The walk of the world, Nijmegen
The International Four Days Marches Nijmegen
(Dutch: Internationale Vierdaagse Afstandsmarsen Nijmegen)
The KWBN Four Days Marches are a walking achievement event for four consecutive days, in which approximately 45,000 (in 2015) walkers are participating. On those days, people from all over the world come to Nijmegen to walk in and around the city and its surroundings.
Participants walk 30, 40 or 50 kilometers daily depending on their age and gender, and, on completion, receive a royally approved medal (Vierdaagsekruis). Thousands of spectators are cheering on the walkers along the route every day.
On the Friday, as participants near the finish, the public awards the walkers with gladioli, a symbol of force and victory since Roman times, when gladiators were likewise showered with these flowers. The entry into the city and towards the finish, the St. Annastraat, is for that reason called Via Gladiola during the Nijmegen Marches.
The "Vierdaagse" (Dutch for ‘Four days’) is an annual walk that has taken place since 1909, being based at Nijmegen since 1916.
Originally a military event with a few civilians, it now is a mainly civilian event.
1 September 1909, 306 military participants set out from ten barracks on the 150 kilometre walk from garrison to garrison. They were accompanied by ten civilians. The importance attributed by the government to the performances achieved was already reflected in the recognition of a Decoration to military participants for their marching skills (the Four Days Cross) by Queen Wilhelmina in October 1909. Nijmegen became the permanent host of the Four Days Marches in 1925.
The fame of the Four Days Marches grew during the 1930s, thanks to the efforts of the Koloniale Reserve (Colonial Reserve) in Nijmegen. Walkers took home unforgettable memories.
After the Second World War, despite the ravages caused by the bombing of 22 February 1944 and the Market Garen period, Nijmegen took up the challenge of reviving the Four Days Marches. Thanks to a fund-raising campaign among the population and the efforts of many volunteers, its efforts were successful. In 1946 there were more participants than ever before, a trend which would continue. Armed Forces and Cadets from all over the world send contingents/participants to take part in the marches.
During the week of the Vierdaagse the accompanying festivities (known as the Vierdaagsefeesten) always draw a large crowd. It is known as one of the biggest festivities in the Netherlands, drawing a crowd of 1 million visitors. It starts on the Saturday before the marches, and ends on the Friday. There is free music during the week.