Shutterspeed: Rotterdam in black and white

A few weeks ago my brother and I took a trip to Rotterdam. I’d never been in the city proper before, only to concert venues on the fringes, and I was surprised at how modernist and industrial it is. To get the Netherlands to surrender, the Germans bombed Rotterdam on May 14 1940, threatening to do the same to other cities, like Utrecht. Rotterdam used to resemble Amsterdam in its architecture, but is now full of interesting postwar and more recent buildings. For architecture and culture, Rotterdam is hard to beat.

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Histourism: Tracing Operation Market Garden in Arnhem

Yesterday I spent a marvellous day with a friend in the vicinity of Arnhem, tracing the remnants of Operation Market Garden, which took place in September 1944. There are quite a few museums and memorials dotted around the area, showing that the people there haven’t forgotten the soldiers who tried to drive out the Germans at a great cost. Arnhem bore the brunt of some heavy fighting between the British 1st Airborne Division (with the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade attached) and the German SS Panzer Division “Hohenstaufen”. British paratroopers were dropped around Arnhem and given orders to secure the bridge over the Rhine. My beloved Yankees from the US 101st Airborne Division landed further south near Eindhoven, and the US 82nd Airborne Division landed near Nijmegen. All sorts of activities are organised on Market Garden’s anniversary in September, but sadly this is the first year that I’m keen to go and I’m not even going to be in the Netherlands in September. Hmph. One day I’ll do a full tour of the whole area all the way down to Eindhoven.

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Histourism: Kamp Vught & ‘s-Hertogenbosch

Yesterday I went to the south of the Netherlands to visit Kamp Vught, the only genuine SS concentration camp located outside of the Third Reich. It wasn’t even finished when prisoners started to arrive, and they had to help finish building it. During WWII it was pretty large, but all that remains now are a few barracks, a visitors’ centre with a small museum, and a monument where the execution place once was, located a fifteen minute walk from the visitors’ centre.
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Shutterspeed: Autumn walk

We took a beautiful walk in the Wilbrink forest today. It’s that wonderful time when you can feel the transition from summer to autumn in nature: the air is still warm and carries the earthy smell of the sunlight on the ground, but there is also the occasional whiff of a stink-horn and the strong scent of humus, moist with evaporating morning dew. Toadstools and fungi are sprouting everywhere, spiders spin silver between the trees, and the snaps and pops of falling acorns and chestnuts mingle with bird songs. Leaves are turning red, brown, orange, yellow; they stand out almost shyly among their brilliant green family members. We pick ripe blackberries and fresh porcini. Soon it will get colder, soon the trees will shed their colourful canopies and the drab, grey weather will set in. But not just yet. Autumn is only just peeping out of its cocoon.

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Histourism: Hidden art deco gem Radio Kootwijk

A weekend at my mother’s is always good for some last-minute adventures. Last Saturday night we took a drive in the dark to go and listen to the belling of the stags, a very distinctive sound that they make when they are in heat. Unfortunately, we were a bit early – they do it from mid-September to mid-October – so we didn’t hear much. We did run into (not literally) some deer grazing in a field and some wild boars by the side of the road, which was really cool! I’d never seen any in the wild before. They didn’t seem scared of the headlights at all; they just trotted along, minding their own business. On Sunday, we cycled to  one of the most surreal places I have ever visited in the Netherlands: a former radio station in Kootwijk, nicknamed “the cathedral”, in the middle of the Veluwe.
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Shutterspeed: Purple haze

Whoever thinks the Netherlands has nothing to offer in the way of beauty compared to other countries – think again. It’s early September, my favourite time of the year, when the heather blooms bright purple in my part of the country. To take full advantage of this gorgeous sight, I went for a hike with my mother and her boyfriend in the Loenermark, which is part of the Hoge Veluwe. We had some rain, but some sunshine as well, which made for beautiful dramatic skies and misty views.
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