UPDATED -- Cool day, cool museum (and it was open!)
Oct 8, 2010
We have been enjoying what constitutes a continental breakfast here in Holland -- the usual pastries, ham, cheese, yogurt, a boiled egg, coffee. Today's hotel added smoked salmon and some good fruit salad to the mix. And, to accommodate the English clientele, scrambled eggs and bangers were in chaffing dishes! My grandparents would always rate a restaurant on the quality of its coffee, so using that scoring system, the place gets a solid 4 cups!
The weather continues to be overcast and foggy -- couldn't see much action outside the window this morning, so we packed up and headed to one of Holland's national parks and the world class modern art museum contained within it. Bob's entry will get more specific, but is a very unassuming building located in a lovely setting within its own sculpture garden. There were a couple of school groups (I could tell that by the worksheets each of them was carrying as they raced from piece of art to piece of art, scribbling something on the paper and then moving on), but it was very uncrowded otherwise and we spent several hours there enjoying the collection and the setting. My favorite was the Dubuffet outdoor installation that you entered via a spiral staircase into the middle of it and then walked around on top of it. (See picture)
Then we began our descent into a really bad travel day. . . . We had planned to spend a couple of nights in what all the guidebooks were calling "quaint" Delft, using that as a center for a couple of day trips before going to Amsterdam. Our first clue that "quaint"" wasn't the adjective of the day occurred as we spent over an hour going 15 kilometers in stop and go traffic -- then we entered a dirty, grimy town under construction complete with tagging and graffiti everywhere. And did I mention all the bicycles?? Ok, let's try "quaint" Gouda -- it's only 20 kilometers away! Another error on the "quaintness" scale as we hit even worse traffic and a snarl of roads with no signwork. By now, Bob who is an excellent driver with an incredible sense of direction and I who, given a decent map, can usually get us anywhere have had it with being in a car in Holland. So we stopped at the first large hotel we could find (a Campanile chain one) that also had a bar! We checked in, went to the bar, and found that Bob's laptop wasn't functioning!
However, after a cold beer and a chat with a lovely desk clerk who called her boyfriend (the I-Mac fanatic) to help Bob with his technology problem, and a truly mediocre meal, we had formulated a plan to salvage our two days in the Netherlands countryside -- tomorrow we are off to Haarlem with its large hotel, old area of town, and parking garage!
Arnhem was mostly destroyed in the WW II British battle, Market Garden (the movie A Bridge Too Far). This battle was the biggest failure of the British army, next to the Dunkirk evacuation. The general in charge was Field Marshall Montgomery. The goal was to rush into Germany and make the other generals (Eisenhower, Patton, Marshall) look slow and indecisive. The plan called for the taking of 20 bridges, the last in Arnhem. Paratroopers were dropped into Arnhem and they took their assigned bridge. The Germans did not get the memo to give up the other bridges with no damage and the paratroops were quickly surrounded. A typically valiant, meaningless slaughter, Market Garden would be the largest airborne operation in history, delivering over 34,600 men of the 101st, 82nd and 1st Airborne Divisions and the Polish Brigade. 14,589 troops were landed by glider and 20,011 by parachute. The battle commenced on September 18th and ended on September 25th with the early morning withdrawl of 2,398 survivors back across the Rhine, leaving 300 men to surrender on the north bank at first light, when German fire prevented their rescue. Of approximately 10,600 men of the 1st Airborne Division and other units who fought north of the Rhine, 1,485 had died and 6,414 were taken prisoner of whom one third were wounded. Fighting in the Netherlands was over and the Dutch would have to wait until the German surrender to once again be free.
Montgomery predicted that "in years to come it will be a great thing for a man to be able to say: 'I fought at Arnhem'." Montgomery claimed that Market Garden was "90% successful". He was not only a stupid tweet, but a vain asshole who caused many an unneeded death during the war. Enough of war it”s time once again for art and where are we staying tonight.
M found a hotel chain called NH Hotels. We booked a room in Arnhem and actually managed to find the hotel and a parking spot. The hotel had been recently renovated and had nice clean rooms. Our room had a terrace and overlooked the Rhine river. Upon arrival in our room a Viking River Cruise boat was passing headed down into the heart of Europe. We decided to eat in at the hotel and were pleasantly surprised by the food. M had an Oriental spicy soup and I had the special of the day. I would love to give you details,but I am having problems with saved data disappearing. I am writing this in Amsterdam many days later than the event. A good night’s sleep listening to the barges on the Rhine chugging by was had by all. Now on to art.
The early 1900's were a great time to be both rich and interested in the arts. Helene Kroller-Muller (1869-1939) was both and she used her money to buy, buy, buy contemporary art. She started collecting around 1905 after taking an art appreciation course. Her first purchase was a painting by Paul Gabreil titled "Train in a Landscape" in 1907. Around this time, her art appreciation instructor started visiting each week and became her personal advisor (hmmmm!). With his help she went on to collect over 11,500 art works. She purchased a hugh estate and had a museum designed to house the art. The great depression threatened the loss of everything and the museum was never built. As a hedge against going completely bankrupt in 1935, she donated the entire collection to the Dutch state under the condition that it build a museum to house the collection on her estate. This is now the Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller designed by Henry van de Velde.
The collection is truly amazing. Every impressionist is represented and her love of Van Gogh is shown in the 150 of his works (the largest collection in one place in the world) hanging on the walls today: she thought Cezanne was an "upstart" and not worth collecting! The museum has been expanded over the years to include a huge outdoor sculpture park, biking trails, nature walks, etc. Madame's original purpose to buy only contemporary art is carried on by the staff giving a breath taking depth to the art of western Europe from the late 1800's thru to 2000. This is one of the finest museums in the world. And we had a great time exploring it.