Sunday, July 18, 2010

Velorama in Nijmegen

I had a free day yesterday, no errands, no plans, all friends were busy, my boyfriend was out of town, etc. A whole day to do something that I wouldn't want to drag someone else along for in case it isn't fun... Yay!

My first idea was to visit the Noah's Ark replica that some guy built in a canal in the North Netherlands.  According to the website, in addition to splendid woodwork, it has fake animals and other dioramas. Bizarre!  I love weird stuff like that! However, it's currently traveling to a new spot in the town of Vlissingen to open on July 23rd... And he's making a "real size" Ark, 14 times larger, to open for the London Olympics in 2012. I'll have to go another time with friends who are similarly amused by the old testament.

Instead, I went to the Velorama Museum in Nijmegen. Nijmegen. It's far... two hours or so by train. It always seemed like a long distance to go to see rusty bicycles so I put it off. (Somehow I imagined it would be like the military tank museum my father dragged me to as a child, hulking tank after tank in a giant warehouse. Him shouting excitedly, "Look! A Tiger 5-85 Special Bomb Proof Howitzer BlitzMachine" and me thinking, What? I'm a 12 year old girl for god's sake.)

Luckily, I was wrong, wrong wrong. It was amazing!

First photo from outside:

A ferris wheel? Yes.
To explain, Nijmegen is getting ready for an international celebration that takes place all week. It is the Four Days Walking celebration, expecting over 40,000 people to participate by walking 20-40K each and over 1 million to join for a party on Friday... Here's the website.
I didn't know much about this event beforehand, but I saw the preparations on my walk to the Velorama and it appears to be fantastic. A great party. The whole city is putting up tents, stages, carnival rides, public urination warnings, and so on.

Velorama was just past the old town center, near the Waag river. It was locked when I arrived but after a bit of sighing and stomping, a woman from the attached hotel came and opened up for me. I was the only visitor that day, at noon! Not a good sign? Ha.

Once inside, I almost immediately swooned. No rusty bicycles, only gorgeous, beautifully restored Draisines, Boneshakers, Tricycles, High Wheelers, Safety Bicycles, and other historical contraptions. Gorgeous! So many of the early contraptions were beautiful, iron wrought playthings for the leisure class, so no expense was spared; they are truly lovely machines.

It turns out the Velorama is a National Museum, with three floors, hundreds of bicycles, accessories, dioramas,  the archives of the Dutch bicycle manufacturer, Gazelle, a restaurant, and the attached hotel.

My favorite room was the Hoge bi (High wheel, or Penny Farthing) room.

I would have loved to try them out! Who wouldn't want to ride a Penny Farthing?
Here's instructions on how to mount it!

Please pardon the tons of pictures below, they are only a small selection!

Umbrella holder:

A Velocepede, late 1800's



Awesome handlebars from 1888

The 2nd floor, front room

Lovely two seater for a day in the park:


  1. I can imagine many a groin injury in learning to mount a Penny Farthing - but I think it would be kind of cool to ride. Oh, you missed a terrific storm in Iowa - 70 mph winds. Thems crop damagin winds. Also lost a big branch out of the top of my just-pruned silver maple. Your favorite tree is intact from casual inspection.

    Communicating through posts is the new email.

  2. Awesome! I'm so glad you took the time to visit a distant museum! Too cool! Now I know what to get you someday as a gift - special twisty handlebars or a Penny Farthing? LOL nice!

  3. If you're into historic bikes, and, say, want to learn to ride a pennyfarthing, why not become a member of the Historische Rijwielvereniging 'De Oude Fiets'?

    Membership is 23 euros a year (plus a one-time-only 5 euros registration fee). You'll recieve the club magazine and they organise activities etc.

    *goes back to lurking*


  4. Oops, sorry, that's

  5. *quick delurk once again*

    Members of De Oude Fiets lovingly restore old bikes, and ride them (although you don't need to have or restore an old bike to become a member). Looks like this:

    Isn't this great? What could be better than seeing a penny farthing in a museum? Riding it, of course!


    *dives under to lurk once again*