Hikers sleeping in student houses during Four Days Marches: ‘It’s perfect, actually’

21 Jul 2022

Many a hiker winds up at student housing in their search for a place to sleep during the Four Days Marches. Houses near the start (and finish) at the Wedren are especially popular. But can partying students and hikers preparing for an early day mix?

Hotels are full; B&Bs are full; campsites are full. There are even football fields and sport halls in the Nijmegen area filled to the brim with sleeping cots, for hikers to rest up for the week. Those hikers without friends or family in the city on the Waal, are forced to find other sleeping arrangements, such as student housing.

But is that a good match? Most students want to enjoy the Vierdaagsefeesten all day and hang around in pubs till the morning comes, while hikers have to get up in the dead of night if they want to make it to the Wedren on time.

That’s a perfect match, according to Lizeth Oonk (25). She and her mother Annette (61) – both are participating in the 40-kilometer march – are staying in a crowded 14-room student house at the Bijleveldsingel, less than 100 meters from the start and finish. ‘It’s perfect, actually. When the students go into town in the evening to party, we head off to bed. The location is ideal as well: we’re not far from the city centre and we’re right near the starting point.’

Lizeth and Annette Oonk in the student room at the Bijleveldsingel. Photo by Johannes Fiebig.

Tessa Roeven (23) and her father John (58) tell a similar story. They’re sleeping in a 7-room student house in Bottendaal this week, where one of Tessa’s friends lives. Her temporary housemates prefer to leave the exact location out of the article – ‘we already have a few issues with the landlord.’

‘Trouble with the students? We barely see them’, according to John. He grins. ‘They might show up at the starting point, to wave us off.’ The Four Days Marches are a yearly fixture for both father and daughter: this year they will be participating for the 20th and 10th time, respectively. The past few years they’ve stayed at the friend’s house.

‘I love it; it makes me feel young’

It’s also very fun, Tessa continues. ‘Obviously, students want to head into town, but it’s a party week for us as well. Monday, my dad and I went to the Molenstraat and the Waalkade, and I’m already looking forward to Friday when we come in at the Via Gladiola and have the entire house waiting for us.’ John: ‘I love it; it makes me feel young.’

The Roeven family doesn’t have to pay for their stay. ‘But we do always leave a crate of beer at the end of the week, to say thank you’, according to John.

Tessa and John Roeven in the accommodations in Bottendaal. Photo by Johannes Fiebig.

The Oonk family does have to pay for their accommodations: 50 euros per night. They got the room from a friend of a friend. ‘We were originally supposed to stay at the Four Days Marches campsite near Malden, where we’d have to pay similar rates, but then we’d have to take the bus to- and from every time. There was also a bit of hassle with powering the fridge. Now we don’t need to bother; we even have our own kitchen.’

There are no issues with students keeping them up at night. Lizeth: ‘we were already in bed at 9 PM yesterday (Tuesday, ed.).’ However, the enduring heat does cause some issues. John and Tessa are staying in an attic room and say they barely slept the first night.

But the heat can’t spoil the fun. All four hikers make it through the first day’s march with few issues and have already started the second at the time of writing. Even the rain forecast can’t faze them. ‘I guess it’ll be a poncho day’, according to father and daughter.

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