Saturday, January 16, 2010
Saturday Morning, January 16/10 at the Mardaga
Bill at breakfast.
We had a short chat with our friend Karel (he says we can call him Karl) in the lobby of this lovely little hotel last evening. He brought us up to date on the events for later today. Around 11, a journalist for the local paper is coming to take pictures in the room where the “ceremony” is taking place so the item can go in Sunday’s paper. We’ll have lunch somewhere and then Karel is picking us up around 1:15 pm and taking us to the Opglabbeek Town Hall for the Mayor’s reception. Very close by is the exhibit which Karel has put together on Y.32 Ophoven airfield. I brought a CD with as many pictures and documents that I had scanned that I thought he might be interested in. He might be able to use some for the exhibit. Then we’ll go on a tour to see where the airfield was. After that we’ll come back to the Mardaga for a little ceremony presenting our poster to the hotel in thanks for the hospitality shown to Dad when he walked in the door with an injured right arm after parachuting out of his disintegrating Spitfire on January 16, 1945. I believe the owner, Ludo Geurden will be serving cognac this afternoon and there will be some journalists here. We are going to have dinner here with Karel and his wife this evening.
The hotel is lovely and the dining room is first class. We are in a suite with two rooms plus bathroom. Dinner last evening was amazing. I had sautéed foie gras with pears in Saba (? but delicious) sauce and Bill had a crab salad. Then there was minced veal and a small cream soup. Beautiful bread kept coming. Bill had Sole Meuniere and I had Hare – both were marvellous. This hotel has had 3 Michelin stars in the past and Ludo says they are working towards regaining that honour. I would say they are well on their way. The presentation of all the dishes was beautiful and the service was perfect. I overheard a lady in the dining room last evening talking about what was happening here today. It was quite the feeling.
The Mardaga burned down in 1943 and was rebuilt the same year so this hotel we are in today is the one that Dad would have been in. But I think things have been spruced up considerably since 1945. There are beautiful grounds behind which we just had a glimpse of when we got here yesterday.
In the meantime, I am here in the middle of the night thinking about what I will say at the exhibit opening and the Mardaga ceremony. It will be brief but I want to say the right thing. Karel says there will be some older people there who remember what happened during those days. The occupation was for four years here and apparently, quite brutal. When the Allied Forces came here in late 1944, they were extremely well received! Karel was telling us last evening that the local people tried to learn as much English as they could as fast as they could so they could welcome the English speaking liberators.
When our family came to Echternach in Luxembourg in 1953, we had never seen or been exposed to the kind of damage we saw in that in little town. It was only 8 years after the war and rubble was still being cleared away. It was a real shock for us from Canada. I knew some of the lingering feelings amongst my Luxembourgish friends about what had happened too. Coming here to As is bringing some of those memories back and while I don’t think that Dad would have wanted us to dwell on the past, I think it’s important to remember where we came from and how we are what we are today.
So I will report on this day that we have been talking about for over a year later on. I know that there are those with us here in spirit and I will feel your presence as this day proceeds.