A May 2011 trip
to Netherlands by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: I had such a good time during my six days in the Netherlands and saw so much that this awesome Northern European nation needs a second journal by me. Enjoy Scheveningen, Kasteel de Haar and the Airborne Museum at Arnhem/Oosterbeek.
Brussels, Belgium was liberated by the Allies on 3 September 1944 and now it was the turn of the Dutch to be liberated by the British along with their American, Canadian and Polish Allies. On 17 September 1944, the Allies launched Operation Market-Garden, the liberation of the Netherlands. Operation Market Garden was not only the plan to liberate the Netherlands. It was also the Allies operation to outflank the German's Siegfriend Line of Defense on the border between Germany and the Netherlands and encircle Germany's industrial Ruhr River Valley by taking over several strategic bridges and canals in the Netherlands that bordered Germany. After this was supposed to be completed, the Allies would then invade northern Germany and occupy that part of the country in hopes for a further push towards Berlin and the war to end around Christmastime 1944.
At first, Operation Market-Garden went well for the Allies since they faced a German army consisting mainly of unexperienced men and teenaged boys. The British and American troops took over several bridges near the towns of Nijmegen and Eindhoven and also liberated those cities and many other towns and villaged in the Southern Netherlands. After 4 1/2 years of Nazi tyranny, the Dutch thought their time of freedom was there. There was a small snag at the city of Son when it took a little longer for the British 1st Army to overtake the Wilhelmina Canal and Son was not liberated until 20 September 1944.
After 20 September, it all went downhill for the Allies when what was thought to be a cakewalk through Arnhem became a bloody battle when the British under Colonel John Frost hit a German buzzsaw of a more experienced Panzer SS army and Waffen SS. The British were overtaken at Arnhem and were forced to surrender with Colonel Frost on 21 September while the rest of Frost's troops fled the Arnhem area to Allied lines on 25 September.
As of 25 September, the decimated Allied armies stopped their advancement into the Netherlands that left the northern part of the country still under German control while the south was free. The southern Netherlands was able to start the road to recovery after liberation while the north suffered another 8 months culminating in the horrible "Hunger Winter" of 1944-1945 in which the German occupied north endured starvation, cold and tryanny. Several Dutch people were forced to eat tulip bulbs and other things they wouldn't eat in better times. Thousands of Dutch citizens starved to death and liberation of the North didn't come until the British and Canadian forces forced the German surrender in the Netherlands on 4 May 1945.
Operation Market-Garden was mostly a British affair but the Americans also were involved and helped in evacuating British and American troops from the worst of the fighting. Casualties were high on both sides during Operation Market-Garden and over 500 Dutch citizens died during the battle.
If you are interested in more information on Operation Market-Garden or the Dutch experience during WWII, read Cornelius Ryan's epic book A Bridge Too Far or see the movie by the same name with the who's who of Oscar winners including Sean Connery, Michael Caine, Maximillian Schell, Gene Hackman, and Anthony Hopkins as Colonel Frost before he became famous (or infamous) for his Emmy-winning turn as Hitler in 1981's The Bunker that had a 13-year-old Yours Truly looking under her bed that night for Nazis and eventually the role that won him the Oscar and had several of us giving up fava beans and fine chianti with our meals. Other movies during this time that are a can't miss are the Dutch movies, The Assault, Soldier of Orange, The Black Book along with other books and film from this horrible time in Dutch history.
Attraction | "Airborne Museum Hotel Hartenstein: A Bridge Too Far"
Whenever I take a vacation to Europe, I always make the effort to visit at least one World War II sight while I am there. This trip around from April-May 2011 was the Airborne Museum at Hotel Hartenstein near Arnhem, The Netherlands. The history of the Netherlands during this trying and horrible time has been a fascination for me and one of my favorite movies is A Bridge Too Far. I was looking forward to making the trip about an hour from my friend Monique's home in Vianen to see the history of Operation Market Garden, the failed Allied attempt to liberate the Netherlands in September 1944.
