22 SEP 2014: The Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands recently hosted a reception along with the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions to commemorate two significant events: the 70th anniversary of Operation Market Garden and the opening of Liberation Route Europe.  

Consul General Anne Gerard van Leeuwen addressed travel partners and media guests at his home, describing the events around Operation Market Garden at the time the largest military airborne operation which occurred on September 17-25, 1944.

Operation Market Garden

“Indeed it’s intriguing to be here (on the same day seventy years later) because we commemorate successes, big victories but Operation Market Garden was a tragedy.  We had a horrible winter, the elderly can still recall,” he vividly explained recounting how memory continues to play an important part. “It’s amazing how present history still is.”

“This coming spring we will celebrate and commemorate the liberation of the Netherlands by the Canadian forces. This is a reason to celebrate success and victory.”


Liberation Route Europe

Now Canadians and World War II history buffs can recollect and retrace some of the historic battlefields and view other war landmarks on a new route called Liberation Route Europe.

A project co-funded by the European Union with the assistance of 16 partners, Liberation Route Europe is best described as a trail leading across Europe that connects the main regions once used by the Western Allied Forces during the final phase of the Second World War.

The Netherlands has a huge role in this newly established network. For starters, your clients following routes in Liberation Route Europe will have a unique way of experiencing the events that unfolded in the two provinces of North Brabant and Gelderland in 1944 and 1945. At nearly 90 locations they will encounter evocative audio clips about the people and the hardships they endured. These stories can be downloaded for free using an app from www.liberationroute.com.

The Liberation Route Europe Foundation’s Jeroen van Wieringen says this project is “the first to create by means of a biographical approach, a multinational perspective on war, occupation and liberation.”

CTV Canada AM

CTV Canada AM broadcast a segment on the Liberation Route Europe with the show’s travel expert Loren Christie visiting various landmarks.

Watch the Liberation Route Europe: Travel the path of the Allied advance in WWII broadcast

Christie who recently returned from the Netherlands was also the evening’s special guest. After the guests watched the programme, he relayed some of his experiences while visiting Holland and pointed out how he encountered many Canadians at the war memorial sites.

Eyewitness account

And as I was watching the CTV episode showing some archival war footage of the John Frost Bridge at Arnhem I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder and looked into the eyes of a man who reminded me of my own father.

“I was there and was only five years old when it happened,” said Arnold Koopman, 75, a Burlington resident who emigrated from Holland to Canada in 1958 arriving by ship, albeit he laughs with a fancy cruise liner owned by Holland America. “It was a cruise ship,” he grins adding Burlington is the sister city of his hometown of Apeldoorn.

Koopman shares his story with me. He remembers it like yesterday. “I’ll never forget what the Canadians did. Never,” he said.  Koopman and his family were living near the bridge in the German occupied town, which was on its last legs.  The plan, as Koopman recalls, was that the Canadian troops coming from Sicily were going to bombard the German forces.

However, the Germans fled the night before the Canadians arrived.

In the morning we were waiting for the Canadians,” says Koopman.  He and his family stood by the bridge to watch. “I said ‘There’s a car,’ and my brother corrects me and says ‘no, it’s a jeep.’

“Somebody put a little Dutch flag in my hand and all of a sudden everything was in colour. Everyone was happy. People were crying and hugging in the streets.”

Freedom had finally arrived. “My brother said we’re all going to the market and my mom said you’re not going anywhere, but I said Mom we’re free and my father said the boy is right we can go anywhere we want. That’s freedom. If that didn’t happen we would have died there.”

Koopman is leading a special 10-day group trip with Burlington residents back to the sister city next spring.

Other tourism developments

Clients will be interested to know the Netherlands has other happenings in addition to the Second World War commemorations and the arrival numbers are reflecting an upsurge.

Rosina Shiliwala, director of the Netherlands Board of Tourism and Conventions in North America, notes Canadian arrivals between January and June had a five percent increase.

New crowd pleasing developments include the reopening of The Rijksmuseum last year in Amsterdam. “Two million visitors showed,” says Shiliwala.

The Mauritshuis museum in The Hague is home to the legendary Vermeer painting, Girl with a Pearl Earring.

“She was on a travelling exhibition around the world and is now back.” The museum has also doubled in size with a new art deco building housing temporary exhibitions.

Foodies are awaiting next month’s opening of the Market Hall in Rotterdam. “One hundred fresh produce stands,” says Shiliwala about Holland’s largest indoor food market which incidentally is to house the world’s biggest artwork. It’s a digital installation of produce to be displayed on the ceiling.

The Reception
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Ilona Kauremszky

A regular contributor to Travel Industry Today, Ilona is a prize winning journalist whose writing pursuits have taken her around the globe.

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