Arnhem – The Bridge Too Far

pic-story-arnhem-title

Okay, here is the second place that I visited because of a bridge despite the fact that I wrote a post that has effectively trashed a really famous bridge back in Australia. Well, I guess the difference is that this particular bridge has a story behind it where as the bride back in Australia really isn’t all that flash (and as I have mentioned isn’t all that colourful either, unlike the one in the United States). Okay, I went to Cologne for reasons beyond the bridge, even though I did spend some time walking across it, but I did come to Arnhem to especially see the John Frost Bridge, and it had a lot to do with the story behind it, which I will get shortly as I probably should say a few things about my initial arrival.

Well, the first thing I noticed when I jumped off the train at Arnhem was that the railway station was really new – in fact it looked like a spaceship. The second thing was that unlike other stations on the continent, they had ticket barriers, much like the ticket barriers that you find in Melbourne, London, Paris, and in fact any place that doesn’t happen to be Germany (none of the cities I visited in Germany has ticket barriers – it was as if they relied on your honesty when it came to getting on trains, though in Australia, or at least in Melbourne, the ticket barriers are only at the stations in the city). Anyway, we found ourselves confronted with this ticket barrier and all we had was a Eurail pass, so a part of me was scratching my head wondering how we were going to get out. Fortunately I discovered one of those funky, machine readable, symbols on the ticket that eventually allowed us to leave.

I have been to Arnhem before, if you count sitting in a train while it was at the railway station as actually visiting a place (which is probably the same as claiming that you have been to Afghanistan if you are sitting in a plane flying over it at 30000 ft). However, this time, since I was taking my time on my trek to Amsterdam, I decided that I would spend at least one night here (despite discovering that our trek from Essen took a lot longer than I originally anticipated), not only to see the bridge, but also to have a look around the city as well. Mind you, I had heard of the bridge previously, and even watched a movie about it, but it was only when I first traveled to Europe in 2011 that I actually discovered where Arnhem was located, namely because the train stopped there, and put its location into context. Mind you, now that I have visited this part of Europe three times I am a little more experienced that I previously was.

Out and About

As is typical, after arriving at the hotel, and settling into our room, I decided that I would go out and have a look around. Mind you, my brother was quite exhausted so he decided to call it a night and went to bed (though he did spend some time playing on the computer, which generally involves exploring all the weird and wonderful things on the Internet). However, since it was my only night in Arnhem, and we would be heading off to Amsterdam the next day, I knew that it was the only opportunity that I was going to have to visit some pubs (or cafes as they are more properly known), if only to have some places to mark on Google Maps, and Yelp (as well as Trip Advisor, but I really don’t like the website and I am still wondering why I continue to post things on it even though it constantly makes me want to rip my hair out, and that is before the fact that they effectively get content off of you for free, but then again we are the suckers that give them the content without charging them, probably in the hope that maybe, one day, we might get a paying gig writing this stuff).

So, after dropping my brother off at the hotel (and I’m not quite sure what I did for his dinner, but he must have eaten something, more likely than not Chicken McNuggets, but since I was out until quite late that night I must have gotten something for him before I left as opposed to after, or I could have got something at the railway station – I just can’t quite remember), I dediced to go out and have a look around. Well, since it is the Netherlands there are always the coffeeshops, however it became pretty clear that in Arnhem the coffeeshops were pretty well hidden away. Actually, unless you are in Amsterdam, they only allow Dutch citizens to go into and indulge in the bounty that the coffeeshops have to offer, which is rather odd because from what I have discovered after talking to a few people who are either Dutch, or have lived in the Netherlands, most of them don’t actually visit the places. Mind you, since I’m somewhat older now, the whole thrill of being able to purchase, and smoke, weed legally has sort of worn off, especially since this is the third time I have visited the Netherlands.

pic-story-arnhem-oddity
This was lying outside our hotel

So, instead of trying to hunt down a coffeeshop I decided to wander around town and look for some bars. Mind you, I’m not sure how I ended up at the otherside of town, particularly since the bar that I ended up visiting didn’t appear at the top of the Yelp list of ‘best bars in Arnhen’, but it actually turned out to be pretty cool. Well, bar is probably not the best term to use, since they tend to be called cafes and sell both coffee and beer, namely coffee during the day and beer at night, but if you rock up there at 8:00 am in the morning and order a beer I doubt they are going to have any problems serving you. Mind you, there was one time when we went to a pub for a work breakfast and I decided to order a beer, simply because of the thrill of having a beer for breakfast, and the bar staff suddenly started calling me an alcoholic – I guess it had something to do with the idea that only alcoholics drink beer for breakfast. As for me, no, I don’t drink beer for breakfast, not regularly at least.

Anyway, that night had me visit something life four bars, one of them being, at that particular time that is, the best bar in Arnhem according to the Yelp website. Mind you, that isn’t a static thing because the Yelp algorithm is going to cause the best pub to change depending on the number of reviews and the average star rating of the pub. As it turned out, the best pub in Arnhem was Cafe Moortgat, however that has since changed since I was wondering the streets that night and it has now slipped to number three (though in the time between me writing this, and posting this, it is now back at number one). Still, I did end up visiting Moortgat and in my opinion it was a pretty cool bar.  Mind you, there are only four reviews, but then again it is Arnhem.

Which brings up my next point – I finished off the night at a cafe just across the road from the hotel, and there ended up chatting with a local. Sure enough I’m not the only person that comes to Arnhem to visit the John Frost Bridge. In fact it is quite a common destination for World War II enthusiasts, especially around September 17, which is the anniversary of Operation Market Garden, the failed Allied attempt to capture the bridge over this tributary of the Rhine.

