Royal Icing Cookie Decorating Workshop

Royal Icing Cookie Decorating Workshop

Today I FINALLY was able to attend a Royal Icing Cookie Decorating workshop.  I’ve been wanting to do this for YEARS and for one reason or another I have not yet attended.  So when I saw this one being advertised in Eindhoven during a weekend morning, I jumped on it.   Most of them are located well over an hours drive and are often at night – I hate driving late in the the dark, light drizzle and alone.

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The course was 100% in Nederlands but I was able to follow along just fine.  The printed directions for the cookies and icing – I’ll use google translate one time and I’ll be fine.

So glad I attended – it was the kick I needed to confirm I’d like to do more.    As it was a 3-hour course, we didn’t get the make the icing nor bake the cookies, but those were supplied.  We got to mix up the colors, so we could feel the correct consistency.   We learned about different nozzle brands and tip numbers – i.e. Wilton vs PME.  Learned the correct way to fill the piping bags and were given demonstrations on how to decorate each of our cookies and then set off on our own.

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We all had the same cookies but in the end, we all left with different styles – some were very VERY very detailed and meticulous… others a bit more creative and easy going.   I loved it and loved each person’s creativity!

These are mine – not 100% professional looking yet but hopefully you agree – not too bad for my first time!!

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For years now, my daughter and I have been watching so many amazing cookie designers in awe and our favorite Hani from Haniela’s and of course, Sweet Ambs and TheFlourBoxBakery!  Of course, now I follow some local Dutch ones too. Do you know any I need to follow – let me know!

They typically have to dry for a good 8 hours, but I did let my #1 fan and cookie lover, try the smallest cookie and her opinion was reassuring and gave me a yummy thumbs up!

REQUIRED SUPPLIES

So, now we just need to buy a few additional supplies and then we are now going to give our best at Royal Icing Cookie Decorating as a hobby.

MUST HAVES FOR BAKING COOKIES

Flour
Sugar
Baking powder
Butter
Eggs
Flavoring such as vanilla
And of course the needed tools like an oven, rolling pin, sheet pan, stand or hand mixer, extra large bowl, parchment paper, cookie cutters and a spatular.

MUST HAVES FOR ICING

3 or 4 couplers
3 nozzles size 2
1 or 2 nozzles size 1.5
Piping bags (disposable are handy)
Food coloring (gel)
Confectionary Sugar
Meringue powder
Needle tool
Extra bowls & spoons to mix up small batches of food coloring

HANDY BUT NOT NECESSARY

Edible food markers – ideal when you want to draw faces
Tip cover set
Icing bag ties
Stand Mixer – my #1 most wanted Christmas gift.  I just bought a hand mixer as my last one broke and this will work just fine for now!

Some addition helpful information:

SUGAR COOKIE TIPS

  • Sift all your dry ingredients
  • Use room temperature butter
  • Chill the cookie dough for at least 30 minutes (if you are using a chill-required recipe)
  • Roll it on a non-stick surface to avoid a mess
  • Use a straight rolling pin
  • Line cookie baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone pad for baking
  • Once they’re baking, do NOT open the oven door for a peek
  • Let cookies cool completely before icing them
  • Store cookies in a cool, dry place

ROYAL ICING TIPS

  • Sift powdered sugar
  • Mix until the shine is gone
  • Add water gradually to mixture
  • Cover icing with a damp towel
  • Use toothpick to add color to the icing
  • Color icing in small batches
  • Put icing immediately into piping bag
  • Always test icing stream before decorating
  • Give icing 30 mins to dry on cool, flat surface

FAIR WARNNG:  All friends and family should be prepared to receive cookies from M & I for every holiday and occasion from now on! 🙂 

Once I have all our supplies here  and we do our first set of cookies together, I’ll post about it and share photos… hopefully this week as we’re on herfstvakantie – if not, soon!  We are both very much looking forward to it!

DIY: VSCO Cowie Shell Choker Necklace

DIY: VSCO Cowie Shell Choker Necklace

My 9 year old asked me for a cowie shell chocker necklace but we haven’t been able to find one in Claires nor at the Urban Outfitters in Amsterdam,  so instead I decided to make it for her.  Of course, practice makes perfect, so I made her a few different necklaces and even a bracelet.  Maybe I’ll make a few and sell them for €5 each – just to cover the cost of the supplies! 🙂

She’s very happy with them and changes them up when she goes to school.

