A-ROSA FLORA PICTURE GALLERY PART III

Promenade corridor on the A-Rosa Flora

Promenade corridor on the A-Rosa Flora

Restaurant level on the A-Rosa Flora

Restaurant level on the A-Rosa Flora

Only the best is good enough on here

Only the best is good enough on here

Outdoor terrace, facing forward

Outdoor terrace, facing forward

Eclectic divider for the main dining area

Eclectic divider for the main dining area

Gangway down in an en route pit stop

Gangway down in an en route pit stop

The main bar in the panorama lounge

The main bar in the panorama lounge

A typically diverse array of cheeses on board

A typically diverse array of cheeses on board

Food  was always amazing

Food was always amazing

The variety and quality was stunning

The variety and quality was stunning

All the bread was fresh baked daily

All the bread was fresh baked daily

Quality took place over quantity all the time

Quality took place over quantity all the time

Even the Cappucino was beautifully presented

Even the Cappucino was beautifully presented

My boudoir, cabin 320 on the upper deck

My boudoir, cabin 320 on the upper deck

Upper deck as we sailed the Rhine

Upper deck as we sailed the Rhine

The A-Rosa flag flying on board

The A-Rosa flag flying on board

SNAPSHOTS FROM AMSTERDAM

Spring in Amsterdam; the old city awash in sunlight

Spring in Amsterdam; the old city awash in sunlight

Still the quintessential city of bikes and canals

Still the quintessential city of bikes and canals, Amsterdam is a classic

Brownstone gable houses have long typified this amazing city

Brownstone gable houses have long typified this amazing city

Those canals give the city it's unique, freewheeling vibe

Those canals give the city it’s unique vibe

The famous frontage of Dam Square on a perfect day

The famous frontage of Dam Square on a perfect day

The facade of the Town Hall, one of the city's crown jewels

The facade of the Town Hall, one of the city’s jewels

A perfect Amsterdam pastiche; bridge and canal

A perfect Amsterdam pastiche; bridge and canal

Mirrored reflections in a golden stream..

Mirrored reflections in a golden stream..

Amsterdam's cafe scene is not limited to land

Amsterdam’s cafe scene is not limited to land

ROTTERDAM AND IT’S HARBOUR- A PICTURE ESSAY

The Sunday morning Rotterdam skyline

The Sunday morning Rotterdam skyline

City centre bridge vista

City centre bridge vista

Rotterdam still has some old buildings

Rotterdam still has some old buildings

The canals make for a pleasant stroll

The canals make for a pleasant stroll

A very eclectic skyline

A very eclectic skyline

Rotterdam is a hugely under rated city

Rotterdam is a hugely under rated city

The city is almost joined to the sea

The city is almost joined to the sea

Holland and flowers. But of course...

Holland and flowers. But of course…

Old bridges recall those in Paris

Old bridges recall those in Paris

Lightship in the old port of Rotterdam

Lightship in the old port of Rotterdam

Old local coaster in Rotterdam's old port

Old local coaster in Rotterdam’s old port

Cutting edge, funky new buildings

Cutting edge, funky new buildings

Rotterdam's famous Euromast

Rotterdam’s famous Euromast

Sailing past the outskirts of Rotterdam

Sailing past the outskirts of Rotterdam

More of the quirky, modern stuff

More of the quirky, modern stuff

Heading back past the old city centre

Heading back past the old city centre

Old style paddle steamer on the Rhine

Old style paddle steamer on the Rhine

Old and new in perfect harmony

Old and new in perfect harmony

A last, sideways glance at Rotterdam

A last, sideways glance at Rotterdam

A-ROSA FLORA PICTURE GALLERY II

The restaurant

The restaurant

Pool from aft

Pool from aft

A-Rosa Flora pool deck

A-Rosa Flora pool deck

Forward panorama lounge

Forward panorama lounge

Alongside at Hoorn

Alongside at Hoorn

Bow of the A-Rosa Flora

Bow of the A-Rosa Flora

A-Rosa Flora at Hoorn

A-Rosa Flora at Hoorn

Kissy shot

Kissy shot

Full length starboard side shot

Full length starboard side shot

Outdoor forward terrace

Outdoor forward terrace

Upper deck love seat!

Upper deck love seat!

