Rested from my US travels, Dolores and I decide on a little Dutch trip. Groningen, is the destination. Plenty to do and a brewery in the centre of town.
And, while we’re up in the far North, we may as well include Leeuwaarden and Haarlingen, too. Been wanting to go to the latter for years.
You’re probably asking yourself: “Then why is the title Bergen op Zoom?” There’s a good reason for that: engineering works. All over the place. Instead of a direct 2-hour train ride a journey of indeterminate length with a couple of changes, including a replacement bus. Think I can do without that on a day off.
But Dolores has already bought cheap tickets. We’re committed to travel, unless we want to just throw away the (admittedly quite small amount of) money we’ve spent.
“Try and find somewhere we can go in the Southwest. There doesn’t seem to be any disruption there.” Dolores asks. “OK, I’ll take a look.”
It’s a challenging assignment. Preferably somewhere we haven’t been, but which also has an interesting museum and somewhere decent to drink. And far enough that it’s worth using the tickets.
Middelburg we’ve been to. Rotterdam isn’t far enough. We’ve been there loads of times. And is an ugly shit hole. Roosendaal, looks pretty crap. Den Bosch would be a possibility, if the trains to there weren’t messed up, too. Bergen op Zoom is the only place that fits all of Dolores’s demands. So Bergen op Zoom it is.
Being hardened train travellers, we prepare ourselves for the journey. Sandwiches, reading matter and something to drink. Plus distress flares and a satellite phone in case things go really badly wrong.
Remember me mentioning the cans I was given at Daredevil in Indianapolis? And me mentioning that they would come in useful later. This is when. Absolutely perfect for train drinking. And way better than the cans of Heineken they sell in stations.
We’re talking a train from Sloterdijk station. We always avoid Amsterdam Centraal, if possible. The centre of town is just too effing annoying nowadays, with idiot tourists blocking your way.
We notice that our train appears to have been cancelled. Not because of engineering works but on account of a good old-fashioned technical fault. Dolores asks an NS employee what we should do. She directs us to the platforms outside the main station where we can take a train to Leiden and change there.
Did I mention that we have first-class tickets? Just as well; seeing as the little sprint we step on is pretty crowded. I settle into my seat and pop the first can. A Kölsch-style Ale. “That’s wrong on so many counts, Dolores. It wasn’t brewed in Cologne and Kölsch isn’t an effing Ale.” Dolores just nods absentmindedly. She’s quite good at ignoring my beer rants.
Dolores starts fiddling with her tablet and headphones. “Is my beer talk that boring?” “It isn’t you. It’s that woman” her eyes dart to a someone on the other side of the aisle, “I can’t stand her irritating voice and the shit she’s talking.” She does have a rather bad case of verbal incontinence. Personally, I can shut it out. I hadn’t even noticed, if I'm honest.
The change in Leiden is pretty smooth. They must have rerouted the train, because I realise it’s the one we originally intended catching. No problem this time with annoying talk from fellow passengers. We’re in a silent carriage. It’s a two-can journey.
The town centre is just a gentle stroll from the Bergen op Zoom railway station. It seems quite a pretty place. Our first port of call is on the main square: Biercafé 't Locomotiefke. A chance for us to take our bearings. And have a beer. It’s been ages since I had one.
They’ve only just opened and it’s empty inside. Making it easy to admire the beer memorabilia sprinkled about the walls. And the model train that circles the room slightly above head height. It’s an old school beer place, meaning the beer list is mostly Belgian. They have draught De Koninck so Dolores is a happy girl. As am I with my Tripel Karmeliet. Happy, I mean, not a girl. I was still definitely a boy when I went to the toilet last.
We don’t stay long. We’re heading for the town’s museum, Het Markiezenhof. But first we nip down a side street to check out an interesting-looking bakery. Unfortunately, they’ve sold out of sourdough bread.
Het Markiezenhof is a palace-like house with its origins in the late Middle Ages. One wing was done up French style in the 18th century, complete with formal garden outside. It’s nice enough, but I prefer the older bits myself.
There’s a large exhibit devoted to fun fairs. The models of rides are fine, but I’m not so keen on the stuff preserved in formaldehyde. Bit creepy. I don’t have much of a stomach for gore.
I’ve already earmarked somewhere for lunch: De Teerkamer on the main square. The purple wallpaper is very, er, early 1970’s. But the food is cheap. Just €5.50 for Dolores’s uitsmijter. Bargain. I have prawn croquettes and chips.
Dolores is keen to fit in as much possible while we’re down here. After realising that there’s a brewery in the centre of town, I suggested to Dolores that we continue on to Goes in Zeeland. Another town neither of us have ever been to. It helps that we can get a direct train back to Amsterdam from there.
Goes is smaller than Bergen op Zoom and not quite as pretty. At least the bit we see as we march from the station to the main square.
When I see the Slot Oostende logo, I realise that I’ve already drunk bottles of a couple of their beers. Ton Overmars stocks a couple. The building is rather schizophrenic. The front, where the brewery is housed, is plain and modern. Behind is a much grander, older section. Which is where we seat ourselves.
Rather like Oude Daen in Utrecht, albeit on a much smaller scale. It’s quite busy, mostly with young things. Dolores gets I Blond, I get a Dubbel. The beers are both perfectly fine. But a little pricey at €4 and €4.50. By means of comparison, my Tripel Karmeliet earlier was just €2.75. We’re in a small, provincial town and they’ve brewed the beer themselves. They should be able to sell it cheaper.
We only stay for the one. Time is passing and we’ve a 2.5 hour train ride back to the capital.
My cans are all done. Luckily I had the foresight to bring along two bottles of Gulpener Lentebock as well. They lubricate my wheels nicely for the return journey.
Biercafé 't Locomotiefke
Grote Markt 11,
4611 NR Bergen op Zoom.
4611 TE Bergen op Zoom
Grote Markt 13,
4611 NS Bergen op Zoom
4461 HZ Goes.
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