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I ordered some cowie shells & some supplies online but I did have some items here already so it quite simple to make … each one takes about 6 minutes to make.

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While I cannot “label” our  9 year old a “100% VSCO girl”, she and a few of her girly friends have likens to one.   

While there are several specific hallmarks of a “VSCO girl,” which include:

  • scrunchies – Yes she has loads
  • oversized T-shirts –  Some
  • clothing from the store Brandy Melville – Never heard of her – totally a US thing. 
  • Vans – Maybe in the summer.  Not the best weather here for Vans.  She prefers Fila platform sneakers and wants Doc Maarten boots for Xmas.  
  • Pura Vida bracelets – These are totally more my style and price range than hers 🙂 
  • Fjällräven Kånken backpacks – Nope – I’m not paying that much for a backpack for her at 9 years old… a online-knock off maybe but not at this age. 
  • Shell necklaces – yep, see above photos! 
  • Birkenstock Sandals  – Has not yet asked – I have Gizeh ones thought 🙂 

Another integral part of the “VSCO girl” lifestyle is being environmentally conscious, as a key component to the style is the use of products such as metal straws and Hydro Flasks to “save the turtles.”  So while we don’t go around using metal straws, we do try to avoid plastic ones. She uses a CHILLY’S AVOCADO bottle – only because we live in the Netherlands and Chillys & Doppers are more popular.   BUT…. as she was born in the US have many connections still back in the US and thanks to YOUTUBE, she is well versed in many things from the US including speaking fluent English [unlike many of her 9 year old pals].  So she “gets” a lot of the lingo and stuff which her friends don’t get.

Anyway, thankfully she doesn’t walk around putting on lip balm and doesn’t say “tssk tssk” nor “and I oop”.  She does however, watch and record videos with her girlies on TikTok.

We’ll see how long this VSCO girl trend lasts in our house … but it is all harmless and innocent!

 

 

 

Terrarium making working at Werk aan de Winkel – MixStore – s’Hertogenbosch

Terrarium making working at Werk aan de Winkel – MixStore – s’Hertogenbosch

Yesterday I made my first ever Terrarium at Werk aan de Winkel  here in s’Hertogenbosch.   It was a lot of fun and while it sounds old fashioned and boring it wasn’t.

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The store is so cute and filled with so many lovely things.   If I need a gift, this is where I’ll go here next.  I already know that I’m going to buy M the neon heart light for Xmas!

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Many bars and restaurants in the area provide her with their jars and bottles for The Green Bar to use for her eco-systems and terrariums.  Love that!! So, instead of just recycling my glass blue Bombay Sapphire blue gin bottle, I’ll be brining them by for her to use as they actually use them for eco-systems, etc.

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I actually organised this event for a group of International women who live in town.  Five of us attended so it was cozy and each person received loads of one-on-one instruction for their terrarium.   She even did the event in ENGLISH for us as not everyone speaks Nederlands well enough (if at all).   We started off with a cup of tea and some freshly-made pieces of a cake.

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How it works. 

The first step in your plant-making adventure is learning about your materials and then prep your planter.   She showed us a number of examples (both dry & wet) and told us all about drainage, soil types & nutrition so that our mini garden survive.

First we had to choose a glass container from a large collection which were set out on a table.  I chose a recycled roasted pepper jar with a strip of leather on the top.  Even the leather was recycled.   I found it rustic and thought it would be perfect for low plants.   If I was doing a wet terrarium, I would have chosen a taller one as the plants are taller.

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With a wet terrarium you choose plants that like a humid climate, such as Ferns, Fittonias, Hypoestes, mosses, Tillandsias and Asperagus etc.  If you prefer cacti and succulents, like me, then go for a dry version.

She then explained to us step-by-step how to add different types of rocks to the planter, layer by later to be sure to get proper drainage before adding the soil – which you use different soil for wet & dry terrariums.

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Once your planter is prepped, you’ll move onto actually adding your plants.  This was a fun part as this is where your personal style comes in.   I choose a furry cacti and not thinking the handling part through too well – ha ha.   All in all it was fine, not too many pokeys to pull out. 

