A free morning had us up early to explore the town of Arnhem. We had a mission: we needed batteries and I wanted to visit a grocery store to pick up some Dutch cocoa. Armed with a map, we headed out. Unfortunately it was a Monday morning. Shops in the Netherlands have a late start opening on Monday. This gave us plenty of time to peer into windows and wander aimlessly. We did find both items on the shopping list.
The afternoon found us immersed in a World War II battle. Arnhem was part of a military plan called Operation Market Garden. It involved massive air and land troops. Bridges were to be controlled or destroyed. It did not go according to plan.
We toured a museum with many war artifacts. In the basement you experience the sights and sounds of the battle. This media display gives you the sense of a battle, and it is not something you want to ever experience in real life. After the museum visit, we were taken to the Arnhem Oosterbeek War Cemetery. Another very sobering experience, especially when you read the ages of all the men who did not survive this battle. It was a day to step back into history and know that it should never be repeated.
The next two days were filled with color and joy. Why do so many people travel to the Netherlands in the spring? One word: tulips! We had the opportunity to visit a working tulip farm. At the farm we learned that the tulips in the field were for bulb production and those grown in the greenhouse were for fresh cut flowers. Only bulbs grown in sandy soil can be imported to the U.S. This farm is on clay-like soil, therefore no bulbs could be sold to us. They can export to many other countries who don’t have the soil restriction on the bulbs. It was fascinating to learn of all that goes into bulb and flower production.
After lunch, we were given a walking tour of Hoorn which ended at a home visit for coffee and treats. At first I wondered if the home visit would be awkward, but the kindness of the host pushed those thoughts away. It was interesting to visit a local home and talk with the owners. About ten of us went to a retired couple’s apartment. We were given a tour of the apartment along with some great snacks. We could ask questions of their life and they were interested in ours too. The apartment wasn’t so different from those in the States. It’s fun to get a peek into other’s lives and realize that we are not so different.
Finally, it is the last day on the boat, and we are back in Amsterdam ready to tour Keukenhof Gardens. This is the eagerly awaited highlight of the trip. Our timing was perfect and we had the most beautiful day to explore the 70 acres of plants. Tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, crocuses, and many other bulbs were in full bloom. The Gardens are only open for about eight weeks in the spring. They report that 70 million bulbs are planted, and I believe it! I wish you could enjoy the scent of the paths that were lined in hyacinths. Here is a tiny glimpse into the beauty of these gardens.
If you love flowers, this is a place that needs to be on your bucket list. Pictures just don’t do it justice. Go see it!
The river portion of our trip is over, but we still have two more days in the Netherlands. We have signed up for the optional tour in The Hague. Next week, I will conclude this travelogue with sights from The Hague.