“Is there anything else in Amsterdam that you would like to see?” Ivy asked Rita. “I think we’ve seen everything that Amsterdam has to offer.”
Rita nodded as she sat down on a red chair in the hotel. “I quite enjoyed myself in Utrecht today. How about you?”
“I liked it more than Amsterdam. The train is right next door to us.” Ivy spoke quickly in rhythm of her banging keyboards. “We’ve got endless connections to anywhere in The Netherlands. We can easily pick up tickets to go somewhere.”
“How about Rotterdam?”
Ivy shook her head. “I went there last year – didn’t think much of the place.”
“Well isn’t there a festival going on at the moment?”
“That’s right. Nijmegen has The International Four Day Marches,” Ivy replied, rolling her eyes. “More like the four-day booze fest. The only walking most of those punters will be doing is a gentle stroll to the bar.”
“So you don’t want to go there?” Rita asked.
Ivy nodded. “We could – it’s got a lovely park and shopping area.”
Rita’s eyes lit up. “Sounds good. I could get something for my sister.”
“Vicky’s been a right bitch lately,” Ivy reminded her. After the way the blonde ditz spoke to them in London last year, Ivy was done with her. “Spend it on yourself!”
“I feel bad for her,” Rita admitted, playing with her pink hair. “She would have loved it here.”
“It’s her own fault,” Ivy said. “She should have renewed her passport when she had the chance. And not blow all her money at the bookies. By the way, that ring you spent thirty euros on – keep it for yourself. Don’t let her have it.”
"Maybe it’s for the best that she didn’t come,” Rita concluded.
Ivy nodded in agreement. “I’m fed up with her xenophobic nonsense. Anyway, have a look at this map. Nijmegen is close to the German borders.”
Rita leaned closer to Ivy’s shoulder with her eyes fixated on the screen. Rita pointed at a village near a lake. “That’s Wylerbergmeer – where my gran came from. There’s a nice swimming spot near there."
"That sounds lovely," Rita said, rubbing her hands together. "I love swimming...but I don't have a swimming costume with me."
"Oh, you won't need one over there."
"You mean they swim naked?"
"Yeah, I've done it a few times and it's quite liberating."
"I guess it's no different than having a bath – a less private one."
"Hardly anyone goes there," Ivy explained. "It will only be us and the odd geezer soaking up the sun here and there."
Rita crossed her leg. "That doesn't make me feel any better."
"We don't have to do it. It was just a suggestion. I was actually only joking about the skinny dipping."
"You've sold it," Rita laughed. "I think it could be a lot of fun."
Ivy smirked. "You'll love it."
Rita had considered going to Germany but it had always been a low priority. Tomorrow was her opportunity to set foot on German soil for the first time.
"If we have breakfast at Starbucks, then we can get our train to Nijmegen. We can get to Germany and Wylerbergmeer using a bus. I'll pay for it – it's going to be dirt-cheap."
"How much is it to swim?"
"Well if you're sure..."
"Then I'll get you something nice later. I'll treat you to a drink at the bar."
"Sounds good to me."
The Starbucks across the waters opened at 6:30. Which was ideal as Ivy and Rita were already up and dressed by six. A croissant and a green tea latte to go was their girls' choice of breakfast. Something light, but also not too sweet. The train journey from Amsterdam to Nijmegen was smooth as the silky red seats in the hotel bar.
After a bumpy bus ride from Nijmegen, they had arrived in the quiet village of Wylerbergmeer. It was a rural delight with each house lined up with unique gothic architecture. Rita felt as if she was having an exclusive behind-the-scenes of an exciting Hollywood blockbuster. From the moment she hopped out of the bus, she knew she would experience a part of The Netherlands and Germany that many tourists would never see.
Rita relied on Ivy's multilingual skills to get by. Luckily most people in the city centres had a good grasp of English. Out of the touristy areas, it was mainly a mixture of German and Dutch. It made Rita wish that she paid more attention to Mrs. Haus in class.
"Just a little further and we'll be in Germany," Ivy squealed, walking along the footpath adjacent to the motorway. Endless trees sandwiched the roads together with shorter bushes separating the path from the motorway.
"It's where that sign is isn't it?" Rita pointed to the blue sign with yellow stars.
"That's right, just a bit more...here we are!"
Rita turned around. A sign for The Netherlands was behind them.
Ivy got her arms out. "Welcome to Germany. If we walk back to where we were before, we can find the entrance to the park."
"Do you know the way?"
Ivy nodded. "It hasn't changed one bit. I think in about ten minutes we will one in that lake."
Rita followed her blindly. She didn't have a clue where she was going. When they got further into the woods everything started to look the same. They turned a corner and discovered secluded grassland beside the lake.
In line with an oak tree, a tiny fleet of wooden stairs leads to the water.
Rita had been counting down the time; eight minutes ago they were in Germany. Rita clung onto her Gucci handbag. "Will our stuff be safe?"
Ivy nodded, stripping off. "Hardly anyone comes here." Ivy placed all her stuff in line with the stairs. "Place your stuff with mine and it will be easy to keep an eye on it."
Rita nodded. "Here goes..."
It was the first minute that was the weirdest. She did as she was told. Whilst stepping into the lake with Ivy, a random thought came to her mind – her scarlet underwear matched the colour of her hair. She held onto the rails, seeking support from the slippery steps.
Not even the sunshine could save her from the freezing water and ice breeze. "This is colder than the ice bar."
Ivy had her hands out for Rita. "Once you get used to it it's fine."
Rita swam around as Ivy splashed her. She surfed back with a vengeance and started to wonder why she felt worried in the first place. Skinny dipping felt no different to swimming in the local leisure centre. Of course, the lake of Wylerbergmeer offered nature, getting close to ducks and sapphire dragonflies. How many leisure centres can say that?
A bush of berries caught Rita's eye. She swam back to the staircase and had a further look. Most of the berries were still green, but she could see tinges of red in between. She licked her lips: raspberries were her favourite fruit.
"I wouldn't eat them," Ivy advised. "They could be poisonous."
"I guess you're right," Rita said. "They still look nice though."
They carried on swimming without a care in the world. Just a few more breast-strokes and they would be back in Germany.