Photo: Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)
We took our hosts' son/Steph's friend Felix and drove to Köln (Cologne) to meet up with another of Steph's summer camp friends, with a side trip to the famous Cologne Cathedral. This is one whopping bit of gothic architecture. Its construction began in 1248 and it was finally completed in 1880, after which it was the world's tallest building until the Washington Momument was completed in 1884. It is almost 150 metres long, 90 wide, and 156 metres high. It was damaged during WWII, but not catastrophically so, and rebuilding the damaged areas was quickly completed. We climbed the 533 steps to the top of the right spire; I thought several others making the effort were going to require first aid at best, a defibrulator at worst, based on the amount of wheezing and puffing one could hear wafting up the spiral staicase. Going down, one can get dizzy if one goes fast enough, but falling down 400+ spiral steps is not recommended.
We hooked up with Jasper, Steph's other CISV friend, for dinner and a dog bite (Marine somehow did not make a good first impression with the household hund, so the dog left an impression on Marine...nothing serious, but Marine has now learned that not all dogs are man's best friend...)
Back to Düsseldorf, and we'll explore more of that city tomorrow!
09/28/2010, Muiden – Terborg - Düsseldorf
Photo: First night in the van: "...and the bed is where, exactly?"
From Muiden we drove SE to the small town of Terborg near the Dutch-German border. During World War II, Judy's father was a major in the Canadian artillery, serving in France and Holland, and he was in Amsterdam for the Liberation. After the war ended in 1945, he took up staff duties at the Canadian Army HQ, and his letters home describe his scrambling to put together a formal dinner with members of the Dutch Royal Family attending, what was obviously a short-fused tasking from the Canadian General Officer Commanding. His letters also relate that he became friends with a Dutch family in Terborg, visiting them occasionally. In addition to having clothing sent from his family in Halifax, he also corresponded with one of the daughters of the Dutch family, named Madelon, who could speak and write english. A few of Judy's father's letters home were preserved, as were two letters from Madelon; these letters thanked him for articles of clothing sent from Halifax, and also mentioned her engagement in the fall of 1946 to a fellow Dutch Red Cross worker, Robert, who was about to be posted to Batavia (Dutch East Indies) with the Dutch Army.
Judy was hoping to track down Madelon and Robert, or their family members, and briefly to reconnect a friendship from 65 years ago. However, Judy's father's letters home never mentioned the family by name, and neither of the letters from Madelon to Judy's father contain any more specific indentification than her signature "Madelon" and a return address of "Terborg, Passberg, Geldenerland". So, armed with this scanty information, we started our search at the two local churches, where both pastors stated that would ask their congregations and check any marriage records from the mid- to late-forties. An inquiry at the community records office led to no additional information other than two addresses for local Red Cross offices and a seniors' home; a short drive to both Red Cross locations determined both were outdated and therefore dead-ends. The visit to the senior's home also produced no results beyond other helpful suggestions and a welcome cup of coffee. We left Terborg figuring that the most likely source of success would be the churches, for which we have contacts now, and a subsequent search through Dutch Red Cross archives in Den Haag (The Hague) which will have to be taken up at some later date.
From Terborg we crossed the border into Germany and then on to Düsseldorf, to hook up with one of Steph's friends from summer camp. No sooner were introductions complete than we were invited in to spend a night or two in the guest room! Our kind of friends!
09/27/2010, Amsterdam, NL
Photo: The main means of transport in Amsterdam
A busy day, as today we picked up our new rental campervan (the one we will live in for the next three months), and then headed into central Amsterdam to visit the Anne Frank House museum. A steady stream of people progresses through the narrow halls and staicases of the museum, which receives over a million visitors annually, and it is of course a haunting tribute not just to one of the many who perished in the Holocaust, but also to those who continue to suffer discrimination everywhere today.
Walking anywhere in Amsterdam, one is struck not only by the number of people out on the sidewalks, but one needs to be aware of the bicycles that are everywhere, and that one is more likely to be run over by a bike than by a car! Some of "bike parks" around the Centraal Station are truly impressive, as there are thousands of bikes parked all around. It is also impressive (but not a practice I would recommend) to see how some riders manage to pedal while holding on to an umbrella and talk on a cell phone at the same time!
We met up in the evening with Michel and Robert, two sailors we met when they sailed into Halifax in Michel's boat Pas de Deux, and whom we met again in Luperon in the Dominican Republic when we sailed there in Semper Vivens. We had a great chat at a local bar, and learned that Michel was also in Hoorn the day before us, at the World 2.4M Champioship regatta....and he knows Paul Tingley....the world gets smaller!
After dinner we took the van and drove to the eastern edge of the city at Muiden, near the Royal Netherlands Yacht Club, and spent our first night in the van....more blankets required!