Arriving in ‘s-Hertogenbosch we found the parking to be a little bit more difficult than expected for an autumnal Sunday and it took a while to find a spot we could squeeze the van into. A passing local took pity on us and translated the parking meter instructions into English. We’d decided to visit the Netherlands for a couple of weeks and stopped here because lacking any real knowledge of the country, we’d consulted our guide book and it said it was a pretty and had a nice cathedral.
We had arrived on the continent the the previous day, with an early morning ferry after a night wild camped atop the white cliffs of Dover. A few hours driving north through France and Belgium had bought us to our first and frankly disappointing stop at a reproduction of St Peter’s church. Better was our first experience of a Dutch supermarket (look at all the cheese!) before finding a campsite for the night.
So here were were, our second day in the Netherlands and with a valid parking ticket to boot. We took a guess at where we were on our low quality guide book map and headed in the direction of the market square where we figured we’d find some coffee if nothing else.
It didn’t take long before we found our way blocked by a uniformed group of musicians, jumping around far too energetically for a Sunday while playing loudly and enthusiastically. At its core it was a small brass band, but…they are not usually this animated, are they? And not usually so conducive to toe tapping? We watched for a while until a suitable break in the performance presented itself and allowed us to make good our escape towards to the main square.
Minutes later, as we found our way blocked by another band, we began to put two and two together. Car parks full and lunatics jumping around with trombones. Something was going on.
We had, through the magic of picking places at random from a guide book, turned up during some sort of brass band competition. A modern and vibrant take on the classic brass band with silly, colourful uniforms and dancing, some choreographed and some more obviously made up on the spot. There was even juggling.
Arriving at the market square we found the main stage of the Jeroen Bosch Dweilfestival, but the real action was taking place in the streets leading away from the square, as bands set up where ever they could find room and performed to appreciative onlookers.
After a pitstop for coffee in the crowded and noisy market place we dragged ourselves away from the entertainment to explore the city itself. It was a pretty place, much as we were expecting. A familiar continental feel, but with a splash of something different. Dutch buildings have a style of their own, with distinctive gable ends. The cathedral quite impressive but it all took second place to the dancing and music.
We settled for the night at a marina, something we did frequently during the rest of the trip. There are many boats and therefore many marinas in the Netherlands and they have cottoned onto the fact that vans need much the same facilities, although we prefer our parking spaces to be a little less damp.