I had the great fortune to be able to attend Crisis in Antwerp, Belgium on Saturday 9 November with my friend and fellow Lard American, Patrick. What follows is less of an AAR from the show, but more of a travelogue covering the entire trip.
We left Dulles International Wednesday on KLM and arrived in Amsterdam at 0700 local time Thursday. Patrick was continuing on to France after Crisis, so we picked up his rental car and headed to Arnhem where we were spending the night.
After making what seemed like a dozen loops around the center of Arnhem, a product of confusing one-way streets and bike lanes, we found the parking lot for Hotel Haarhuis. Thankfully we were able to check in early so took the opportunity to take a short rest and freshen up before meeting downstairs for lunch. Here I partook in my first variety of La Trappe and had a delightful mushroom and cheese omelette.
During the planning stages of our voyage I had contacted Jasper of Karwansaray Publishers. Knowing that he lived close by I asked if he would like to meet up with us in the afternoon and he agreed, and came down on the train early afternoon. He kindly offered to take us to see some Market Garden sites in Oosterbeek so we hopped in the car and headed west. Unfortunately the Hartenstein Museum was closed for renovations, but fortunately the rain had stopped and we were able to see some great sites.
Afterward we headed back to the hotel and had a few beers in the bar where Patrick and I were introduced to Bitterballen, arguably the best beer drinking snack ever. Not sure how I overlooked these while in the Netherlands before, but they’re basically deep fried gravy balls. What’s not to like? Anyway, Jasper had to head home so we exchanged goodbyes and Patrick and I went down the street to Karakter for dinner. It was packed with Dutch speaking clients so taking this as a good sign we ate at the bar as it was the only seating available. It did not disappoint. We then headed back to the hotel to rest up for our full-on Market Garden tour in the morning.
Friday morning we met for breakfast, checked out, loaded the car and waited for our tour guide, Joris – The Battlefield Explorer. He came promptly at 0900 and we climbed in his van to head south. We started the tour at Son, then worked north to Veghel, Grave and Nijmegen. I was amazed to see how large the spans were at Grave and Njmegen, and also how high the elevation was on the south side of the Nijmegen Bridge.
While in Nijmegen we took a break for lunch and were treated to another Dutch surprise – Pannekoeken – a savory pancake. I had one with apple, goat cheese, bacon and apple syrup that I washed down with a Duval. After lunch we headed to the Waal River Crossing, then north to Arnhem where we stopped at the Oosterbeek Church and the road bridge.
Wrapping up the tour Joris dropped us back at the hotel. I felt he was an excellent tour guide; great knowledge, good visual aids and very personable. I would highly recommend him if you’re in the market. Patrick and I then mounted up for the drive to Antwerp.
We were able to find Patrick’s hotel without issue and parked in an underground garage, and then set out on foot to find my hotel, the Hotel Rubens. As a geographer I was thrilled when we were given a paper map of downtown, but my enthusiasm soon wore off as we couldn’t find any street signs. I conceded and pulled out my phone and we found our way. Once I was settled in I texted Richard of TFL and he came to escort us to Quinten Matsijs, the oldest pub in Antwerp. There we met a wonderful contingent of Lardies, to include Nick and Sidney, and we drank and laughed the night away.
The next morning we met for breakfast with the lads, and were then able to hitch a ride with Biff and Noddy to the show. Crisis is held in a dockside warehouse in two connected large halls. Once we got in, Patrick and I wandered around a bit trying to get our bearings. As a veteran of the HMGS multi-day conventions, it was interesting to see a one day affair with vendors – a lot of vendors – co-located with games. At domestic conventions I tend to be “in the moment” and never take many photos. Crisis was no exception. Below is a gallery of some shots I took.
After strolling for a while, Nick asked Patrick and I if we wanted to play his “Bash on Recce” Chain of Command game. How does one say no to that? I played on the British side and mentored a new player, and Patrick took the Germans. Our objective was to get as many recce jeeps off the board as possible. I can best sum it up by saying that Patrick shot the shit out of us, but it was still tremendous fun. I imagine it will be one of the first scenarios I put together from the Market Garden supplement.
The game won the award for Best Participation Game, and the lads were nice enough to have us pose with the weighty trophy they received. Also prior to the game Rich and Nick received a wonderful gift of clogs from Jasper and Guy, obvious in the gallery below.
After the show ended we helped clean up and went back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. We met for pre-dinner drinks at Refill, a fascinating place with a small bar/restaurant on the bottom floor and a gay bondage club upstairs. One stop shopping for any Lardie. It was then off to dinner at De Peerdestal, an establishment that serves horse meat among other culinary delights. I didn’t have the nerve to try the horse, so I had some wild boar in filo dough and venison chops. There was also a lot of wine, singing, cricket lessons, ranking of US presidents and tons of laughter. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much. We then headed to Paters Vaetje for after dinner beers.
The next day we were going to go with the lads south to a Commonwealth memorial for Remembrance Day, however they were unable to change their travel arrangements. Patrick and I took a little time to hang out in Antwerp, and had a few cups of coffee in a cafe. He then dropped me off at the train station so I could make my way back to Amsterdam.
I took a mid-afternoon train to Amsterdam and I’m not sure what was going on, but the area around Amsterdam Centraal was packed – tons of people on the streets. I made my way to the Ink Hotel and by the time I got there and checked in I was exhausted. I ended up staying in and ordering room service, repacking my backpack and writing in my travel journal. Also it is worth noting that one wall in my room was devoted to a map mural of downtown Amsterdam. The next morning I trained to Schiphol and made my way back to the states.
I can’t thank the Lardie community enough for the camaraderie and hospitality. It was a great trip, and worth every effort to go. I hope someday we have the opportunity to return the favor. I believe Patrick and I will be interviewed for a future Oddcast, so more insight about our American experience at Crisis may be heard there.