Friday, April 18, 2014

Flowers, Canals, and Operation Market Garden

Three big activities in just two days:

1)  A trip to the Keukenhof & Flowerfields -- Matt, Karie, and I took the older kids on a bus trip to the city of Lisse (Andy took the younger girls to the Rembrandt House), where every year for eight weeks the bulb growers of the region take over the former "kitchen garden" of an old palace and plant seven MILLION flowers in rows, patterns, greenhouses, and themed gardens.  It was a color explosion, so welcome after a dreary winter in NYC.  I think the pictures will tell this whole story:

 2)  A private canal tour -- Andy arranged for us to meet a captain by one of the canals in our neighborhood, the Jordaan. We climbed onto a lovely little boat just perfect for the nine of us plus captain and sailed through the western canal loop, up past Centraal Station and over to the northern docks and eastern canal ring.  It was so cool to look up at all the buildings (with no worries of being struck by cyclists) and to really take in the beautiful architecture and changing neighborhoods.  With champagne and surprise Dutch appetizers for the adults and Fanta soda for the kids, everyone was SO happy.  We even had blankets to wrap up the kids when they got cold.   We were dropped off far out in eastern Amsterdam for our dinner at Wilde Zwijnen - a very busy restaurant, with a great casual foodie feel to it.  Food might have been a bit adventurous for some of the younger set, but they kept it pretty straight with some fried fish "fingers" some steak and veggies and a very pretty dessert with raspberry sorbet and meringue.

3) On Friday, the NYC Goldsteins took an inter-city train to the town of Arnhem, about an hour's ride away.  We had been watching the movie "A Bridge to Far" over the last couple nights, and Arnhem was the site of one of the most famous battles (and Allied losses) in World War II.   It was called Operation Market Garden.  In September, 1944, paratroopers were to drop down behind the (supposedly weakened) German defenses, to be met by tanks and then hold each bridge over the Rhine River, to cut off the German's supply line and will to fight.  But the Germans were way more prepared and well armed than anyone expected, so the paratroopers and tank battalions were stranded too far from each other to ever combine forces.  Thousands were killed or wounded and many survivors became prisoners.  The war then continued into 1945 with all sides suffering during the cold winter and the upcoming "Battle of the Bulge".  

In and around Arnhem, you can visit HUNDREDS of sites that memorialize the brave efforts of both soldiers and civilians to persist under threat.  (And today there was also a great open air market with all kinds of produce and food treats, e.g. strawberries for 1 Euro.) The famous Arnhem bridge (now named after British General John Frost) and the Old Church have been rebuilt, and there was an information center that was very helpful in telling the story right under the bridge.  We took a bus to the nearby town of Oosterbeek, which was very lovely, and which has a hotel that served as the German then British command center, and is now the Airborne Museum. This museum had even more stories, videos, uniforms, weapons, etc from the time and even a simulation of what the battle might have been like for the paratroopers.   Here's a blog by a military enthusiast that describes it all in much greater detail.

Back to the city of Amsterdam for dinner at a little Italian pizza / pasta place with the Davidson clan and then called it an early night . . .

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