September 2-5: A Weekend in Houston & Galveston
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May 7-21, 1988
Two Weeks at NATO in the Netherlands

 

Quite a hiatus has occurred in my picture-taking, as I had no trips worthy of carrying my camera along during the Fall of 1987 or the first four months of this year. But that changed on 7th when I left Dallas for two week's worth of classes at a NATO installation in the Netherlands.


The last actual trip Grant and I took was last October- our trip to Corpus Christi (although we did also make a trip to my sister's in North Carolina for Christmas). But other than the Christmas trip, it has been a quiet six months. Grant has been busy at Gabbert's, with his sales increasing steadily, and I was working as hard as ever for McDonnell-Douglas. In my own work, things were slow occasionally, and our MDC component always attributed that to the economy, which had begun to slow down the year before. Grant and I went sailing almost every weekend, and it got to be quite routine for us to sail on Saturday; on Sundays I was usually getting ready to go somewhere.

This May, I have a two-week trip to Europe to do two classes at NATO Headquarters in Brussum, Netherlands. I have done a few classes overseas already, and when they are in Europe, I have usually left on a Saturday, which means an arrival on Sunday, giving me the rest of that day to get over "jet lag". For this trip, I flew on American to Dusseldorf.

The flight to Europe left Dallas about 5PM on Saturday afternoon, and arrived, non-stop, in Dusseldorf at about nine in the morning. It was a pleasant flight; Steve, as usual, had ordered me a special meal (they are always better than the regular ones) and had gotten me a good seat in an exit row with some extra legroom. Although it was an overnight flight, I don't sleep on airplanes much at all, so I had some of my puzzle books with me to pass the time.


At the airport in Dusseldorf, I rented a car to drive into the Netherlands. My NATO class coordinator, with whom I had talked before coming over, suggested that I do rent a car as I would probably need local transportation from the class site to where I would be staying, and he also said I would probably want one in the intervening weekend to get out and see some of the countryside.

He also told me that I could stay at a kind of guest house near the site of the classes at NATO Headquarters if I wanted to; the guest house was designed for visiting military and civilian folks. As we consultants often do, I acceeded to the coordinator's suggestion. The only problem was that the guest house was not available on Sunday night, and so he suggested that I might stay over in Maastricht, a small city about 12 miles from Brunssum. So after arriving on Sunday morning in Dusseldorf, I drove from there to Maastricht- an easy drive of about seventy miles.

Of course, I didn't know anything at all about Maastricht, so I had to have my travel agent, Steve Goldberg (he lives in The Parkview in Chicago, and has done my travel arrangements for many years), find something for me in that city. He found a small but nice hotel called the Derlon Hotel, only a few blocks from the Meuse River that runs right by the city. I got directions to it before I left the United States, and by noontime I was arriving in Maastricht and pulling up in front of the hotel.


In Front of the Derlon Hotel

The Derlon Hotel is pretty much in the center of Maastricht, about five blocks from the Meuse River. It was a fairly sunny afternoon when I checked in, so I thought I would go out for a walk.


One of the very interesting things about creating this online album today as opposed to creating a paper photo album in 1988 is that I have a wealth of resources available to pinpoint just where a particular photo was taken. Actually, I should tell you that I did not record in my 1988 paper album the name of the hotel I stayed in. I deduced it from the resources available to me.

In this case, I examined the picture at left for clues. First, I could see that across the street from the hotel building there was an open area- a plaza or park. And I could see that I was looking at a street perpendicular to the street in front of the hotel. Knowing that in Europe street names are rarely on signs at corners but rather up on the side of buildings, so I thought I should look carefully at my picture. I zoomed in and, lo and behold, my camera captured the name of that cross street:

I think it's pretty amazing that you can see all the elements of the little extract above in the large photo above, left. The two commercial signs are still the same, almost 30 years later. Between them, you can see that the little white strip was, as I suspected, the name of the cross street- Plankstraat. Armed with that bit of information, I just used Google maps to locate the street in Maastricht. When I did, and when I zoomed in far enough, Google identified the building I was in front of as the Derlon Hotel. Not quite satisfied yet, I looked to see if the hotel had a website, and of course it did. Right there on its home page was a picture of the front of the hotel, taken from what was indeed a park right across the street:

Look over at the left side of the picture, and you will see that the buildings along Plankstraat are still exactly the same. That may not be surprising, but the stores seem to be the same as well; and that's 28 years ago!


On Sunday afternoon, I walked around the town of Maastricht. It is a pleasant enough place, but it is just different enough from home to make me homesick. There are few of the familiar sights, and all there is to do is to read the material that I brought with me. I suppose if I were more adventurous or had more time, I could really get "into" the local culture. But the day was warm and the weather nice, so it was a pleasant walk.

