DM and MM's Europe 2022 Diary

Day 9 - Cologne to ’s-Hertogenbosch

Saturday, 25 June, 2022

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Our fortunes with travel connections on this trip continue. Our plan was to catch a train from Köln at 07:25 to Mönchengladbach, where we would have 5 minutes to transfer to a train to Venlo. We set our alarms to wake up at 06:30, to give us time to do final packing and leave the hotel, walk over to the station, and grab some breakfast before catching the train. But when we got up I checked the Deutsche Bahn app and it said our train was running 15 minutes late... meaning we’d miss our connection and have to wait almost an hour in Mönchengladbach for the next train. We could have rushed and tried to catch an earlier train, but I didn’t want us to have to race over to the station and not have time to get something to eat, so we relaxed a little and resolved to be late.

I sent Jan a message saying we’d be an hour late into ’s‑Hertogenbosch. We took our time to get to the station where I got another one of the porridges from Haferkater, while M. got a coffee and a croissant from a different place. On the platform it said our train was only running 5 minutes late, but this updated to 10 and finally to 15 minutes late. (So it seemed the app knew it would be 15 minutes late, but they staggered the announcements at the station to make it seem progressively later to people waiting there?) Eventually it arrived and we made our way to Mönchengladbach. The train made up some time on the way, but we still missed our connection to Venlo at 08:25. The next train was supposed to be at 09:25... but this was cancelled! So we had to wait all the way until 10:25 for another train. I sent Jan another message saying we’d now be two hours late.

We exited the station at Mönchengladbach and found a BackWerk bakery to sit in for a while. Being before 09:00 on a Saturday, pretty much everything else was closed. We just grabbed a bottle of water to drink and I had a chocolate croissant. At 09:30 the department store across the street opened, so we went in to wander around a bit and use the toilet. This cost 0.50€, and I took the opportunity to rid us of a pile of 1, 2, and 5 cent coins. When I dropped the handful of shrapnel in the tray next to the attendant, she laughed.

Our second train eventually took us to Venlo, where we had a 16 minute wait for the third and final train to ’s‑Hertogenbosch. Only this train was also disrupted! Thanks to staff shortages, it was only going as far as Eindhoven, and we were advised to change trains there for a connection to ’s-Hertogenbosch. This added yet another 15 minutes delay to our journey. Of a 3-train journey, every single leg was disrupted, and in a different way: lateness, cancellation, and early termination. Fortunately I managed to message Jan when I had WiFi and he knew not to get to the station too early to wait for us.

Finally, we made it to ’s‑Hertogenbosch around 12:20, a total of two hours and fifteen minutes late. Jan met us there and directed us to the adjacent bus stop where we waited for a number 1 bus to take us most of the way to our hotel. Guess what? The bus was about 10-15 minutes late; I lost track exactly as Jan filled the time by telling us about the history of the city and some of the buildings and the column topped by a golden dragon statue that we could see from here. Anyway, we finally managed to make it to our hotel, where we dropped our luggage and set out immediately on a walking tour of ’s‑Hertogenbosch.

Jan guided us past a Jumbo supermarket where we grabbed some lunch to go. He said it was one of the two big supermarket chains in the Netherlands, and its colour was yellow. We saw the other one later, which was blue. I got a spicy chicken wrap and a pecan danish, and M. grabbed a large seeded bread roll.

We walked through Het Bossche Broek nature reserve, a large low-lying area of mixed grass and wetland, dotted with walking and cycling trails.

Het Bossche Broek nature reserve
Entering Het Bossche Broek

This was very scenic, and a chance to spot many different types of birds. I did a count with eBird, and by the end of it we’d recorded 21 different species of birds that we could identify, and there were also a few tiny flitting birds that we couldn’t identify.

Great crested grebe
Great crested grebe, Het Bossche Broek

We went along a bike path and then a pedestrian-only path along the edge of the Dommel River. At the end of this we used a small hand-cranked chain ferry to cross the river. This is called the Pontje “De Moerasdraak”, which means “the swamp dragon”.

Pontje “De Moerasdraak”
Pontje “De Moerasdraak”

From here we walked into the city centre, via a shady tree-covered footpath along the west side of the Dommel, looking across to the old city wall on the east side. This was also a beautiful walk, which didn’t feel especially urban until we emerged at the far end in the heart of the city with the bustle of people. Along the way we saw and heard many people having fun in small boats or paddling boards up and down the river.

Dommel River, ’s-Hertogenbosch
Walking along the Dommel River

There seemed to be several groups of women having hen’s parties. We walked back over the river into the heart of the city. We went down some pedestrian streets hemmed by old buildings and found a cafe-bar to sit in and have a cool drink out of the sun for a bit.

Ijwit beer
Ijwit beer in a cafe-bar

After resting a little, we walked into the market square, where the market was in the early stages of packing up. We got freshly made stroopwafels, which were hot and delicious - not as sweet as the packaged ones you can buy in supermarkets. M. wanted to pick up some salty liquorice to try, so Jan took us to his favourite lolly shop, Snoeperij Tum Tum, where M. grabbed a bowl of various varieties of liquorice to try, including the salted and some double salted sorts, as well as some sweet ones.

Snoeperij Tum Tum
Shopping for salty liquorice

We walked around the Sint-Janskathedraal, but we couldn’t go inside as they seemed to be just closing for the day. This cathedral has a strange mix of Gothic stone and brick architecture. Jan said it was based on the design of Amiens Cathedral (as was Cologne Cathedral), so we might observe some similarities with that of Cologne. Indeed there were some in the shapes of the exterior, but Cologne’s version is just so much bigger in size.


We ended up in the restaurant Tante Wonnie, which has Surinamese food. The menu mostly seemed to be influenced by Indonesian cuisine, which seemed a bit odd. But the food was delicious and had an interesting range of spices. We had the Pom (Creole casserole of grated tayer, filled with chicken, served with rice; tayer being a "carrot from the interior of Suriname"), Petjel speciaal ("dish of steamed vegetables, egg, and peanut sauce"), and Moksi meti ("mixed roasted meat: roasted chicken, tja sieuw, pork bacon, and fa-chong").

Tante Wonnie dinner
Dinner at Tante Wonnie

After eating, Jan grabbed his bicycle and walked with us to the main road back to our hotel, where we could walk back while he went home. When we got into the hotel room, there was a flock of geese grazing on the grass right outside our window. Mostly Canada geese, with a couple of greylag geese thrown in. Also on the lawn was a giant metal sculpture of an owl, about 8 metres tall.

Greylag goose
Greylag goose

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