Outdoor lunch buffet goodies

Outdoor lunch buffet goodies

Beautifully presented fare

Beautifully presented fare

Corridor to my cabin

Corridor to my cabin

The restaurant

The restaurant

Another restaurant view

Another restaurant view

Corridor to reception

Corridor to reception

More culinary goodies

More culinary goodies

Excellent German cuisine

Excellent German cuisine

Yum-tastic stuff it was, too

Yum-tastic stuff it was, too

Mirror image, shot from my room

Mirror image, shot from my room

Twilight on A-Rosa Flora

Twilight on A-Rosa Flora

HOORN PHOTO GALLERY

Hoorn waterfront

Hoorn waterfront

Hoorn from the river

Hoorn from the river

The waterfront tower, close up

The waterfront tower, close up

Old steamer on the waterfront

Old steamer on the waterfront

Yachts and gables. Typical Holland

Yachts and gables. Typical Holland

Rooftops of old Hoorn

Rooftops of old Hoorn

Hoorn town centre

Hoorn town centre

Hoorn statuary

Hoorn statuary

Dutch coaster on the bay

Dutch coaster on the bay

Amazing water sculpture

Amazing water sculpture

Beautiful waterfront vistas

Beautiful waterfront vistas

Sunset over Hoorn hafen

Sunset over Hoorn hafen

Springtime twilight

Springtime twilight

Hoorn at dusk is spellbinding

Hoorn at dusk is spellbinding

Early evening in town

Early evening in town

ROLLING DOWN THE RHINE IN STYLE; THE A-ROSA FLORA PICTURE GALLERY

A rose is still a rose

A rose is still a rose

A-Rosa Flora pool

A-Rosa Flora pool

Want tea? You got it

Want tea? You got it

Bar selctions

Bar selections

Indoor spa, A-Rosa Flora

Indoor spa, A-Rosa Flora

Through the spa window....

Through the spa window….

It's a luxurious spa for a river boat

It’s a luxurious spa for a river boat

Even the foot basins are fab

Even the foot basins are fab

Exercise bikes for healthy types

Exercise bikes for healthy types

Looking out over the bow

Looking out over the bow

Inside, chilling out with some Reisling

Inside, chilling out with some Reisling

View from the promenade

View from the promenade

Corner unit of my cabin aboard A-Rosa Flora

Corner unit of my cabin aboard A-Rosa Flora

Bed and corner unit

Bed and corner unit

View from my balcony as we head for home

View from my balcony as we head for home

The bar/lounge, looking forward

The bar/lounge, looking forward

Food for thought. Magnificent food, too

Food for thought. Magnificent food, too

Balcony sunset. On the Rhine? Yep.

Balcony sunset. On the Rhine? Yep.

PANORAMIC RHINE- SAILING THE GREAT RIVER

 

Looking over the Rhine from on board in the town of Arnhem

Looking over the Rhine from on board in the town of Arnhem

Waterfront promenade at Arnhem, seen from on board A-Rosa Flora

Waterfront promenade at Arnhem, seen from on board A-Rosa Flora

Sailing under the 'Bridge Too Far', Arnhem, en route to Cologne

Sailing under the ‘Bridge Too Far’, Arnhem, en route to Cologne

Horses enjoying one of the beaches along the edge of the Rhine

Horses enjoying one of the beaches along the edge of the Rhine

Not sure which surprised me more- beaches or sunbathing horses!

Not sure which surprised me more- beaches or sunbathing horses!

