But there is so much more to the part of Holland called Arnhem.
Arnhem is a beautiful part of Holland. It straddles the Rhine River. It combines the hustle and bustle of a very fashion conscious city with the complete tranquility of multiple parks.
When I was there it was just past peak tulip season, but it was leafy and green and just wonderful.
My guide was provided by The Regional Tourist Board for Arnhem. They also provided a driver, my hotel room and my meals. I could not even buy a cup of coffee. But I am telling you folks, I would have loved Arnhem at my own expense.
The first stop we made was at the Burger’s Zoo. I am normally not a zoo person. I prefer to see animals in the wild, and being the lucky boy that I am, I have seen most of the population of any zoo in nature. This however was a special VIP visit.
I was also treated to the Kroller-Muller museum.My guide told me we were going to see a large collection of Vaahn Gokts. I shook my head and said “A collection of WHAT?” when she said ” you know, the painter Vincent Vaahn Gokt” it took me a second to get excited that I was about to see some van Goghs! The museum has a considerable collection of paintings by van Gogh, in fact the second-largest collection of van Gogh paintings in the world.
He did not begin painting until his late twenties, completing many of his best-known works during the last two years of his life. In just over a decade, he produced more than 2,100 artworks. He died at 37, most believe by suicide. His brother Theo kept his paintings. While he was alive, Vincent sold a grand total of one painting.
After taking time to sit in front of many spectacular works of art and just wondering why some people are blessed with such talent while the majority of us live in quiet envy, it was time to move on.
Our next stop was the Dutch Open Air Museum. I had no idea what to expect, but when my visit was over I had a great appreciation for Dutch culture and heritage, which I guess is the purpose of the place. The docents are friendly and informative. The exhibits are authentic because they were all brought there and reconstructed as they were, where they were, before being acquired by the museum.
Now that the fun stuff was done, it was time to turn our attention to the battle of Arnhem. Covered more or less accurately in the movie A Bridge too Far this was an ill fated campaign even before it started. Conceived of by British commander Montgomery ( who should never have been allowed to play with toy soldiers let alone command armies, in my opinion) vital intelligence was ignored or denied. The 1st Airborne division was told to expect nothing but reserve forces, when indeed there were two German Panzer divisions waiting for them when they landed. This was the last in a series of bridges to be captured so allied forces could flow into the Ruhr, which was the industrial center of Germany. The entire battle was called Operation Market Garden, and it failed at the expense of a majority of the soldiers who landed there.
The battle for Arnhem soon centered in a neighborhood called Oosterbeek. The Brits were caught in a horseshoe shaped area with the open part being the Rhine. My guide happens to live in the middle of where this desperate battle took place.
Of course there is a museum dedicated to the battle. It is without a doubt excellent. It is located in what was used as the British headquarters during the battle. It contains many authentic weapons, photographs and documents from the battle. The basement give the visitor a very personal experience. From the perspective of a jumper, you get an orientation speech, you “fly” in the plane, and then you are dropped into the midst of the battle. The whole experience leaves you with an edge, and almost the ability to imagine being “one of those lads”.
I hope I portrayed the Arnhem area of Holland in the manner it deserves. As I said in the start of this post, it deserves a visit for many cultural, artistic and natural reasons. If you happen to love history, so much the better. I owe a debt of thanks to the Regional Bureau Voor Tourisme in Arnhem for treating me like a valued guest. I was there for too short a time, and hope to return. If you ever find yourself in Holland, you will do yourself a favor by visiting Arnhem.
I will leave you with a quote: “God made the world, but the Dutch made Netherlands”. They both did a great job!