John Frost Bridge

I’ll probably say a lot more about Operation Market Garden in another post, though since the bridge was basically the main reason that I stepped off the train in Arnhem I probably should mention it here. Mind you I was expecting a little bit more than what as actually there, though there is a World War II museum a little way out of the town (though the couple of reviews that I read of it made me realise that it is probably not actually worth visiting – however I have since discovered another Museum while writing this post). As for the bridge itself, it’s still there, or at least it was rebuilt similar to what it was before the war, and it a steel girder bridge much like the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Okay, it may not be as impressive as the Sydney Harbour bridge, but unlike that massive dark gray monstrosity that crosses Sydney Harbour, there is a story behind the John Frost Bridge.

Basically the bridge is named after John Frost, the commander of the six hundred odd paratroopers that were dropped into Arnhem to secure the bridge. The idea was to capture a number of bridges across the Dutch waterways (or what is effectively the Rhine delta)  to enable the allied armour to cross into Germany. Initially the idea was that Frost and his men capture the bridge and hold it for two days while reinforcements come up from the south, however they ended up being held up by stronger that expected resistance, and as such Frost and his men were eventually captured and the bridge destroyed. Mind you, the Allies still won the war, but the story, in a way has come down to us in the form of the movie A Bridge Too Far, and other memorabilia, including a wargame that my Dad owned when I was a kid called Operation Market Garden.

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CC BY-SA 3.0

The thing is that there is a little memorial over looking the bridge, and they were even setting up some stalls in preparation for the anniversary of Operation Market Garden (which as I mentioned is on 17th September, and is celebrated even today, but then again much of Europe still celebrates aspects of the war, including the Menin Gate, where the Last Post is play every day a eight o’clock since the end of World War One, only being disrupted during World War II, and even then, while they were still fighting in the streets of Ypres against the Nazi occupiers, they started it up again. Unfortunately I wasn’t around for the memorial, namely because we didn’t have a huge amount of time to continue traveling around Europe, but then again, as we were to discover when we hit Amsterdam, being caught up in a European festival can cause problems of its own.

Back into Town

So, after spending some time at the bridge, it was now time to head back into town, and surprisingly it involved heading through a gate – the Sabelsport. Arnhem actually had four gates, but the Sabelsport is the only one that has been preserved. Actually, these gates are one of the cool things about Europe, namely because us colonials never built cities with walls, nor with gates (though I suspect when they were originally forts, something which the Australian colonies never were, they did have walls and gates), so the whole idea of visiting a city, or even a town, that had a wall and gates is pretty cool (especially when those gates have been preserved, as is the case with Sabelsport).

pic-story-arnhem-sabelsport

Our next stop was the Church, which is called the Eusebius. Mind you, I got a little confused, thing that the Eusibieus was referring to an renaissance writer, until I realised that I was thinking of Erasmus, and that he was Dean of the University of Rotterdam (and from what I gather never had anything to do with Arnhem). I did go and check out another church, but I was chased away because there was nothing to see there, and I was also asking him about Erasmus, but not actually using the name Erasmus but Eusebius, even though Erasmus, and Eusebius, have nothing to do with Arnhem (Eusebius was an ancient Roman Christian historian).

So, we headed back the way we came and landed up at the Eusebius, which was destroyed during World War II (with the exception of the tower), and went and had a look inside. In all honesty, there wasn’t all that much in there, though I shouldn’t be surprised since there isn’t much inside any Dutch church, namely because in the 16th Century, during the war with Spain, the Dutch people basically went on a huge spate of idol smashing and picture destroying – both due to the influence of Phillip, King of Spain, and also as a reaction to the Pope, who was supporting Phillip. Mind you, the Dutch ended up bankrupting Spain, and as a result they ended up becoming a European power.

After a look around the inside of the church (which we had to pay for by the way, and it isn’t a church any more either, rather it is a general meeting place that happens to be shaped like a church, in a building that at one stage in its history was a church) we then went back outside and wandered around the market, which has set itself up in the square outside the church. Okay, they do have markets in Australia, in fact they have markets all over the cities (I can think of at least four in Melbourne, and there are probably more). Mind you, they are what they call supermarkets, where the corporation bullies the farmers into accepting ridiculously low prices (though economic fundamentalists will argue that this is just the law of supply and demand at work, as well as the idea of economies of scale) so that they might be able to undercut their competitor, but rather they are proper markets where individual stalls are set up selling what is in effect fresh produce. In fact it is quite an experience wandering around these markets looking at what is available.

Cool Artwork

Another thing that I discovered while I was here was that they were having a ‘street art’ festival. When they say street art, they aren’t necessarily talking about the Banksy style of stenciling, nor are they talking about graffiti. Rather, they are talking about that street art that you see people doing where they draw on the ground using chalk. I have to admit that these works of art are pretty cool, and the thing is that these artists are hardly professional, and certainly don’t make enough money to be able to live entirely off of their works. Sure, there might be some councils who commission these works, but most of them rely upon the generosity of people passing by – they are talented beggars if you will, though I do feel that the term beggar probably doesn’t apply to them since they are creating a thing of beauty, and are working for the small amount of money that they do get.

Anyway, here is one picture, which is representative of the Rio Olympics:

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And here is another, entitled Displacement of the Poor. I think I’ll finish off with this picture, and let it speak for itself.

pic-story-arnhem-poverty

Creative Commons License

 

Arnhem – The Bridge Too Far by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.

3 thoughts on “Arnhem – The Bridge Too Far

  1. Just wanted to say thanks for the comments and the follow. Appreciate it.
    Was also wondering how you got over to my neck of the woods. I don’t write about travel and I’m not sure how our paths intersected. I’m always interested in the journey, if you don’t mind me asking.

    Liked by 1 person

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