|Summer of 1960 at Ekeby, Voorst, The Netherlands|
There are holiday places like Cameron Highlands, Frasers Hill and Penang Hill in Malaysia. These highland places were favourite holiday destinations because they offered cool respite from the tropical heat so oppressive in the days before air conditioning became common.
My father took my mother, his bride to Darjeeling for their honeymoon after they were married in Calcutta. It must have been a welcome relief for her, after a two day journey flying from Amsterdam, overnighting in Rome, then to Karachi, another overnight stop and then arriving the next morning in hot and dusty Calcutta.
Another favourite for my parents was Bandung, Java, where in 1945, after the Japanese surrendered, my mother was reunited with her father, when the prison camps were opened. This was an especially poignant moment because it was only a few weeks earlier that my mother lost her own mother to disease and starvation in the prison camp Banjoe Biru. The Red Cross had organised accommodation in Bandung and other places in Java for all the disoriented and displaced civilians. One morning on her way to market she called out to a young man she recognised from High School and so romance blossomed and finally marriage in Calcutta. How did these two young people end up marrying in far away Calcutta? Well that is another story for another time.
Thinking of cities, Amsterdam comes to mind. There is a strong family connection, several ancestors were born and lived there, and we as a family lived for a few years with my grandmother, in her tiny ground floor 2 bedroom apartment in the Boterdiep Straat. Somehow we all managed to fit. I went to school there and later returned to live and work there for a while, before heading down to the Southern Hemisphere. I Always enjoyed my life in Amsterdam, a beautiful and interesting city.
Another ancestral place if you can call it that is Driesum, a small town in the province of Drenthe. I've only visited it once but remember it as a pretty village with the church spire being the only high point in the flat landscape typical of the Dutch countryside.
In contrast to the polder landscape of Driesum was Ekeby, the country residence of my grandparents on my mother's side, which was set in woodlands near Voorst and Zutphen, in the province of Gelderland. I have many memories of happily playing in the woods, walking out with my step-grandmother at dusk to look for rabbits and deer and picking strawberries still warm from the sun in the flourishing kitchen garden.