Aboard ‘Amadeus Silver;’ Remembering the Battle For Arnhem
Posted on October 29th, 2013
By the time we awoke this morning, ‘Amadeus Silver’ had navigated the Rhine River from Germany into The Netherlands and moored near the John Frost Bridge at Arnhem. After breakfast, our group of 24 A&K guests boarded a waiting motor coach to embark on a tour of the city and a visit to the Airborne Museum “Hartenstein.”
We were joined by Anneke Athmer, an expert local guide who was born and raised in the region. A short ride took us to a small, historic downtown section of Arnhem. Here, the last remaining medieval city gate still stands, dwarfed by modern office buildings and popular shops that have grown up around it. Anneke led us through cobblestone streets, pointing out structures of historic or architectural significance, including a huge Gothic cathedral undergoing renovation that dated to before the Reformation, and the Devil’s House, a striking stone building with an entrance flanked by carved stone satyrs, mythical creatures perhaps easily mistaken for demons by residents of the era.
We then boarded the coach and wound our way along narrow streets through quiet residential neighborhoods on our way to the Airborne Museum “Hartenstein” in nearby Oosterbeek. En route we stopped for a visit to the Airborne Cemetery, last resting place for more than 1,700 of the Allied troops who parachuted into the area in September of 1944 as part of the ill-fated Operation: Market Garden, a battle dramatized by the film A Bridge Too Far. Set amid a quiet grove of oaks aflame in fall colors, much as they might have been some 69 years earlier, long rows of simple white headstones mark the graves of the predominantly British, Canadian and Polish soldiers who gave their lives in a daring attempt to bring an early close to World War II. We learned from Anneke that, today, local school children “adopt” a grave, placing flowers on it throughout the year in remembrance of those who died liberating Arnhem from five years of occupation.
We next proceeded to the museum, located in the same house that served as headquarters for the 1st British Airborne Division during the fighting. On display throughout the three-story building were hundreds of pieces of period battle gear, including uniforms, weapons, photos and maps, as well as less obvious battlefield items such as a medic’s kit and a typewriter used by army correspondents. For anyone interested in the history of the battle or World War II in general, the museum is a treasure trove of authentic memorabilia and detailed information.
Before returning to the ship, we strolled the well-groomed grounds of the museum estate to view the US-built Sherman tank with Canadian markings and the German 88mm cannon parked near the entryway and the tall memorial statue standing across the street. The warm sun shone on grass still wet from the morning rain and the blue sky added to the sense of tranquility and peace, once again providing a contrast between past and present.
When we returned to our vessel, still moored near the historic bridge itself and with the day’s impressions fresh in our minds, we were able to view the arching span in a whole new light.
Our buffet dinner was delicious and included an array of desserts that tempted every taste. We then adjourned to the Panorama Lounge for the evening’s entertainment. The theme was the music of Austria, and a group of three singers and a pianist managed to successfully merge the operatic works of Mozart, including selections from the Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute, with the less formal fun of a lounge performance, and the players pulled it off with style. All the music we associate with Austria, including tunes from Rogers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music were included. The Austrian staff’s national pride showed through, serving tradition and lampooning a bit at the same time. Their efforts were well received, even as ‘Amadeus Silver’ had already begun the last leg of its journey. Next stop, Amsterdam.