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The final step in your planting experience is decorating.   The dry ones are topped with tiny pebbles, and if you want you can add a few stones and a tiny creature.  I chose a Oeteldonk frog – after all we do live in s’Hertogenbosch 🙂

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Once satisfied with your terrarium,  take it home to enjoy for as long as your heart desires.   You need to water it every once in a while to make them last as long as your memories of the event.

I’m not a green thumb at all – in fact, I own ONE plant and I’m surprised it has lasted as long as it as.   I normally kill every plant – even killed cacti in the past – I’m determined to keep this alive.

If you are interested in making one, it costs €36 and you can book online.  They have other workshops too and we’re now looking at booking a hand lettering workshop.

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Kids Painting Workshop at the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

Kids Painting Workshop at the Van Gogh Museum Amsterdam

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Yesterday Maebh and I spent the day in Amsterdam having a mom and daughter day.  A highlight of our trip was the Kids Painting Workshop at the Van Gogh Museum.   Many weekends children between 6 and 12 can attend painting workshops in this world- famous museum.  It starts with a guided tour especially for children (in Dutch and English). This inspires them, then they do a workshop of painting and sketching and take home their masterpieces in a special box easy for transporting – we carried it around Amsterdam and on the train home.   Sessions cost €7.50 and there is a limit so do book in, if interested.

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Of course it’s not the original behind her!  In fact, you can tough this one.

The “theme” this week was frightening and scary.  Her work of art are below … which include CROWS and SKULLS.

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You can use the two hour duration of the workshop to visit the museum yourself or leave – whatever you want.   The entrance fees for adults is currently €19 but as I have my museumkaart it was free for me to enter.  I did pay €5 for a self guided audio tour around the museum.    The last 10 minutes the parents are brought in and allowed to take photos and their session is explained.

She really enjoyed it so will be doing it again in the future for sure!   We also visited the Anne Frank House today too – but I’ll post about that later along with some photos.

DIY: Turn a vinyl record into a decorative bowl

DIY:  Turn a vinyl record into a decorative bowl

Today I made an old vinyl album into a trinket bowl.   Important: if you make one for yourself or as a gift, NEVER put food inside these bowls.  Unless it’s like food like oranges which you’ll peel.

First I had to find a vinyl record to use.   Of course, I don’t have any so I went to a local Kringloopwinkel and picked one out.  But I wanted it to be special, so I spent quite a bit of time looking at them.   Clearly, I looked like a vinyl aficionado inspecting each cover record.  I ended up with this one from the group De Damrakkertjes – only because it says HOLLAND so it’s perfect!   I paid €1. but it’s online value is €4.50 so I don’t have to worry about discovering I melted down a high valuable item.    Do check before you melt down yours!

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There are many ways to do it and you can search online to see how others do it.  This is what I did for my bowl.

Turn oven on 100 c. (no higher!!)

Line a baking tray aluminium foil.

Put my record in on top of a pot so it starts to bend downwards.

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With potholders, I took out my warm, pliable record and put it into a bowl and quickly moved it around into the ruffle shaped edges  I wanted.  At first I didn’t like it so I put it back inside the oven, it re-melted down quite quickly did it again using a larger, flatter bowl until I got the shape I wanted.

The sizes of your bowls depend on the look you’re going for. If you want a more upright bowl that resembles a slightly bucketish shape then you should use a smaller bowl with slightly upright sides (for the shaping bowl). If you want a more low slung, fruit bowl style bowl then use a bowl with more relaxed, wider sides.

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Overall I am very happy with my bowl and the Holland makes it extra special to me.

A simple search on Pinterest.com and you can find loads of different ideas of things you can do with vinyl records.   I’m not really into anything else, but wanted to try a doing a bowl.

 

 

PRODUCT REVIEW: Stainless Insulated Bottles – Chilly Bottle & Dopper Insulated Blazing Black

PRODUCT REVIEW:  Stainless Insulated Bottles – Chilly Bottle & Dopper Insulated Blazing Black

Thankfully there has been a huge shift away from single-use plastic but we still need help.    Today San Francisco airport banned single-use water bottles!  The city of San Francisco banned the sale of plastic water bottles on city-owned property back in 2014, but allowed delays and granted certain exemptions.  The new rule comes into effect on 20 August, and is part of a five-year plan to lower landfill waste, net carbon emissions and net energy use to zero.  Filtered water is provided for free at 100 “hydration stations,” where flyers can top up reusable bottles.

