Morning arrived far too early as usual but we have survived last night’s dinner of Filet Americain and ready to have an early breakfast of food we have become used to, muesli, fresh fruit and yogurt.
We have another good three hours driving ahead of us to get to Zwolle and we had told Wim and Diny we would be there as close to midday as possible.
After more research on the Battle of the Bulge late last night, before learning how raw meat that had not been prepared to the highest standard might affect a human being and then going to sleep, I discovered enough information about the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Hotton to convince Gretchen we should give it a visit to at least say we had found one commemorative site.
It was just a short distance away although we did have to head south and away from the direction of Zwolle.
However, it was worth it and we were pleased we had made the short diversion to pay our respects to the 700 odd Allied soldiers and airmen buried in the quiet surroundings just outside the town that was the furtherest the Germans
had advanced during the battle before the tide turned against them.
We have been to several CWG sites on our past visits to Western Europe and they have always been so beautifully maintained even though the event that caused them to come into being occurred over 70 years ago. We just hope that the coming generations of people who live in the towns and villages where these ‘foreign’ cemeteries are, continue to respect and honour those, many from countries so far away, who helped liberate their forebears from the tyranny of the Third Reich.
Our research of those buried at Hotton revealed that there were 10 Kiwis and we found 8 of them as we wandered around the cemetery looking out for the proud silver fern that is emblazoned on each headstone of a New Zealand soldier, sailor or airman killed overseas.
It was seeing the silver fern on the headstone that reminded me how it would have been great to have had a change of flag in our recent referendum to reflect what is truly a New Zealand iconic symbol.It does more for us when we are away from home than anything else Kiwi,except seeing our
grandsons on Skype,of course.
Of the 8 Kiwis we did find, 7 of them were airmen from one aircraft bought down in late 1944 as they flew under the banner of the RAF.The other was also an airman who crewed another RAF plane shot down.
After having some difficulty in negotiating our way out of the small town of Hotton as Gina does seem to have trouble sometimes in situations where there are a number of options to get to a main highway we finally did make the A26 and swung north to follow the road up the eastern side of Belgium and Holland to Zwolle.
Towns and cities with names we had read about in books of European history such as Leige, Maastaricht and Arnhem all passed by as we motored along close to the speed limit.
Driving the highway on a Sunday does have the advantage of not having to contend with trucks in the traffic and makes progress much more efficient.
In this part of Europe the roadside lay-bys come along more frequently and are larger than we encountered further south. What we did notice though in these lay-bys were a large
number of trucks that were parked up and we assumed that they weren’t allowed to travel between certain hours on Sunday.
One strange thing happened as we got closer to our destination and that was a road tunnel suddenly appeared in front of us.Here we were in the flattest country in the world and there was a need for a 2km road tunnel ! It wasn't apparent why a tunnel of that length or a tunnel at all was required but we will have to do some research.
The weather was partly cloudy with temperatures in the low 20’s when we finally made the turn off of the A28 towards Zwolle.OK it wasn’t going to get into the low 30’s that happened in 2013 during our visit but we would take whatever we got.
Wim and Diny’s home was immediately recognisable,even though there was scaffolding up from some exterior redecoration being done, as we drove along their street and they came out to greet us as we pulled up.
We have had the occasional chat on Skype with them when we have been staying at Leigh and Cormac’s (their son) home in Auckland but there was
still a lot to catch up on after not seeing them in person for 3 years.
After a couple of cups of coffee they suggested we might like to see a phenomanen that only occurs once a year on the A28 to the west of the city.
Each year the Dutch Motorcycle TT is raced at Assen,northeast of Zwolle and with many of the crowd to watch the motorcycle racing being bikers themselves they all travel to and from the event on their own motorbike and of course the route takes them along the A28 near Zwolle.
The bikers come along the highway in great numbers and in large groups and the idea was to get to an over bridge of the highway where we could get a good look at the spectacle of them all returning home.
We drove out to a narrow road alongside the highway but didn’t make the over bridge as there was just many other people and cars with the same idea as us.
We settled for a good clear view right on the highway crash barriers and true to Wim and Diny’s word there were thousands of bikers mixed
in with people returning from the event in cars.
It was like a home coming for a sport team that had just won the championship with the people watching yelling out and waving furiously while the motor bikers replied with waves, toots of their bike horn, revving of engines and in some cases daring no hands on the handlebar and waving with both hands as they sped past.
We returned home to a flavourful fondue with a range of meats which including some very tender and tasty horse. Even Gretchen tried some this time. Diny had made a couple of sauces to go with the various meats with the rich peanut one being the favourite. It really made a change to a gravy or tomato sauce!
We resolved that tomorrow we would go hunting an electric fondue in Zwolle to buy and ship home.
It had been a long day and bed beckoned even though it was still relatively light after 10pm and we don’t know what Wim and Diny have lined up for us to experience tomorrow.
PS:rev up the volume as you watch and listen to the most classic bikers song of all time which reflected just one of the highlights of our Sunday.On Youtube as usual
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