Small ferries like this one cross the width of the Rhine night and day

Small ferries like this one cross the width of the Rhine night and day

Inside comfort allows matchless views of outdoor splendour

Inside comfort allows matchless views of outdoor splendour

The A-Rosa Flora was a luxurious and elegant way to travel

The A-Rosa Flora was a luxurious and elegant way to travel

Spa towns and seaside resorts paraded past our sun loungers

Spa towns and seaside resorts paraded past our sun loungers

A series of vaulting bridges loomed overhead during our transit

A series of vaulting bridges loomed overhead during our transit

Ancient church spires clustered around by a slew of little hamlets

Ancient church spires clustered around by a slew of little hamlets

Believe it or not, this apparent monstrosity is actually a fun fair

Believe it or not, this apparent monstrosity is actually a fun fair

The river produced one spellbinding sight after another

The river produced one spellbinding sight after another

This looks like some kind of olde worlde hotel or spa resort

This looks like some kind of olde worlde hotel or spa resort

Sunsets on the Rhine had an amazing, mellow tenderness

Sunsets on the Rhine had an amazing, mellow tenderness

Skies transformed each night into amazing, fiery vistas

Skies transformed each night into amazing, fiery vistas

Petro chemical plants and heavy industry had its own, brutal beauty

Petro chemical plants and heavy industry had its own, brutal beauty

Plane trees standing black against the early springtime sunset

Plane trees standing black against the early springtime sunset

ARNHEM PHOTO GALLERY; THE CITY AND ‘THE’ BRIDGE

The gates of old Arnhem town

The gates of old Arnhem town, rebuilt after the fighting in 1944

Arnhem Cathedral was restored after the Second World War

Arnhem Cathedral was restored after the Second World War

Modern Arnhem sculpture on the struggle of the ordinary man

Modern Arnhem sculpture on the struggle of the ordinary man

Cobbled streets and tall, gabled houses are typically Dutch

Cobbled streets and tall, gabled houses are typically Dutch

Another view of the street scene in contemporary Arnhem today

Another view of the street scene in contemporary Arnhem today

This is Arnhem's pretty little cinema, set on the town square

This is Arnhem’s pretty little cinema, set on the town square

Cafe life in Arnhem centres around the main squares

Cafe life in Arnhem centres around the main squares

Arnhem is far more than just the site of a famous battle

Arnhem is far more than just the site of a famous battle

This is the river front promenade that overlooks the Rhine

This is the river front promenade that overlooks the Rhine

A cafe with a view. Umbrella shaded vistas of the mighty Rhine

A cafe with a view. Umbrella shaded vistas of the mighty Rhine

The lovely little river side promenade leads into the old town proper

The lovely little river side promenade leads into the old town proper

Really? I'll let you be the judge of that. Cafe table, Arnhem style

Really? I’ll let you be the judge of that. Cafe table, Arnhem style

Dutch table side delights. A lovely location for a warm summer night

Dutch table side delights. A lovely location for a warm summer night

25 pounder British filed gun, open air museum, Arnhem

25 pounder British filed gun, open air museum, Arnhem

Panorama of Arnhem after the battle and bombing in 1944

Panorama of Arnhem after the battle and bombing in 1944

Business end shot of the same British field gun, Arnhem museum

Business end shot of the same British field gun, Arnhem museum

The reconstructed 'Bridge Too Far' is an exact replica

The reconstructed ‘Bridge Too Far’ is an exact replica of the original

Looking down the Rhine from on top of Arnhem Bridge

Looking down the Rhine from on top of Arnhem Bridge

View of the bridge from the 'German; side. Identical to 1944

View of the bridge from the ‘German’ side. Identical to 1944

Gun post from which Frost's men fought off German attacks

Gun post from which Frost’s men fought off German attacks

Shot of the underside of the bridge. over to the far bank of the Rhine

Shot of the underside of the bridge. over to the far bank of the Rhine

 

VISITING ARNHEM- A BRIDGE TOO FAR, AND ALL THAT

The gates of old Arnhem town

The gates of old Arnhem town

Recently, I was lucky enough to visit Arnhem, a beautiful, medieval Dutch town that was, for a week or so in 1944, the centre of world attention as one of the most vicious and bitterly contested engagements of the Second World War erupted in and around it. The events of that tumultuous, tempestuous week were relived in the epic, all star film, A Bridge Too Far, back in 1977.

Today, Arnhem is a thriving centre of film, fashion and commerce. It is a pretty little town, with a gorgeous, river side promenade that flanks the rolling. mighty Rhine. The cobbled squares are awash with outdoor cafes, filled with live music, and hanging flower baskets, fresh and beautiful in the first, vibrant burst of spring, are everywhere.

And yet, over it all, there still looms that same, famous bridge that acted as a magnet for the most ambitious, amazing airborne operation of all time- Operation Market Garden.

By September 1944, Germany seemed to be on the verge of military collapse. With the Wehrmacht broken and reeling after the bloodbaths of Normandy and Falaise, Field Marshal Montgomery devised an uncharacteristically bold plan to seize a chain of bridges over the Rhine in a series of massive airborne drops using British, American and later, Polish paratroopers. Once the bridges were seized, the paratroopers would be relieved by a massive, advancing column of Allied armour. This huge force would then be poised to strike, like a fatal dagger, right at the black heart of Hitler’s doomed, tottering Reich.

Arnhem's pretty little cinema. No multiplex, this

Arnhem’s pretty little cinema. No multiplex, this

After several attempts to get their parachute troops into action were aborted because of the rapid speed of the Allied ground advance, the airborne commanders were desperate to get their troops some of the glory before the inevitable collapse. Convinced that the Germans were finished and broken, they ignored potent warnings from the Dutch Resistance on the ground. These were to prove fatal.

The veteran, battle hardened Second SS. Panzer Corps had been sent to refit in the forests around the Arnhem and Oosterbeek areas by the German high command. Though initially bereft of tanks, it still had a large number of mobile armoured personnel carriers and armoured half tracks- deadly against lightly armed paratroopers descending from the sky. Though some warnings of it’s presence near the drop zones reached the Allied high command, these were discounted and ignored.

The scale, scope and massive spread of the series of staggered drops took the Germans by surprise, just as intended. Key to the success of Market Garden was the capture of the penultimate bridge over the Rhine- the one at Arnhem. The scene was now set.

A battalion of British paratroopers, under the command of Colonel John Frost, managed to outstrip all the other units, and seized most of the bridge in a lightning dash, though the Germans retained control of the far bank. At the same time, violent German counter attacks and hit and run raids-together with faulty radio sets- prevented other advancing units from linking up with Frost.

