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.
My year was off to a brilliant start. I’m a big fan of the HBO television show Band of Brothers, which follows the paratroopers of the US 101st Airborne Division during the invasion of Europe in 1944. It kick-started my interest in the Second World War two years ago and as I recommended all and sundry to start watching it, I was happy to convert two friends to the fandom. As I began to do more research about the period, it occurred to me that I’d like to visit the Belgian Ardennes, setting for the famous Battle of the Bulge, which is depicted on the show. It was quickly decided between me and my friends that we would meet up in the town of Bastogne to hang out together for New Year’s and to put ourselves in the footsteps of the men from Easy Company.
Last weekend I visited Budapest with a friend. I had been dying to see Budapest for ages and I was not disappointed. It’s brimming with gorgeous architecture, historical landmarks, amazing food, friendly people and a great atmosphere. It’s fairly cheap to stay and eat there as well. The beautiful sunny weather and the colourful autumn trees were the backdrop for a fantastic weekend.
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.
Continue reading “Histourism: Kamp Vught & ‘s-Hertogenbosch”
I went on holiday to the island of Schiermonnikoog last week. Schiermonnikoog, like the other Dutch islands, lies in the Waddenzee, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage list (as is the Grand Canyon, for example). What makes the “wad” so special is that it’s the world’s largest area of mud and sand that dries up during low tide. It stretches from the Dutch north coast all the way to the Danish west coast. It is also the type of soil with the biggest biodiversity in the Netherlands.
Continue reading “Shutterspeed: Holiday on Schiermonnikoog”
I went to Berlin last week, keen to soak up as much history as I could–and I think I succeeded pretty well.
Last Sunday, May 3rd, was one of Utrecht’s Cultural Sundays, meaning that throughout the city, there were activities and exhibitions based on a certain theme. This week’s theme was “Utrecht 40/45,” because on the 5th of May 2015, we celebrated 70 years of liberation from Nazi Germany.