Dutch Countryside

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Day 13 — This guy’s good, but he’s no Rembrandt. He’s THE Rembrandt!

“Big Head” square, the Jordaan, Amsterdam

Day 13 — Dutch Masters, the Real Amsterdam and Anne Frank’s house.

After a night among the red lights of Amsterdam, we figured we’d keep it a little more conservative … though we both figured that the girl dancing in the peep show last night was probably as old as some of the things we’d see today in the Rijksmuseum (Royal Museum)

Our hotel is a block away from the Museum district, and the impressive Royal Museum of Holland, home to the world’s greatest collection of paintings by the Dutch Masters… Rembrandt and his pals, Vermeer, Steen and all the guys who were pictured on the cigar box.

The first thing we noticed was that unlike France, Belgium or virtually every other museum of classical art we’d seen, there was a visible absence of paintings of Jesus. Nowhere. No Mary either, though there was one self portrait by Rembrandt where he painted himself as the Apostle Paul.

That’s because after the Reformation, the Dutch outlawed Catholicism. In fact, there’s a Catholic church hidden away in an attic in the red light district where 17th Century Catholics were able to escape the Protestant iconoclasts, who sacked all the churches. (Believe it or not, some of us have gone through that since before the Middle Ages … and later today, we were going to see something else that existed in an attic).

What struck us about the collection, aside from the somewhat refreshing omission of religion in the paintings, was the way the Dutch masters utilized light and perspective. Where we had noticed (almost boringlly so) the primitiveness of what we had seen from roughly the same time period (give or take a centure) in Paris and Brussels, the Dutch artists made everything come to life. Everyday scenes of Dutch people, landscapes, animals … we thoroughly enjoyed the collection. Probably more than the Grand Gallery of the Louvre.

We then hopped the tram and headed down to the residential Jordaan neighborhood (thanks again Rick Steves) for a two and a half hour city ramble. But before we got there, we saw a pretty cool four on four “street game” soccer tournament going on in Dam Square. Kinda like the 3 on 3 street basketball tourneys they have all over the country in America.

The Jordaan was a great place to spend the afternoon. It was quiet, clean and beautiful, with some of the finest canal views in Amsterdam. AND, the shop windows were full of shoes, clothings, books, fruits … not dildos, bongs and I (barf) Amsterdam T-shirts. The air smelled like air, except of course when we passed a coffeeshop. It gave us an opportunity to see the real Amsterdamers and the beauty of this historic town.

On the way back to the hotel, we passed a herring stand … a big deal here in Hollland. When my family traveled here in the 1960s, I had been given raw herring right out of the North Sea, which I promptly heaved back into the canal. My brother might have done the same. I am determined to get some of the famous pickled herring down (and keep it down) on this trip. So we approached. Got close enough to watch the girl behind the counter pull a herring out of the cooler and prepare it for the customer in front of me.

I’ll try again tomorrow.

After a thorougly enjoyable dinner, we walked over to the Anne Frank House, which stays open until 10pm on Saturday nights in the summer. There was a classical music festival on the canal just a few blocks away. We gambled the line would be short. We were right.

The Anne Frank story is well known. The last time I was in Amsterdam, I tried to find my way over to see it but took a wrong turn at a coffeeshop and wound up stumbling around with German ex-cons and Turkish sailors all night. I was certain we’d make it this time… so was Genevieve!

It’s another one of those places of inner reflection. Similar in many ways to what we’d experienced on the beaches of Normandy or on our tour of Dachau three years before. The museum is very well done and is a “bucket list” item we got to scratch off.

The canal was jammed with boats of all kinds when we got out of the Anne Frank House, all bobbing toward an opera performance under the next bridge. Thousands crowded around to hear the show, part of a classical festival that is staged once a year on the canals of Amsterdam.

I wonder how the Dutch would handle the acts at the Texas Community Music Festival? Maybe next year, we’ll do it here!

9,459 Responses to Day 13 — This guy’s good, but he’s no Rembrandt. He’s THE Rembrandt!


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