25 Pounder British field gun, Arnhem outdoor museum

25 Pounder British field gun, Arnhem outdoor museum

The Germans organised a hasty armoured counter attack to try and ‘bounce’ the paratroopers off the bridge that ended in a blood bath, with a slew of blackened, mangled German vehicles left burning on the bridge like so many smashed toys. Still believing they would be relieved from the south, Frost and his men dug in against increasing odds, taking shelter in houses, cellars and defiles along the banks of the river.

Meanwhile, that same relief column was being repeatedly held up by desperate German ambushes. Realising that the loss of Arnhem would mean the breaching of the Rhine- the last natural defensive barrier left to Germany proper- the Germans poured every last reinforcement they could into the area.

This included the only available battalion of King Tiger tanks anywhere in western Europe. These lumbering, sixty eight ton monsters were impervious to almost any weapon, and now forty five of them arrived to confront the paratroopers. Both sides were desperate for a win at this stage.

Now the fighting became really desperate. Whole districts were levelled as the Germans threw in everything to retake the bridge. As their food, ammunition, and hopes of relief ran gradually out, the embattled, now surrounded paratroopers fought a desperate, bloody delaying action in the forlorn hope of rescue. The result was some of the most savage and intense fighting of the entire war.

They held out for two full days against increasingly impossible odds. The Germans were able to get their tanks across the bridge, and these simply shot up the buildings, one after another. Though Frost himself was able to slip through the net, the surviving rump of his brave, battered paratroopers were eventually obliged to surrender.

Arnhem was devastated by the fighting of 1944, and the bombing that went with it

Arnhem was devastated by the fighting of 1944, and the bombing that went with it

The defeat at Arnhem rendered all the other, hard fought gains of Market Garden strategically pointless. Though Montgomery himself declared the operation ‘ninety per cent successful’, the Dutch retorted tartly that they could  ‘never again afford the luxury of another Montgomery success’.

They were right. The Germans carried out savage reprisals against the Dutch civilian population, both during and after the fighting. The devastated city itself was still in German hands until April of 1945. One of the survivors was a young girl by the name of Audrey Hepburn.

More pointedly, what the Germans called the ‘Miracle of Arnhem’ put new heart and raised false hopes in the battered Wehrmacht at the worst possible time.

The bridge itself- contested at so much cost- was destroyed by Allied bombers on October 7th, 1944, ironically to stop the Germans bringing over armoured reinforcements. It was rebuilt in the exact same place- and in the same style- in 1947. In 1977, it was renamed the John Frost Bridge in honour of the gallant stand of Frost and his paratroopers.

This year, Arnhem commemorates the seventieth anniversary of those bloody days of September, 1944. You can stroll casually over the rebuilt  bridge now, without fear of being fired on by anyone. And, if you ever should happen to find yourself in this proud, pretty little town, then it is definitely worth a few days of anybody’s life. Enjoy.

 

GHENT PHOTO ESSAY

Ghent's colourful canal side setting is simply gorgeous

Ghent’s colourful canal side setting is simply gorgeous

Ghent, is chock full of Gothic architecture, still completely intact

Ghent, is chock full of Gothic architecture, still completely intact

The famous 'Grote Kannon'- the Big Canoon, in the city centre

The famous ‘Grote Kannon’- the Big Cannon, in the city centre

Canal side scenes like this one typify Ghent's old world appeal

Canal side scenes like this one typify Ghent’s old world appeal

One of the amazing confections that lines the old Graslei harbour

One of the amazing confections that lines the old Graslei harbour

Want castles? Gravenstein is as fairy tale as it gets

Want castles? Gravenstein is as fairy tale as it gets in the ancient fortress league…

Gravenstein looks like some kind of amazing, medieval theme park

Gravenstein looks like some kind of amazing, medieval theme park

Quite the view; sidewalk cafe and ancient castle; sums up Ghent perfectly

Quite the view; sidewalk cafe and ancient castle; sums up Ghent perfectly

More atmospheric, old world magic on show in this amazing city

More atmospheric, old world magic on show in this amazing city

The heart of the old city of Ghent; it resembles a lot of old trading cities

The heart of the old city of Ghent; it resembles a lot of old trading cities

The town hall, set on a main square, is typical of Belgian cities

The town hall, set on a main square, is typical of Belgian cities

The city is littered with amazing statuary, like random jewels

The city is littered with amazing statuary, like random jewels

The city's waterside setting is one of it's major attractions

The city’s waterside setting is one of it’s major attractions

Bridges and ancient buildings along cobbled streets; Ghent

Bridges and ancient buildings along cobbled streets; Ghent

It's not all water and stone in this most beautiful of cities

It’s not all water and stone in this most beautiful of cities