Wilko Elsinga: ‘I lost twenty kilos because of all that walking’

Wilko Elsinga: ‘I lost twenty kilos because of all that walking’

Living in lockdown means that little is allowed. Lectures and meetings are mostly online. But in restriction, mastery can also awaken. This is the pre-eminent time to start something new. Univers spoke with a number of people who did just that. This week: former beadle Wilko Elsinga; he made a walking route along the street art in Tilburg.

Wilko Elsinga. Beeld: Jack Tummers

Wilko Elsinga retired two years ago. For years, he was the Beadle of Tilburg University (Dutch only) and led the parade of professors at official occasions and PhD defenses. At last, he had more time for cycling, golfing, and especially for distant travels, until the pandemic threw a spoke in his wheels.

Fortunately, he discovered something new, street art in Tilburg. He made a route for it and published it online. And now, anyone can walk with the former beadle. You do not even have to wear a gown.

We also have

“It actually started with another beadle, a Facebook friend of mine from Leuven. She posted a lot of pictures of street art and I responded: we have that here too, and that I could give her a tour. A beadle from Rotterdam, who is also retired, responded that he would be happy to come to Tilburg. Because of the lockdown and travel restrictions, it has not happened yet. But it did give me the idea to work out a route.

“I learned to create routes on the site Afstandmeten because of cycling. I had a cycling buddy, who wasn’t an experienced cyclist, so the routes shouldn’t be too long at first. That’s when I started planning bike routes. It’s actually very simple, it’s just placing dots. That’s what I did for this one too, I ended up with a route of fifteen kilometers, with 32 works of art. That is manageable for a walker, or by bike. By now, the route at Afstandmeten has been clicked on more than ten thousand times.”

Hat pins on an old map

“The street art; I actually just ran into it. The first one I noticed was on the Hoogvensestraat, the skyline of Tilburg, with Tilburg University in color. I thought: that’s beautiful. After that, I saw more and more of them. I then started looking for what else I could find. I came across some information, but it was far from complete. I thought: you know, I’ll take an old map of Tilburg and I’ll mark out all the places with hat pins. That way you can plot a route at a detailed level.

Wilko Elsinga bij street art in de Hoogvensestraat. Beeld: Jack Tummers

“When I finished the route, I shared it on Facebook. I got many positive reactions to that, but I also often heard: you forgot that one, and that one. A friend from the Theresia neighborhood informed me, for example, that I should pay attention because there is a new one coming up. That’s how I added a few more later. By now, I’m seen as a bit of a specialist in street art in Tilburg.”

Also for staff

“By now, there has been a lot of attention for the street art route on Tilburg.com and there was a video for Brabants Dagblad. I also sent it to the VVV (tourist information office), and they included it as a must-seeactivity. The university’s employee association also offered my route as an activity. I heard that forty people have done so in the meantime. I have received wonderful reactions. A full professor told me that he had come to places in Tilburg that he had never been to before.

“Sometimes I walk the route again; the other day with a walking buddy from Utrecht. Or with my family from Delft. It really is a great family outing. I have walked the route myself six times now. Every time you notice something different. For example, I recently saw a window with a cat always sitting behind it and a sign saying ‘do not lick the window’.”

No bitterballs

“I’ve lost twenty kilograms in the last year because of all that walking. But that’s also because I eat healthier food. I eat less meat, and after the evening meal, I don’t eat anything anymore. In that respect, I was a bit lucky with the lockdown and that the catering industry was closed. After cycling or golfing, you go straight home. So a beer afterwards and ‘shall we have a portion of bitterballen’, was no longer an option.”

Hoogvensestraat Tilburg (artist Paul Watty). Image: Jack Tummers

Rondje Pontje with Marianne Vos

“After my retirement, we had actually wanted to travel to New Zealand and South America. We managed six weeks in New Zealand, but South America was no longer an option. We could still go on vacation in the Netherlands. Drenthe, Zeeland, the Veluwe, Limburg.

Hoogvensestraat Tilburgt (kunstenaar Paul Watty). Beeld: Jack Tummers

“On the internet you can find a lot of bicycle routes for this. For example, at the Nederlandse Toerfiets Unie (Dutch Tour Cycling Union). But when I looked there, I saw that in Tilburg East, where I live, there was still a white space. So I e-mailed them that I have enough cycling routes that start where I live. They were interested, but it had to start at a restaurant with parking space, and it had to include photos and a description.

“So on fietssport.nl, there are now also eleven of my cycling routes. I now have them start at café Zomerlust, which is about 600 metres from me. Like my favorite route Rondje Pontje (Dtuch only). It passes Marianne Vos’s hometown. There is also a work of art for her on a roundabout there: Wielerkoningin (Queen of the Bycicle), which I also sent to her.”


“The lockdown was especially bad for my wife. She plays in two orchestras, they couldn’t do anything. They have been inactie as an orchestra for a year and a half. I was lucky, all my activities were still possible. I was always able to keep hiking and cycling. “Only playing golf was a problem for a while. I couldn’t do that for a few months because all the sports facilities were closed. But that was more or less reopened after that; you were only allowed to play golf in pairs then.”


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