is not known to many people outside the region its in. To those in this area of the Netherlands (and right over the German border), it is known as a fine retreat with much to offer. I can't say I…Read More
The small town of Arcen is not known to many people outside the region its in. To those in this area of the Netherlands (and right over the German border), it is known as a fine retreat with much to offer. I can't say I know much about the resort itself. I've seen the brouchures and website (only in Dutch or German, sorry), and know only a few people who have stayed there. The accommodations seem to vary from camping to bungaloos to a hotel. The area offers many outdoor activities.
Why do I write about a place I seem to know nothing about? Because there is one part that seems an absolute heaven to me: the Thermaalbads Arcen, a natural spring water (albeit they seem to add chlorine) spa area with heated water. There are different "stations" in the pool that people stop at that soothe all parts of the body. For instance, there are the "beds" (all station names are my names because, as far as I know, they don't have designations) where you lie down and hot-tub-like blowers hit your back or stomach with bubbles. There are the "jets," with high-powered water nozzles to massage your upper back and neck. There is the "lazy river" where underwater jets send you floating around a ring-shaped pool. For those of us who are a little adventuresome, there is a nude sauna area. The price of entry is pretty good IMO, costing about ten euros for a two and a half hour stay.
For people who wish to explore the town of Arcen itself, there are the Arcen Gardens. It's almost like a botanical garden, with different areas depicting different regions (for instance there is an oriental rock garden with asian plants). The gardens surround a centuries-old castle, which itself is part of the charm.