You may believe any morning stroll that involves setting an alarm for 6.00am should be categorised as a silly walk. A packed itinerary meant I had no choice but to rise early if I was to see the Silly Walk Eindhoven.
It is an underpass close to Eindhoven’s central railway station. Formerly known as the Dommeltunneltje, and named after the river running through the Dutch city, the 130-metre-long tunnel is used by pedestrians and cyclists.
Nobody expects a silly walk
Just as nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, no one really anticipates seeing a photographer using a tripod while commuting to their place of work or studies. Perplexed glances from passing cyclists made that abundantly clear as I mooched about in the underpass at 6.30 in the morning.
The Silly Walk Eindhoven is a tribute to John Cleese and the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch from Monty Python’s Flying Circus, a vintage television series. In that piece of classic British comedy, Cleese plays a civil servant who works at the Ministry of Silly Walks.
Murals on the underpass wall depict Cleese kicking up his legs, carrying a briefcase and umbrella, and wearing a bowler hat. At the centre of the tunnel, in the scrolling font used on Monty Python’s Flying Circus opening credits, is the name of this offbeat attraction. Silly Walk Eindhoven is wedged between two high-kicking Cleeses.
Created by Studio Giftig
The creation is the work of Niels van Swaemen and Kasper van Leek, the talented street artists and designers behind Studio Giftig. It was unveiled in the spring of 2016. Locals are proud that John Cleese visited Eindhoven to declare the tunnel open.
One end depicts a grinning Cleese as he looked back in 1970 when the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch was initially broadcast. His signature adorns the wall. A speech bubble emerges from his mouth saying, “Silly walk, this way!” next to a hand pointing into the underpass.
The other end bears a depiction of a markedly older John Cleese, with greyed moustache and hair, and wrinkled, sagging skin on his neck. A thumb points into the tunnel with the words “It looks like you can use a silly walk!” in a speech bubble.
Photographing the Silly Walk Eindhoven
Timing my photography to avoid passing cyclists, I shot a handful of images of the tunnel walls.
A couple of times I even tried kicking my legs up and mimicking Cleese’s elastic movements. Multitasking to simultaneously release the camera’s shutter at the height of my kicks proved sadly beyond me before my first coffee of the day.
I did manage to capture one image of me in the underpass. Unfortunately, it looks more like I’m doing the Lambeth Walk, twanging imaginary braces with my thumbs, rather than a take on the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch.
To kick my legs anywhere close to the heights achieved by Cleese I’d first have had to have taken an early morning stretching session to loosen my hamstrings.
If you’re pressed for time in Eindhoven then there’s every chance you’ll miss this impressive piece of street art. There’s a good chance the DAF Museum, Philips Museum and the Van Abbe Museum of modern and contemporary art will rank higher on your to-do list than the Silly Walk Eindhoven.
But as increasing numbers of people plan to travel based around opportunities to shoot selfies and posting photos on Instagram, perhaps maybe more and more visitors will walk this way?
Photos illustrating this post are by Stuart Forster.
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