An American Couple in Delft
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Liberation Day et al

There have been a lot of celebrations here recently. Recently I wrote about Queen’s Day which was last Saturday. Thursday was a dual holiday and we had the day off from work. Depending on whom you asked, we had the day off for Ascension Day, the day Jesus entered heaven 40 days after Easter, or Liberation Day, the 60th anniversary of the Dutch liberation from the Nazis.

We took advantage of our day off to go to Keukenhof (click on "English" at the bottom) which is a beautifully landscaped garden of tulips and other flowers just south of Haarlem and very near the North Sea coast. I’ll take a guess that it’s about 100 acres or so, roughly the size of the Magic Kingdom at Disneyland. The sandy soil is what’s supposed to enable this place, and the whole area, grow such incredible flowers. The gardeners plant about seven million bulbs to make all this happen so there’s a lot of serious digging that goes on. Most of this is out of the public eye because the place is only open for two months a year, mid-March though mid-May.

To get there, we took the train to Leiden and changed to a bus to complete the trip which is about 25 miles in total. We returned the same way and because it was early in the day, we thought we would walk around Leiden for a bit. We stumbled into a parade. Well, it looked like it should be a parade with people two and three deep on both sides of the street in front of the Stadhuis which was lined with lots of foreign flags, including Old Glory. But city busses kept going by as well as lots of bike in both directions and nothing seemed to be happening. Soon, though, we heard a band start to play and finally there really was a parade of about 30 or 40 military vehicles, jeeps and such, mostly Canadian and American, with Canadian and American flags, commemorating the liberation. There were no insurgents here, then or now. We loved seeing the Stars and Stripes.

Sunday there was a memorial service at Margraten which is where the American cemetery is in the Netherlands. There are more than 8300 people buried there and a list of more than 1700 Americans missing. Margraten is near Maastricht which we visited several weeks ago. Unfortunately, we didn’t know then that Margraten was so close or else we would have visited. Today Queen Beatrix was joined by an undistinguished, semi-literate American to pay tribute to those American dead and missing. The undistinguished, semi-literate American generates a great deal of hostility among our Dutch neighbors, so there was a lot of control over what the public was able to see and who could get into the ceremony. You may have seen lots of warmth exchanged during his visit. Most people who were not in the view of the television cameras wanted him to leave. Not us. We thought it would be great if he stayed here. Permanently.

Early this week there were notices placed in all the doors on our street that there would be no parking on Sunday which was the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Delft. A parade was coming through town and right past our front door. There were actual marching bands in Delft. The temperature was about 50F with lots of thick cumulus clouds in the sky so the sun would go in and out, and it was chilly. This, combined with the marching bands, had me looking all around for a football game; it’s perfect football weather! But that’s not to be. The marching bands came from all over the Netherlands and a few from right here in Delft. Much of the music was unfamiliar to us but four tunes we found very familiar: The Marines Hymn, The Caissons Go Rolling Along, Over There (by George M. Cohan from World War I  - if you visit this site, it gives three versions of the song. I like Billy Murray’s the best. However, when I clicked it, I only got a 30 second clip. Instead, right click it, "save link target as" to somewhere that you can find it, and then double click from Windows Explorer to hear the whole thing – let me know if you have a problem), and Happy Days Are Here Again which is occasionally played at some political conventions. These sent some goose bumps to an expatriate American.

The last band through was unconventional in the Land of the Wooden Shoe – bagpipes. Because I am Irish by marriage and Scottish by a former marriage, I have a great affection for bagpipes. It’s actually not so strange that a bagpipe band would be here (they were from Rotterdam) as there are pipe bands all over the world. As they marched in front of our house I heard the pipe master say to the band to start with Scotland the Brave and Auld Lang Syne. It gave me a chill. It was a terrific end to a week of liberation celebration.

See pictures of Liberation Day in Delft and in Leiden.


2008 Rick Wexler   last updated February 21, 2008