Traveling in their Footsteps – 18 October 2015
After leaving Bastogne on 17 October, I drove to the Remember Museum in Thimister-Cleremont, Belgium. I spent two nights in Simpelveld, Netherlands as I made my way toward Ammerzoden, Netherlands. My visit to the Remember Museum was shorter than anticipated and I ended up returning on Monday 19 October. The morning of 18 October I had a lovely breakfast at the B&B Atelier, Galerie en beeldentuin in Simpelveld. I slept in the blue room of this artist’s studio and home. It was a very peaceful place with a kind owner named Carina.
After breakfast my friend Ralph arrived to take me out for the day. Our first stop was the World War II cemetery at Margraten – the Netherlands American Cemetery – to meet Ben. We arrived when the cemetery opened and it was very quiet even though a bus load of photographers arrived at the same time. The fog was still slowly rising off the land and the trees were bursting in color as leaves fell gently to the earth. It was almost as if the soldiers were hanging out waiting for us to arrive. It was quite a different experience than my first on 3 May during the Faces of Margraten. The energy on 18 October was very calm and peaceful.
The three of us visited the graves of many soldiers I have researched and talked about our respective research interests. Then at 11:00, our friends Nicole, Ilse, and Leon arrived! Nicole said we would have pancakes in Gulpen. That sounded great to me!
Pancakes in the Netherlands are not what Americans make at home. In most ways, they are better! You can have a pancake which has the base of a crepe more than a fluffy American pancake, with almost anything you want on it. The one I chose had ham, bacon, tomatoes, peppers, cheese, and oregano on it. Delicious! It was so large, it covered a large plate and I could not finish it.
After lunch we took a few photos and then Ralph and I were on our way to meet Ronald in Maastricht. After leaving Margraten on 3 May, my parents and I drove through Maastricht but we did not stop. Instead we went to Valkenburg. This was the right decision at the time but my heart knew it had to go back to Maastricht on the next trip.
I had a feeling on this trip I was going to explore my medieval past lives, one in particular with someone I was supposed to meet on the trip. The rest was unclear. What was clear the entire time, was the fact I was drawn to churches, cathedrals, and other buildings and villages which existed between 1100-1500 when the medieval period ended in Europe. There were some 1600 buildings which drew me to them but I’m not sure what that is about ….. yet.
Maastricht is an old city full of history, drama, war, sacred places, and love. The one place I desperately wanted to see was the Selexyz Dominicanen Bookstore, the bookstore in an old cathedral.
Ronald and Ralph took me there first thing and I wandered around looking at the architecture, windows, walls, floors, old floor markers where people had been buried, and the books. So …… many ……. books. I did purchase one on the history of Margraten Cemetery.
The rest of our afternoon was spent walking all over Maastricht and Ronald and Ralph told me stories about what happened there during World War II. Along our walking tour we saw many cathedrals. We entered one to light some candles. The cathedral had a calm feeling with a mixture of sadness, joy, and hope.
It felt a little like home, and in a photo Ralph took of me, it seemed as if the current me was there but also the past me. After we lit some candles and said our prayers, I had time to walk through the darkened building and sit quietly with my thoughts for a while and explore. It is one place I hope to return for a longer period.
Our afternoon ended with a snack and beer in an outdoor café with more talk of war. It was a little drizzly, but that did not stop us from enjoying ourselves. It was a day of magic and healing for the soldiers who follow me, and myself.
© 2015 Jennifer Holik