The bottled water market globally is rapidly growing with approximate 600 million households consuming bottled water in 2018. That’s more than 100 billion gallons (391 Billion litres) of water per year or 1 million bottles per minute

This statistic displays the annual consumption of plastic bottles in the Netherlands as of 2017, by type of bottle. Combined, around 1.4 billion plastic bottles per year are consumed in the Netherlands, with 53 percent being small bottles. On average, 80 plastic bottles are consumed per person per year in the Netherlands.

 In the Netherlands and in our community, there are about six pubic water refill stations right here in the city centre.  There is also a larger push for some shops and restaurants to allow the public to use their taps to refill their water bottles if they have this openbare drinkwatertappunten sticker on their window.

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FREE DRINKING WATER TAPS IN DEN BOSCH

In Den Bosch Center I know of six main free public tabs at the Train station, Stads Park, Arena, Markt, Parade and Hinthamereinde and then at these private locations:

  • SwapFiets
  • The Green Bar
  • Art Den Bosch
  • Proeflokaal ‘T Paultje
  • Ricky’s Barber & Shop
  • Bossche Brouwers

FREE DRINKING WATER TAPS IN THE NETHERLANDS

I just found another website which shows even more FREE WATER TAPS all over the Netherlands.   So as long as you bring your bottle in your bag, you have no reason to need to buy a plastic bottle of water.

On the flip side it’s often difficult to get a restaurant to give you kranwater (water from the tap) in a pitcher or by the glass at the table.  In my recent experience, I learned that many American’s living here in the Netherlands find this absurd and complain about it, but the restaurants don’t want to give up the revenue they are making on you buying the expensive bottled water.    I will add that we hardly ever ask for tap water – only if it’s the end of our meal and the kids are thirsty and we ask for a single glass of water for the kids – the waitresses tend to offer it.

GLASS BOTTLE – MY PAST EXPERIENCE

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I personally prefer to drink of out a glass – so when I was back in the US last year I bought myself a Lifefactory Glass Bottle with the plastic outside.   It was heavy, it had loads of condensation on the outside, but I liked the glass part. Glass doesn’t keep water quite as cool for quite as long as stainless steel either.  Sadly, I dropped it on the sidewalk and the entire bottle SHATTERED!!   Gutted as I spent $25 on it and loved it.  And here I was warning the kids about being careful with my bottle – and the adult dropped the bottle.

OUR KIDS USE WATER BOTTLES DAILY AT SCHOOL

Last year, our kids had the BPA free, plastic Dopper water bottles for school – but by the time lunch rolled around their previously cold drinks were lukewarm and condensation was all over the outside of their bottles so that meant their papers and anything in their school bags became damp too.   So over the summer, we talked about getting them both new bottles for back to school.  But most importantly – not just stainless bottles – but insulated bottles.

I had done some research online so I knew I wanted to see the Chilly Bottles and the new insulated Dopper – in a larger size.  Both are just around the €30 mark and both are BPA free and insulated.  We wanted to see them in person vs just buy them from the internet and hope for the best.    There are few stores in our area which sell different bottles – Waar and WO! Concept Store.   Both stores are lovely and are my go-to stores for gifts.  In fact, yesterday I bought my SIL a Kletspot for her birthday at WO!  I have to get in and out quickly as I love to buy everything for myself 🙂 

WHAT WE BOUGHT

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Our 11 year old son was eyeing a Bamboo bottle which had a tea infuser inside, which to me was more suitable for a middle aged office worker,  but I know that would not work so well over time for my boy as it would most likely crack.  So he ended up getting the large, 580 ml (20 oz) Dopper Insulated Blazing Black – perfect for him.

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Our 9 year old daughter picked the Chilly’s Bottle 500 ml with AVOCADO’s on the outside – perfect for her.   All things avocado print are all the rage for 9 & 10 year old girls.  We didn’t buy a brush to clean it out but we might do so eventually but for now as we only use water, we’ll be fine.