So here's another oddity: I began my walk by going across the street through the plaza in front of the hotel and then on through downtown Maastricht. The photo at left was taken as I crossed the street in front of the hotel. Compare that photo with the current picture from the hotel website. Notice any similarity? It seems to me that they are using the same chairs today that were stacked up in the photo I took in 1988!

I spent an hour or so walking around Maastricht; it was a lot of fun, although the weather was a bit cloudy. It was warm enough, though, it being May. Maastricht one of the larger towns in the southeast corner of the Netherlands. It is the capital city of the province of Limburg, and is located on both sides of the Meuse river ("Maas" in Dutch), at the point where the Jeker River joins it. Maastricht developed from a Roman settlement to a Medieval religious centre, a garrison town and an early industrial city; today it is well-regarded as an affluent cultural center (with almost 1700 Netherlands national heritage sites, second only to Amsterdam). Four years after my visit, it became the birthplace of the European Union.


Towards the end of the afternoon, I got my car out of the hotel garage and drove out of the city to see what the countryside looked like. There was a one point northeast of the town where the main road rises high above the Meuse River, and you can pull over and look down at another highway that runs right alongside the water. This area reminded me very much of parts of North Carolina near Charlotte, especially the area near the Catawba River.

Maastricht can claim uninterrupted habitation since Roman times; the Romans arrived here before Christ, and built a bridge over the Meuse in the 1st century AD. Roman Maastricht was probably relatively small; a number of remains have been excavated. In the early Middle Ages Maastricht was part of the heartland of the Carolingian Empire, and an important centre for trade and manufacturing. By the 12th century the town was a cultural center. In the 14the century, a gradual economic decline set in. The city's economy suffered during the wars of religion of the 16th and 17th centuries, and recovery did not happen until the industrial revolution in the early 19th century.

Control over the city changed hands a number of times between 1500 and 1800; Spain, Holland, and France each controlled the area- some of them multiple times. After the Napoleonic era, Maastricht became part of the Netherlands in 1815, although the union was not really finalized for another 30 years. In 1940, the city was taken by the Germans during the Battle of Maastricht, and in 1944 it was the first Dutch city to be liberated by Allied forces. During the latter half of the century, traditional industries declined and the city shifted to a service economy. Maastricht University was founded in 1976. Several European institutions have found their base in Maastricht, and by the time of my visit, the city was expanding rapidly.


I decided to drive over towards the NATO base so that I could get my bearings easily the next morning, so I crossed one of the bridges over the Meuse and headed east. To get to the NATO installation in Brunssum, I had to go through the pleasant town of Heerlen. I would be back here, as it turned out, in a day or two.

I was able to find the NATO installation without difficulty, so I headed back to stay the night in Maastricht.

On Monday morning, I drove to the NATO base without any difficulty and got the class (an ADD class) off to a start. On Monday evening, I went to the guest house just down the road where they had made a reservation for me. It was like staying in a private home. There were none of the amenities of a hotel. I had a single, small room on the second floor. There was no air-conditioning, and no TV or radio.

But, aside from the fact that there were few amenities beyond a bed and a bath, the area around the guest house was very residential, and there were few places to eat or things to do. Actually, I was bored stiff- even that first night. I didn't see how I could last for two weeks there with so little to do. So, Tuesday, I took my lunch hour and went into Heerlen to see if I could find a hotel I could stay at.


I did find one called the Grand Heerlen, that looked quite nice. It was right across from a large park with a nice set of trails for jogging, and the area right around it was busy (the intersection shown at right was about a block from the hotel).

This is a typical Sunday afternoon group of people walking and riding along the streets. Towns in Europe are much less oriented towards the automobile than they are here, and you see many more people walking and riding bikes than you do here. Perhaps that is because the area is so much more compact than here. It would be hard to imagine many people in Dallas walking or riding a bike to go shopping or visiting, since the distances are so great.

Many of the streets in European towns are small, but the newer, major thoroughfares are much like they are here. Most cars are much smaller than the average American car so driving around isn't particularly difficult.


The rooms had TV with Sky Channel and BBC, a nice bath, and some space to move around. So I made a reservation there, and on the way back to the class stopped by the guest house to check out. When class was over for the day, I drove over to Heerlen and checked into the new hotel. The Hotel had a buffet breakfast and I was able to make sandwiches for lunch; at dinner I ate either at the hotel or at restaurants in Heerlen. I was happy at the hotel, after having called Grant on Sunday night to tell him how bored I was at the guest house. From Heerlen, it was only three or four miles to Brunssum, so it was convenient enough.

The NATO Joint Forces Headquarters reminded me of most government buildings in Europe; I have been to quite a few of them, in Belgium, in Norway, and elsewhere. It was mostly like any other office building, save for the fact that there were a fair number of uniformed folks walking around.


