We got to tour Josh & Jonah’s hometown of Maastricht, The Netherlands today. The biggest blessing of all was that their mother, Jessica, was our personal tour guide! We began by seeing the beautiful Maastricht windmill, used to mill flour.
We followed this beautiful view with one that moved us beyond words. Allied forces stormed Normandy in June of 1944. September 5 of that year is remembered as Mad Tuesday. On that day, the people of The Netherlands heard about Operation Market Garden, and they believed they would be liberated. Much of the southern part of the country was; however, the troops were not able to capture the bridge over the Rhine River to make it further north. They were finally able to take the bridge in March of 1945, but the northernmost part of The Netherlands were not liberated until the German surrender in May of 1945.
So many American soldiers died in the attempt to liberate The Netherlands that the owner of a local orchard offered his land for their burial. At first, to avoid the smell of rotting flesh, soldiers were hurriedly bagged. Then a group of men called the Margraten Boys opened the bags one by one, identified bodies by their dogtags, and contacted their next of kin to see if they wanted the bodies sent back home or buried where they died. 8,301 men are now honored with a cross (whether their body is there or not) in what is now a U.S. Military cemetery, and 1,722 names are remembered on a wall of those who were (and most are) still missing. Remains are still being found, one by one, by farmers in the area. When a body is found, it is identified, and the soldier’s name is given a special mark on the wall of the missing. The men who died in this area are not forgotten. They are truly honored, especially by the people they helped. While we were there, a group of Dutch school children were learning about the sacrifice these soldiers had made. The children brought flowers to lay on each of the graves.
Jessica also took us to downtown Maastricht, where we heard a beautiful flute recital, saw a Roman bridge built in the 1st century across the Meuse River, and had zuurvlees (Dutch fries with mayonnaise and horse meat). That was the first time we’ve ever eaten horse meat, but they were surprisingly good!
We also saw The Basilica of St. Servatius (Maastricht’s Catholic church) and St. John’s Church (Goverment approved Dutch Reformed church). Between the two churches, the street was called Pergatory. Dancing sculptures stood there, reminding us of Dia De Los Muertos in Mexico.
Later, we climbed a 15 story tower, from which we could see beautiful views of The Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium all at once. Then we saw St. Pieter’s fort, where there were caves people hid in during the Napoleon invasion centuries ago and again during the German invasion during World War II. There were writings and drawing dating back to 1785, and the caves could house 45,000 people for evacuation during World War II.
We finally ended the night with Jessica’s delicious cooking (salmon, risotto, and asparagus), spending time with Frank (Papa Markink) and playing Rook to bring back our board game memories with Jonah. What a blessed day with special friends!