LOOK A NEW DOPPER – GLASS

Dopper Glass and it looks great and insulated!! – I just don’t trust myself but if I see it in the store going to have a close inspection.  If the Chilly bottle turns out to not work for Miss M should it taste to metallic and she wants my Dopper (I offered it to her) I might have to get a replacement.

DON’T FORGET TO CLEAN IT

Any type of reusable water bottle should be washed after each use to avoid bacteria growing and spreading,.  Use washing up liquid and hot water ensuring you get into all the nooks and crannies, such as the threaded neck and cap. Alternatively, use your dishwasher if it is dishwasher-safe.

Bacteria and germs thrive in moist environments so not washing your water bottle enough provides the perfect conditions for germs to grow.  So the next time you are thinking of just giving your bottle a quick rinse, reach for the washing up liquid as well.

KINTO TRAVEL MUG

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My husband just returned from a meeting in Kiev, where he was a speaker and as a than you, they gave him a gift of a KINTO Travel Tumbler mug.  Of course, he handed it to me.  I love it, a new insulated travel bottle for me to use for my coffee on the way to early morning football games 🙂

 

Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught

Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught

Nationaal Monument Kamp Vught

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Vught was chosen because it was close to Den Bosch, where various German head offices were. There was also a railway line, making it easier to transport prisoners.

SS CONCENTRATION CAMP IN THE NETHERLANDS

Kamp Vught is officially called: Konzentrationslager Herzogenbusch (January 1943 – September 1944). It was not a “death camp” where Jews were massively killed.  Rather it was the main SS concentration camp in the Netherlands (other concentration camps are Schoorl, Amersfoort and Ommen). For many Jewish people, this was an intermediate station, as they were later transported to an extermination camps.   But it’s important to note that there were not only Jews in this camp, but also gypsies, gays, resistance fighters, political prisoners, Jehovah Witnesses, etc.

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Approximately 12,000 of these people were Jews, sent here before being sent to the death camps in Eastern Europe. The rest of Kamp Vught’s inmates were resistance fighters, political prisoners, Jehovah Witnesses, Roma, criminals, and a variety of others whom the Nazis deemed “unacceptable”. As with other camps, prisoners were forced to wear coloured triangles on their prison clothes to identify their category of ‘crime’.

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FREE AUDIO TOUR

When I visited, there were still doing some renovations to the site, which were not too bad as it is nearly done, but in exchange, they offered a FREE audio tour with a small device – I plugged in my headphones but you can hold the box to your head too – English, Dutch, French & German options.  [The tour is normally €2.50 per person]

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As you walk around, you see small boxes which you just tap with your device and it plays.  There are additional buttons (a) or (b) which give you more bonus information.    Personally, I loved the informative audio tour and the additional information.  

MUSEUM SET UP

The area is currently a museum is spread out over several buildings and outdoor areas. A model of the camp, made of natural stone, shows the extensive size of the camp and the many buildings it included.

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The watchtowers, which were built a hundred meters apart, have been reconstructed.

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The prisoners lived in barracks, over 400 prisoners per barrack. There was a bedroom here, a toilet room, laundry room and a dining room and washroom where they could wash once every 10 days!   The display barrack, rebuilt at half the original size, shows how the prisoners lived.

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There is also a crematorium, where the bodies of prisoners who died or were executed at the camp were burned.   Again, while it was not an extermination camp, around 750 people died due to hunger, sickness, and abuse.  Of these, 329 were murdered at the execution site just outside the camp.

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BUNKER DRAMA

The “bunker drama” is an example of the atrocities in the camp. When one of the women from barrack 23B was imprisoned in camp prison (the “bunker”), a number of women protested. Camp commander Grünewald ordered retaliation as many women as possible in one cell. In cell 115, 74 women were eventually squeezed together on an area of ​​nine m², with hardly any ventilation. On Sunday morning, January 16, 1944, the cell door opens after 2 p.m. Ten women did not survive the night. This drama soon became known outside the camp and was described in various resistance papers. The occupier finds it extremely annoying that the news has leaked out. Grünewald is sentenced to three and a half years by an SS judge. Himmler repeats this verdict and degrades Grünewald as a regular soldier. He joins his division again and is killed in 1945 in Hungary.