Monique, Manouk, Jiska and I were planning to visit the Airborne Museum on May 2, but Manouk was not feeling well and Monique thought a trip to Kasteel de Haar would be closer to home and a shorter trip for us. No problem. The next day, May 3, Manouk was feeling better (we thought), and we made the one-hour journey to the town of Oosterbeek, where Hotel Hartenstein is actually located. Hotel Hartenstein was the location of the British 1st Airborne's Headquarters during Operation Market-Garden and the Battle of Arnhem. Before the British took over Hotel Hartenstein, it was the headquarters of German Field Marshall Walter Model and then General Roy Urquhart during the battle for the town of Oosterbeek. In 1949, a museum with exhibits was opened at nearby Kasteel Doorwerth, but in 1980, it was moved to its present-day location at Hotel Hartenstein.
Monique, Manouk, Jiska and I toured the outside of Hotel Hartenstein before going inside the museum itself. Outside there are monuments to the British 1st Army, the Polish 1st Independent Parachute Brigade that fought alongside the British during Operation Market-Garden, and to the Dutch civillians who lost so much during the German occupation and subsequent battles of Arnhem and surrounding cities and towns from September-October 1944.
Let me just say that the Airborne Museum has to be one of the best WWII museums I have ever visited in my 25 plus years of European travel. I was blown away by the many exhibits and attention to detail the Dutch have put into this place, and to keep all of you faithful friends and readers from falling asleep on your keyboards and shorting them out with your drool, I will give you my favorite parts of the tour and other observations. A separate entry will be about the history of Operation Market Garden.
When you first enter the Airborne Museum, you enter the main floor where the museum shop is and the beginning of the tour is. There are several rooms with exhibits of both Allied and German uniforms, weapons, photos, and other things that were used by the soldiers to get them through the battle. According to Cornelius Ryan's book A Bridge Too Far, Colonel John Frost went into battle with an umbrella and a suitcase with fancy clothing thinking he would be partying in Arnhem after battle. An American paratrooper jumped into battle with his pet rooster. I didn't see an umbrella or stuffed rooster during the entire exhibit, but seeing the weaponry and other personal items was pretty interesting.
Whenever I tour these WWII museums, I always like it when they have a part of the museum set aside for the civillians who saw the battle first-hand. This is one of my favorite parts of the museum. There are several TV screens showing videos in German, French, Dutch in English showing documentaries of interviews done with now elderly Dutch civillians who saw and survived the battles around Arnhem. Most of them were children at the time of war, but their memories are as fresh now as they were 67 years ago. Manouk and Jiska were just as fascinated by these documentaries as Monique and I were. But as we were pulling away from the screens to let the next tourists through, poor Manouk got woozy and had to be put in her sister's wheelchair. I now give the museum docents and curator a lot of credit here. They quickly got another wheelchair for Jiska and then helped us push Manouk outside to get some air. The rooms at Hartenstein are small and claustrophobic for some folks, but they were warm, too, and Manouk got a little overheated and got dizzy. A big dank u wel from us from us to the staff at Hotel Hartenstein is well-deserved here.
Monique didn't want me to wait with them outside while Manouk recovered and spoil my day, so I made sure they were OK before going back inside to complete the tour which led me to the basement where one of the most mind-blowing, fascinating, and sometimes scary part of the tour was. The entire basement was dark and lighting was only around life-sized dioramas of Dutch towns that went through the battles of Operation Market Garden. You could hear machine gun fire, shelling and other noises of war that had me jumping a couple of times in my shoes. But the part of that exhibit that had me wondering if I was going to be searching for German soldiers under my bed that night was when I entered the diorama that was a store and when I got inside via the basement, it was pitch dark and scary. I am one who can get to the bathroom in the middle of the night in the dark without a problem by feel, but being in the dark here and hearing the sounds of German jackboots and voices and other sounds, I was a little scared and backed out of there.