I thought the aerial view of the NATO Joint Force Headquarters is interesting; I have forgotten what was south of the road I took around from Heerlen to the HQ, but on the aerial view it's been blocked out. The mission of this headquarters is to provide command and control to various NATO missions; these were mostly admistrative and training missions when I was there. (Years later, the HQ would provide support for NATO operations in Bosnia and Central Europe, and later to the NATO missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Out of this headquarters come the training, advisory and assistance functions necessary to ensure that the missions established by NATO Headquarters near Brussels.

This particular class was one of our advanced system design methodology classes; I did two of them back to back, each lasting about a week and each week to a different group of 20 or so military and civilian workers.

In the weekend between the two classes, I thought that since I had a car, I would get out and see some of the area. I thought that the best place to go would be to Amsterdam, a city I have been to a couple of times.


The drive up to Amsterdam was pretty neat; the European highway system is pretty new and well-marked. You do need a map, but at least travel on the major highways is no problem. When I got to Amsterdam, I decided to stay at the same hotel I had stayed at when I was here for another client a few years ago- the Apollo Hotel:


I recalled the hotel as being very nice, and it was just as I remembered it. Europe is pretty expensive, and the hotel was no exception, but I had my per diem for the two weekend days and that more than covered it. I arrived in the early evening on Friday. As soon as I checked in, I went right out and did my jogging, following the same route that I had taken before. I had some supper and then drove into the city center. I went to a bar I'd been to before and walked around the city for a while; Amsterdam is pretty active even very late at night). I was tired, so I went back to the hotel early.


I slept in a bit on Saturday morning, which was a bit overcast, but after I had a bit of breakfast at the hotel, I drove into the city center, parked, and began my day of walking around the city. As you probably know, Amsterdam is a city of canals, and from the map you can see they are arranged in something of an octagonal shape. Here is one of the typical canals that run through the city, with some of the small boats that ply them:

I spent most of the rest of the day just walking around Amsterdam Centrum, looking at whatever caught my interest. I went inside the Rjiksmuseum again, but photos aren't allowed inside. But here are the pictures that I did take this afternoon:


Just after crossing one of the many bridges over a canal, I found this little street that paralled the canal (see picture at right). The sidewalk cafe was just setting up for the afternoon, but there weren't a lot of customers there. There was a Baskin-Robbins nearby, which I returned to later in the afternoon; when I did, the cafe was pretty full.

Below is another typical canal scene in Centrum, and I can pinpoint exactly where I was standing when it was taken:

The Basilica of Saint Nicholas, built just shy of 100 years ago, is the city's major Catholic church; it was originally called "St. Nicholas inside the Walls". The architect based his design on Neo-Baroque and neo-Renaissance models. The facade is crowned by two towers with a rose window in between. The centre of this window is formed by a bas relief depicting Christ and the four Evangelists; a sculpture of the patron saint of both the church and the city of Amsterdam was placed in a niche in the upper section of the gable top.

A bit further south, I came to Dam Square and the Nationaal Monument; it is a 1956 World War II monument, and on May 4th of every year, a ceremony (the "National Remembrance of the Dead") is held to commemorate the casualties of World War II and subsequent armed conflicts.


The central element of the monument is a 72-foot concrete conical pillar covered entirely by white travertine stone. On the front of the pillar is a relief entitled De Vrede ("Peace"), consisting of four chained male figures, representing the suffering endured during the war. To either side of these central figures are two male sculptures representing members of the Dutch resistance, the left figure symbolizing the resistance by the intelligentsia and the right figure symbolizing the resistance by the working classes. Weeping dogs are at their feet, representing suffering and loyalty. Above the central relief is a sculpture of a woman with a child in her arms and doves flying around her, representing victory, peace, and new life. A relief of the back side of the pillar shows doves ascending into the sky, symbolizing the liberation. The monument is placed on a series of concentric rings, forming steps up to the monument. In front of the monument, on either side, are two sculptures of lions on circular pedestals, symbolizing the Netherlands. A semicircular wall surrounds the back side of the monument. The wall contains eleven urns with soil from World War II execution grounds and war cemeteries in each of the Dutch provinces. The Latin inscription translates to "Here, where the heart of the fatherland is, may this monument, which citizens carry in their heart, gaze at God's stars". At the opposite end of Dam Square sits the Nieuwe Kerk ("New Church").


Nieuwe Kerk

Aerial View of Dam Square

After the Oude Kerk ("Old Church") grew too small for the expanding population of Amsterdam, the bishop of Utrecht in 1408 gave permission to build this second parish church, consecrated to St. Mary and St. Catharine. The church was damaged by the city fires of 1421 and 1452 and burned down almost entirely in 1645, after which it was rebuilt in Gothic style. It underwent major renovations in 1892–1914 and 1959–1980. The expense of this second renovation forced the Dutch Reformed Church to close it most of the time. About ten years ago, wwnership of the church was transferred to a newly-formed cultural foundation- the Nationale Stichting De Nieuwe Kerk.

