ARNHEM was once a wealthy resort, a watering hole to which the merchants of Amsterdam and Rotterdam would flock to idle away their fortunes. Last century it became better known as the place where thousands of British and Polish troops died in the failed Allied airborne operation of September 1944. The town is most famous for its bridge, a key objective in Field Marshal Montgomery's audacious attempt to shorten the war by dropping parachute battalions behind enemy lines to secure a string of advance positions across the rivers of southeast Gelderland. Much of the city was destroyed as a result of the operation, and most of what you see today is a postwar reconstruction. Arnhem is now something of a place of pilgrimage for English visitors, who flock here every summer to pay their respects to the soldiers who died and visit the crucial sites of the battle. However, it's also a lively town that makes a good centre for seeing the numerous attractions scattered around it.
Predictably, post-war rebuilding has left Arnhem a patchy place with the usual agglomerations of concrete and glass; however, five minutes' walk southeast from the train station is the Korenmarkt, a small square that escaped much of the destruction. The streets leading off it are choc-a-block with restaurants and bars, while the Filmhuis, at Korenmarkt 42, has an excellent programme of international films and late-night showings, and a small gallery on the ground floor. Arnhem deteriorates as you walk southeast from the Korenmarkt and into the area most badly damaged by the fighting. Here stands the "Bridge too Far", the John Frostbrug, named after the commander of the battalion that defended it for four days.