I finished the tour and went back outside to see how everyone was and had a sandwich from the picnic lunch Monique had packed for us. Manouk was feeling a lot better and wanted to complete the tour along with her sister, and I went back inside with her and their mother this time pushing Jiska in her wheelchair. I remembered where we left off on the second floor and we were able to complete the tour there and then headed down to the scary basement exhibit. This time I pushed Jiska through the store basement that had freaked me out minutes before and was able to get through it without a problem, but it was still scary.
After we finished the tour, I went into the museum shop to get a copy of the DVD of, you guessed it, A Bridge Too Far. I was looking forward to kicking back one night and watching my favorite British and Swiss-German actors, Michael Caine, Sean Connery and Maximillian Schell in the comfort of my own home, but when I got home, I didn't realize that European and American DVDs are different. I e-mailed the museum for assistance and they told me I could have it converted or exchanged by MGM. So now I have to call MGM Studios to see if I can exchange this DVD for one that is compatible for my DVD player. Bummer.
That was the only disappointment I experienced at the Airborne Museum in Oosterbeek. If you are interested in visiting the Airborne Museum, they are open daily except for major holidays and you can see it online at www.airbornemuseum.org. Don't miss it if you visit the Netherlands.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on August 2, 2011
Battle of Arnhem Airborne Museum
Attraction | "Touring The Castle of Hair (Figuratively not Literally)."
It was a short trip through some of The Netherlands most peaceful and beautiful farmlands for us to get to Kasteel de Haar, and once we entered the village of Haarzuillens, we were greeted by the castle towers and gates that dominate the landscape of the village and what is known as the biggest castle in The Netherlands with over 200 rooms.
Monique, Jiska and I went into the little shop to pay the admissions fee of 8 Euros for me to tour the castle's interior on my own since the castle does not have elevators and Monique would not be able to manuever Jiska around and up stairs in her wheelchair. They would stay outside in the beautifully sculpted 1898 gardens that surround Kasteel de Haar. These gardens did not exist when Kasteel de Haar was reconstructed beginning in 1892. The original village of Haarzuillens was right next to Kasteel de Haar, but in 1898 it was torn down and relocated about 1.5 km north of Kasteel de Haar and the gardens with over 7,000 adult trees from Utrecht were put in the village's place.
So Monique and Jiska waited for me while I went inside to take my one-hour tour of Kasteel de Haar. Signs had the small group of tourists from the Netherlands and other places go to the basement/cafeteria to wait for our guide. I thought I would be the only English-speaking person in the tour group but a young couple came up to me asking me if I spoke English and when the tour would be starting, and I told them it would be soon. Finally, our guide, a nice young lady came and told us English speaking folks that we would be able to follow the tour by using audio equipment that could be activated in each room of our tour. Unfortunately, we could not take pictures inside the castle at all. Darn! So the majority of the photos from this review are from the outside of the castle, its gardens and petting zoo.
The present-day Kasteel de Haar is a young one, but the actual history of Kasteel de Haar and the land it is located on dates from 1391 when the original Kasteel de Haar was built by the de Haar family who received the land from Hendrik van Woerden as a feifdom. The name de Haar means "of Hair", but the castle is not made of hair. HA HA! Kasteel de Haar remained under the ownership of the de Haar family until 1440 when the last male heir of the family died without heirs. The van Zuylen family took over ownership of Kasteel de Haar and endured the castle's burning down in 1482 due to a fight between the van Zuylen family and the Bishop of Utrecht. The family tore down everything except non-military parts of the castle and rebuilt it during the early 16th century incorporating several of the non-damaged parts of the original castle giving it a distinct pentagon shape.
In 1641, Johan van Zuylen died without heirs and Kasteel de Haar began to fall into ruin. This was helped along when the French invaded the Netherlands in 1672, and from 1672-1673, Kasteel de Haar suffered damage from the French invaders. For over 128 years, Kasteel de Haar was in ruin and disrepair until 1801 when Johannes van Zuylen van Nijvelt inherited Kasteel de Haar from a distant relative. It was still in ruins until 1890 when his son Etienne van Zuylen van Nijvelt inherited Kasteel de Haar and began his dream of reconstructing the castle. But Etienne needed money to take on this expensive job, but his wishes were answered when the Catholic Baron Etienne van Zuylen van Nijvelt married the Jewish Helene de Rothschild and her family's money allowed reconstruction of Kasteel de Haar to begin in 1892.
