Anyone who has studied World War II is familiar with the Dutch city of Arnhem. The city was almost leveled during the War, and thousands of British troops were killed near Arnhem during one of the worst Allied losses of the War--Operation Market Garden. We cruised to Arnhem during the morning hours from the Hanseatic city of Deventer, admiring the scenery along the way. After our busy schedule, the river cruise was a welcome respite!
When we arrived in Arnhem, we transfered to a motorcoach for the short ride to the Netherlands Open Air Museum (Nederlands Openluchtmuseum). This 18-acre park features a collection of old buildings and artifacts from every region in the country. There is a little of everything. Old farmhouses, windmills, trams, and workshops are available for exploring. In addition, craftsmen in authentic costumes demonstrate traditional skills such as weaving and blacksmithing. Our group came away from the Open Air Museum more educated about the culture and heritage of the Netherlands.
Next we were off to the city of windmills - Kinderdijk!
The next day of our Dutch Journey on the Viking Europe started with a morning cruise to Kinderdijk. We were at Kinderdijk to see windmills! Kinderdijk is located 60 miles south of Amsterdam, and is one of the best known sights of Holland and together with the Zaanse Schans, Kinderdijk is probably one of the best known examples of the typical Dutch landscape. Images of the Kinderdijk windmill landscape are featured in every photo book on Holland. In 1997, the Kinderdijk mills were placed on UNESCO's World Heritage List.
Eighteen windmills dating from the mid 1700's are along the banks of the Lek River, and stand over the marshes. The windmills at Kinderdijk come in several different types, and all are maintained in operating condition. The Dutch have been reclaiming the land in this area for centuries, and if you are at Kinderdijk on a Saturday in July or August, you might be able to see all of the windmills working simultaneously. Must be quite a sight!
In the afternoon, we cruised to Rotterdam, Europe's busiest port. Rotterdam was almost completely destroyed during World War II. In May 1940, the German government issued an ultimatum to the Dutch government--either surrender or cities like Rotterdam would be destroyed. The Netherlands government gave in to the Germans, but the planes were already airborne. Most of the center of the city of Rotterdam was destroyed. Because of this destruction, much of the last 50+ years has been spent rebuilding the city. Today the city has a unique look unlike any other city in Europe.
The next day we were off to see the famous Keukenhof Gardens near Amsterdam.
Our Dutch Journey on the Viking Europe river cruise ship was almost over as we traveled to the place that first peaked my interest in visiting the Netherlands in the spring--Keukenhof Gardens.
After spending the night on the Viking Europe moored in Rotterdam, we traveled to Schoonhoven, famous for its gold and silverware. While in Schoonhoven, we had a walking tour of the village, and Juanda and I both purchased some distinctive silver jewelry. After lunch on the ship, we boarded a motorcoach and traveled through the peaceful countryside to Keukenhof Gardens.
Keukenhof is the world's largest flower garden. It is about 10 miles south of Haarlem, near the towns of Hillegom and Lisse. This 65 acre park attracts over 800,000 visitors during the 8 week tulip season of about mid-March to mid-May. (The time changes slightly each year.)
Keukenhof gardeners combine nature with artificial means to produce millions of tulips and daffodils at exactly the same time each year. In addition to the tulips and daffodils, hyacinths and other flowering bulbs, flowering shrubs, ancient trees and other countless flowering plants are there to entertain and enthrall the visitors. Furthermore there are ten indoor exhibitions or flower parades and seven theme gardens. The garden also has coffee shops and four self-service restaurants.
Keukenhof Gardens makes every photographer look like a professional. I have never made pictures that got as many compliments as those I took of Keukenhof and the Floride in the Netherlands in spring.
We rejoined the ship back in Amsterdam and were at the dock in Amsterdam overnight.
The next morning, we flew home to Atlanta from Amsterdam. On our overnight flight to Amsterdam, I daydreamed of windmills, tulips, wooden shoes, and those all-important dikes. On the way home, I could vividly picture those memories of the Netherlands thanks to our fantastic cruisetour!
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary cruise accommodation for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.