CHILDREN’S TRANSPORT

In June 1943, the Nazis decided there were too many Jewish children in Camp Vught. So they rounded up all the children under the age of 17 and sent them, along with those of their parents who chose to accompany them (most did), to Sobibor, where they were gassed. The names of these 1269 Jewish children are inscribed on the Children’s Monument. The youngest of these victims was only 6 days old when he was deported from Vught. When the train carrying him arrived for a stopover at Westerbork, he was so ill that he had to be taken to the hospital there, where he was placed on an incubator and assigned two private nurses. Two weeks later, when he had fully recovered, he was sent directly to the gas chambers at Sobibor.  Of all the Dutch Jews sent to Sobibor, only 18 adults survived and came back to tell their stories.

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EXECUTION AREA

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Located in the Vughtse Heide woods, at about a 15 minute walk from the museum.   Since I have small legs, it was more like 25 minutes!  

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Simply follow the path in the woods of the logo and you’ll come to a memorial erected that displays the names of the 329 prisoners who were executed at this site.  The walk back was more tricky and a few times I questioned which path to take – as I was literally alone in the woods – and only one time did I pass ONE other person.  It was a bit creepy to be honest, I hated this part!   My mind starts racing like a horror film and before you know it, I work myself up in my mind.

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The monument was installed in 1947 and unveiled by Princess Juliana.  Behind the monument is a large wooden cross, this cross was already posted as a tribute to the victims.

The original memorial wall bearing the names of these victims was vandalized with tar in the 1990s on the 50th anniversary of the Dutch liberation – never caught!  The defaced tablets are on display in the camp museum. Written on a wall above them is a poem in Dutch addressing those responsible for the act of desecration.

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The daubed plates are on display in boxes in the museum.

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At the gate to the monument someone pasted a poem in response to the defacing of the monument, this poem is placed in bronze on the gate too.

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A translation appears in the guidebook and spoken in the audio tour.

Could you paint tar
across stone, names, the past?
Pitiable fool, such names
can never be erased.
They are ingrained in countless
human souls, untouchable
by your foul hatred.
They are written in fire
in the skies, and their light
is insupportable to you.
You have accomplished nothing
Tarnisher
Above all you have only smudged
your own name.
Not theirs
They are smiling at your anger
bathing in light,
gently rocking on God’s breath.
And singing very softly and still
for those who want to hear:
Peace!

After my long walk in the woods, I returned, picked up my car and drove up the road to the Barrack 1B parking lot (tiny but as most people walk there was plenty of room).  I had to get the kids right after in MiniGestel camp, so didn’t want to have to go back again.

Barrack 1B

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Barrack 1B (Barak 1B) was opened after restoration in 2013; all information is bilingual: in English and Dutch. Barrack 1B is the last remaining barrack from Konzentrationslager Herzogenbusch: a unique war heritage site and remembrance site. The exhibition covers four periods: the concentration camp (1943-1944), the evacuation camp for German citizens from the border area (1944-1945) and the internment camp for NSB members, Dutch citizens suspected of collaboration, and imperial Germans (1944-1949).

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Watch a film which is part of this exhibition with English subtitles [22 minutes – can take some time to load].

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From 1951, part of the former camp was used as the Lunetten compound and it housed former troops from the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army (KNIL in Dutch) and their families from the Moluccas. The stories of tens of thousands of people who were obliged to live here in past seventy years converge here at the Barracks 1B site. Stories that tell of doubts and hope, dreams and ideals. About conscious choices and chance, about traumas and taboos.

 

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PRESSURE OF THE ALLIED ADVANCE.

The camp was hastily evacuated by the occupying forces at the beginning of September 1944. Some 3,500 prisoners were quickly put on a transport to Germany, while the camp command sought a safe refuge. The Canadians entered the camp on 26 October 1944.

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Overall I found it very informative and am glad I had a chance to visit to learn more about the history on my doorstep.    Such awful events must never be repeated!

 

5263 NT is the location on Google Maps – but more details about location, price & time can be found on their website.  I used my Museumkaart . Not 100% sure if it is still the case but it used to be free to the public on the 1st Wednesday of each month.

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