The Nieuwe Kerk is no longer used for church services but as an exhibition space and for organ recitals. The building does have a café, museum and gift shop (all of which raise money for maintenance of the building. The church is used for Dutch royal investiture ceremonies and weddings; the Royal Palace is adjacent to the church on the west.

I think it interesting in the aerial view that the Royal Palace has been pixellated out (as was the area near the NATO building). I have only noticed this being done on aerial views of European cities, but I do know that many years after my visit when the Internet burgeoned into the information tool it is today, privacy concerns in Europe were in the forefront, and I imagine that those concerns have something to do with the aerial view modifications. Anyway, the buildings in this picture are typical for towns in this part of Europe. Most buildings are very old (compared to Dallas) but well kept up. People do a lot of walking here; these cities were laid out long before the automobile.

I continued walking around Amsterdam for quite a while this afternoon. I hadn't intended to, but as I came around one particular corner, I stumbled across the street with the gay clubs that I'd visited briefly last night (and which it turned out I would return to after dinner this evening).


Looking Towards the Pathé Tuschinski

Aerial View of Canal View at Left

In the last picture I took this afternoon, you can again make interesting comparisons to an aerial view of Amsterdam from 2015-2016.

In my photograph, you might notice the tour boat agency at the left and in the distance two weathered copper-sheathed spires. I did not know it at the time, but while creating this page I was able to identify them as being atop the Pathé Tuschinski Theatre.

(I think it interesting that in the aerial view, there is a similar tour boat moored in the same spot as in my photo, and that you can also find other details (the red awning in the midground of the picture) that still appear in the aerial views 25 years later!)


The Pathé Tuschinski Theatre

Although I did not get any closer to the theatre than this (I might have walked over to it had I known what it was), you might be interested to know a bit about it. The Pathé Tuschinski is actually a movie theater commissioned by Abraham Icek Tuschinski in 1921 at a cost of 4 million guilders. The interior and exterior are a spectacular mix of styles, as designed by Hijman Louis de Jong; Amsterdam School, Jugendstil, Art Nouveau and Art Deco.


Inside the Pathé Tuschinski Theatre

The main auditorium, shown at right, hosts many premieres of Dutch films. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful cinemas in the world.

The building contains Asian influences while the lobby was designed in a way to offer theatergoers the feeling that they are stepping into an illusion. The Tuschinski's main auditorium has served as both a movie theater and a live performance space since its opening. In addition to a film screen, it also contains a stage and an organ.

When it first opened, the theater contained electro-technical features, then considered revolutionary. Its unique heating and ventilation system kept the temperature even throughout the building. In 1940 a Wurlitzer- Strunk theatre organ was installed, consecutively to a Wurlitzer model 160.

During the Second World War (1940–1945) the theatre was given the name 'Tivoli'. Ten years after my picture was taken, the theater was renovated in its original style. It was also expanded, with a new, more modern wing that connects to the original building via a corridor. The new wing added three extra auditoriums to the Tuschinski.

I really enjoyed walking around Amsterdam- much more so than almost any American city. There is so much to see and do that I suppose I would have to stay for weeks to even make a dent in getting to know the city. I was impressed by how many people were walking around- day and night. Most American cities aren't built for walking, and certainly there isn't a lot going on in most downtowns at night.

Of course, the architecture is one of the main draws. As people are wont to say about Europe, old building aren't routinely torn down to make way for new ones; instead, they are renovated where needed and repurposed where necessary. I thought the residential sections to be particularly nice, what with all the canals and all the apartment buildings lining them. There is relatively little parking- most of it catch as catch can alongside the canals themselves. Like some American big-city neighborhoods, most of the available parking is reserved for the people who live in the neighborhood, and they have little stickers that they put on their cars to identify them.

I would have liked to see the inside of a typical apartment building. My friend Greg, who has lived in Amsterdam for a while, tells me that they are small and old, but still pretty modern inside; where necessary, buildings have been retrofitted for all the conveniences we take for granted (except that air-conditioning is rare). Few buildings have elevators, being only four or five stories tall; instead, they have stairs that are much narrower than what we are used to. When Greg had some furniture delivered to the apartment he had for a year, it could not be brought up the stairs, but had to be hoisted up the outside of the building and brought in through a window!

I stayed another night at the Apollo Hotel, and on Sunday returned to my hotel in Heerlen for the second week of my class assignment, before returning to Dallas at the end of that week. I would like to do more traveling in Europe; I look forward to getting more overseas assignments.

 

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September 2-5, 1988: A Weekend in Houston/Galveston
Return to the Index for 1988