When Etienne married Helene, it raised a little stink among the families, but in due time the stink disappated, and when you tour Kasteel de Haar, you can see evidence of both Catholic and Jewish religious icons throughout the castle especially in the dining room where Mogen Davids are carved in the crown molding trim around the ceiling of the room. From 1892-1912, Kasteel de Haar was rebuilt in the neo-Gothic style of architecture by Dutch architect Pierre J.H. Cuypers, who wanted the entire castle done only by him, but Helene de Rothschild van Zuylen had her bedroom done by another architect pissing off Cuypers to the point he refused to step inside her bedroom for as long as he lived. Too bad, Helene's bedroom is a beautiful room done in the French style of soft shades of pink with French doors and an in-ground bathtub and view of the garden. The gardens were done in the French Baroque style by Henri Copijn and can be seen from several vantage points throughout the castle during the tour.
The tour lasted about an hour, which was too short for me being that I really enjoyed the history and the architecture of Kasteel de Haar. Today, the castle is now under the ownership of The Netherlands but the van Zuylen family uses it one weekend a year to host a huge annual party for many rich and famous people from around the world. One of the guest rooms I toured in Kasteel de Haar was the room that the great actor Gregory Peck slept in during his visit and Roger Moore, the second James Bond, was said to have flung a chicken across the dining room trying to serve himself during dinner one night. The kitchen itself is somewhere I would love to do some serious cooking with its huge woodstove and copper cookware.
After the tour was over, I went outside in the chilly air (I wore shorts and was feeling it a little bit but toughed it out) and rejoined Monique and Jiska. We walked around the gardens whose gravel roads can make it hard to get a wheelchair around, but Monique and I pushed Jiska through the tough parts, and looked at the chapel near the castle before going to the petting zoo on the other side of the gardens. Once there, we fed the deer that are the only inhabitants of the petting zoo and enjoyed the views of Kasteel de Haar more before heading back home to Vianen. Kasteel de Haar is open daily except for major holidays. It is run by the government of the Netherlands and is used for special occasions along with guided tours. It is a must for anyone who is visiting the Utrecht area of the Netherlands and if I am there again, I am going back just to enjoy walking the gardens in such majestic beauty!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 28, 2011
De Haar Castle (Kasteel de Haar)
Haarzuilens, Netherlands 3455
Attraction | "Sea Life Scheveningen: Something Fishy Going On Here!"
It was crowded in Sea Life the Sunday we all visited Sea Life Scheveningen, and there were a lot of people with little toddlers and babies in strollers along with Jiska in her wheelchair. This made touring Sea Life a pain in the butt when you wanted to see a fish in its tank and Mommie Dearest is in your way with "Jr's" stroller blocking your view. GRRR! At least Jiska would get up and walk over to the displays being that she can stand for short periods of time and check out the fish and other ocean life. I wish the parents with strollers had that respect for others while we were there.
Sea Life Scheveningen is also a small aquarium with narrow paths to and from exhibits, but after dodging the strollers and rude mamas and papas, Monique, Piet, Manouk, Jiska and I were able to see many of the exhibits unobstructed. It was awesome touring the tunnel and seeing sharks and sea turtles floating above us and then the lighting and colors in the coral tank was spectacular allowing me to get a great shot with my camera. But it was also dark in Sea Life and some pictures were hard to come by with my camera, but I managed to get a few good shots of the fish. One of the most interesting displays was the egg sack of a great white shark. Made me shudder to think of the hundreds of little Jaws being hatched soon from it (the theme to Jaws was running through my head there).
The otter display was the last thing we saw at Sea Life Scheveningen, and it is still under some construction, but it was fun seeing the two otters in residents running around their enclosed otter home consisting of rocks and a little pond for drinking and swimming. I had many happy memories in Alaska seeing the otters swimming in Resurrection Bay off the coast of Seward, and these guys brought back those memories.
