Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Waterways of Holland and Belgium - Day 6
Today we were in Nijmegen, in southeastern Holland. We had a choice of excursions: either the Kroeller Mueller Museum, which is located in a national park, and which has a great collection of Vincent Van Gogh's artwork; or the National Liberation Museum 1944-1945, which is about Holland's liberation from the Nazis at the end of World War II. At my request we chose the latter. After seeing the museum and a graveyard in Thailand for the POWs who built the Siam/Burma Railway, I had a desire to learn more about what the people in Europe went through during the war and after the war. Besides the museum and the volunteer guides there, we had the stories our program manager told us about what her parents went through and what her childhood was like.
The museum is completely staffed by volunteers. One gentleman, who was a child at the time, and also Jewish, told us about living in the same house as the Frank family (Diary of Anne Frank), and about what happened when they all left that house. The Frank family, sadly, was betrayed. Our guide's father decided that instead of going into hiding the way most families did, that they would hide in the open, as well as having a contingency plan. To hide in the open they moved to a small town where they were not known, and they survived the war in good shape. This was most interesting to me. I understand why most families would hide; it is natural to live in fear and react out of fear when the reality is that your lives are threatened. But I most admire this man who lived in reality but refused to live in fear. That is so much healthier. Our guide is a remarkable man. He has forgiven all that happened, yet he is able to talk about those terrible times on a daily basis. As one who had family who died in the concentration camps, I was especially touched by this man's story. And I was very glad that we had chosen this excursion option. On the way back to the ship we also stopped at a Canadian cemetery, which reminded me very much of the cemetery in Kanchanaburi province in Thailand. The countryside here was a little unusual, in that it is actually hilly, in contrast to the extreme flatness of the rest of the country.
In the afternoon we walked into town, to see what it was like. As usual, there were cobblestone streets and many outdoor cafes,which were well populated. There was a mix of old and new buildings. The most magnificent structure was the St. Stephen cathedral. The building of it started in 1244AD. It was, of course, Catholic, but became protestant at the time of the reformation. There are gravestones in the cathedral that date back to 1560. Possibly the most interesting feature to me was the wood ceiling. We learned that it was supposed to be temporary, but that it is 500 years old! And that temporary ceiling is beautiful, with gold filigree decorations around the chandeliers and where sections of the ceiling joined. Unfortunately I have no interior photos, because visitors are prohibited from taking photographs.
When we returned to the ship we took advantage of a tour of the ship's kitchen. It is amazing how much the chefs and others can do in such a small space and in such a short time. We went at 4:15 in the afternoon, and there was no sign of dinner preparation.
After that we attended the sales promotion for next year's tours, which was done by the program managers, and which was actually a lot of fun. There was no hard sell, but plenty of humor.
In the evening we had local entertainment, a band called Los Roleros. They were a little ragged around the edges musically, but they interacted with the audience, and were very personable and a lot of fun. They had a song for Tineke, our program manager, which was cute. Then she dragged me out on the dance floor to do the twist, which I hadn't done since probably the early 1960's. The evening was very lively and ended up with a conga line. After the band left we set sail for our next port. Harry & I went up on deck to watch the sail away, and enjoyed the interesting bridge lighting.