After touring Sea Life Scheveningen, Monique, Piet, Manouk, Jiska and I went into the souvenir shop to browse around. Before leaving for vacation, my auntie Ruthie had given me some money to buy something for her grand-daughter Molly that would be from her. I was planning on getting her something from Madurodam or from Sea Life. Souvenirs from Madurodam were too expensive and common for my liking, but at Sea Life, I found some cute stuffed otter toys, and I got one for Molly and one for myself. Olly Otter is now sitting on my Alaska shelf in our dining room at home safely away from my puppies' growing teeth!
If you are interested in seeing Sea Life Scheveningen or any other Sea Life locations in Europe, prices are about $20 for adults depending on where you are at and less for children and seniors. Except for the tiny size of the place and paths and the strollers, it is worth about an hour of your time to see.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on July 26, 2011
Sea Life Scheveningen
Strandweg 13 (Boulevard)
Scheveningen, Netherlands 2586
If I had been visiting Scheveningen during World War II, I would have been accused of being a German spy for the Dutch had incorporated the shibboleth way of detecting if someone was not Dutch and trying to pose as a Dutch person by the way they spoke. The name "Scheveningen" was a code word during the Occupation for German spies. Glad I was visiting The Netherlands in 2011 instead of 1941.
Scheveningen's history dates from as far back as 1280 when it was a small little fishing village and ship port supposedly settled by Anglo-Saxon settlers. In 1470, a storm destroyed much of Scheveningen and had to be rebuilt. On August 10, 1653, the Battle of Scheveningen was fought between the Dutch and British Navies off the coast of the town. The battle lasted most of the day and ended in a draw, so the British and Dutch claim, but the British seemed to have come out on top after the signing of the Treaty of Westminster ending the first Anglo-Dutch War.
In 1818, Jacob Pronk, an architect, built the first changing room for tourist to change in after swimming in the North Sea and the beach resort town of Scheveningen was born. Today, mostly German and Dutch tourists looking to get away from the city come to Scheveningen to enjoy the beaches, the esplanade that runs along the beach, bungee jump off the the platform on the pier, or tour the Sea Life Aquarium (see separate entry). There is an annual sandsculpture building contest held at Scheveningen, and we saw a couple sculptures along the esplanade protected by fencing. Monique, Piet, Manouk, Jiska and I did more walking of the esplanade and enjoying the fresh sea air and browzing at the many crafts booths and other booths selling things from pet supplies to clothing. Restaurants can be expensive in Scheveningen, so we all enjoyed our lunch from one of the food booths along the Esplanade. I now have a love for Kipper and Chips, which is a fish native to the North Sea and chips. It came out hot and fresh and with tartar sauce, I was a happy camper enjoying it for my lunch. Monique, Piet, and the girls had hamburgers. There is an old carousel on Scheveningen's Esplanade that reminded me of the Looff Carousel that I grew up near in Rhode Island, and I regret wearing a skirt that day to ride on one of the beautifully carved horses.
After a while in the sun, Monique, Piet, Manouk, Jiska and I got out of the sun and went into the mall at the end of the Esplanade. It was just like many malls here in the USA, and I wasn't too impressed, but there was a shoe store that we spent time in, and Manouk got a pair of ballerina flats while we were there.
After leaving the mall, we saw several motorcyclists on the road getting ready to leave Scheveningen. I was having a Sons of Anarchy moment and looked around for Chibbs or Clay to jump out, but it was just several Dutch Harley riders out for a weekend of fun and riding on the coast. When they started their bikes and rode off, it was quite a concert of loudness!
Parking in Scheveningen is a nightmare for anyone wanting to tour the town. It is best to park your car at a tram station in Den Haag and take the tram to Scheveningen. The trams run regularly even on spring and summer weekends, and it will allow you to enjoy your time on the beach and not worry about getting a parking ticket. Scheveningen, irregardless of its crazy pronounciation, is a place I would love to return to in the near future!