Netherlands 12/00

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A study in art and tolerance...

Windmill near Leiden

Every so often I take what I call a "sanity vacation". For a long weekend, I think less about work, family and community and concentrate more on renewing myself. I try to go somewhere exotic to fill my mind with new thoughts and think things through. On this trip, I met a former colleague and friend John Carter in the Netherlands. John is one of the few people I know who moves at the same fast pace that I do on a trip and listens to similar music. John and I met again in Europe in May, 2001 in Austria and the Czech Republic. John had been to the Netherlands numerous times before and was an excellent tour guide. Gezellig!

Saturday December 9th - Amsterdam Nightlife

My flight in was uneventful from LA and I arrived in Amsterdam Saturday evening well rested. John Carter and I met for dinner. We had a rijsttafel (literally a "rice table") which is a traditional Indonesian dish popular in Amsterdam. rice table.jpg (25150 bytes)It includes a variety of small spicy dishes that are served over rice accompanied by a peanut sauce. After dinner we headed out on the town.

Amsterdam Pub

We took a tram to the Red Light District and walked around. No tour book that I read adequately described this place. There are storefronts with red lights over them and girls of every imaginable type in the store windows enticing customers. The vast majority of people walking around were tourists like us. When a real customer comes to a storefront door to negotiate for services, nearby tourists stop and gawk, trying to overhear the transaction. The area is so "in your face" with vice, it was a stark contrast to other large cities where similar activities are hidden in the shadows. The Red Light District is not the type of place that you snap pictures in on a Saturday night, so there are none shown here.

We took a tram back to the museum area and warmed up in a crowded pub where we spoke with a couple from the UK and a group of Scottish folks who were picture crazy. One of them snapped the large picture (above right) of John and I sipping Belgian beers. From the pub, we walked over to a live music club called the Milky Way. They had several rooms with good groups playing. The large room had a very good Irish rock group playing and we hung out there until their set ended at around 1am.

Sunday December 10th - Amsterdam Museums

It was cold and rainy most of the day, which made it a good day to be mostly inside of museums. John and I bought museum passes that allowed us free entry to most of the major museums in The Netherlands for one year. It paid for itself on this trip alone. I have had an interest in Von Gogh since I was in college, so the Van Gogh Museum was the first stop (first picture above). The new addition was just completed a year ago, which added space for the 200 Van Goghs in the Museum, along with some special exhibits. 

The Van Gogh museum had an obnoxious rule that did not allow any photography in the museum, even without a flash. That kept me from capturing the actual frames used with some of the copies I have at home. I did sneak a picture of the actual Wheatfield with Crows (second picture above), since I have a professional copy of it at home, done by the students at the Vincent Art Gallery in southern Netherlands.

We moved on to the Rijksmuseum to enter the Dutch golden age. The style is dramatically different than the impressionists, with dark tones and large commissioned pieces. John snapped a picture of me in front of Nightwatch (third picture above), the most famous Rembrandt in the museum. We then moved on to the Stedelijk Museum to move into modern times. The Stedelijk was much more of an attack on the system with interactive art and provocative themes.

Not yet "museumed" out, we trammed and walked across town along the canals to the Rembrandthuis. I caught a nighttime picture of canal architecture along the way (fourth picture above). We got there with just 45 minutes before closing. The Rembrandthuis was Rembrandt's home and studio at the peak of his commercial success. There were displays of his prints and some minor artwork, but the more interesting experience was to see the way he lived and worked.

We then took a side trip to see Rembrandt's final home, a small plain apartment along a plain street. By that point the rain was coming down sideways and the temperature had dropped sufficiently for us to head back toward the hotel and a good dinner at the Luden restaurant. From there we did some bar hopping and finished the night watching karaoke at the Bulldog Cafe near the hotel.

Monday December 11th - Amsterdam Canals, Leiden and Rotterdam

The weather looked like it would hold up for a while, so John and I started the morning with a canal boat tour through Amsterdam. There is a contrast between Amsterdam and Venice, in that the Amsterdam canals have almost no traffic. I got the impression that they were essentially useless to the city. For tourists, however, they make a good vantage point to see the architecture and parts of the city that can't be seen from land (first three pictures above).

After the canal boat, we headed for the train station and a trip south of Amsterdam to Leiden and Rotterdam. Despite the cold, wet climate, bicycles are a primary means of transportation throughout the Netherlands. I took the fourth picture above outside of Leiden's train station of the bicycle parking racks. This was in a small town where the weather was a rainy 35 degrees Fahrenheit.  Leiden is a picturesque college town with a character and architecture that was unique. It also had the first windmill I saw since arriving (large picture at top of page). We walked around the confusing circular streets (first picture below) admiring the canal scenery (second and third pictures below).

After lunch at an Indian restaurant, we headed back for the train to Rotterdam. Rotterdam is a modern city reminiscent of western cities in the US. We saw a huge outdoor interactive art park (fourth picture above - we could move the crane-like lights) and then walked toward the museum area. Most museums were closed on Monday, so we took in the grounds (first picture below) and then found a pub and some strong Belgian beer before heading back to Amsterdam on the train. At the train station I picked up some "Fritties", which is a disgusting concoction of French fries with sweet mayonnaise or barbeque sauce on top (second picture below). After a stop at the hotel in Amsterdam, we headed out for a gourmet 5 course dinner at the Restaurant d'Vijff Vlieghen (the five flies).

Tuesday December 12th

On the last day of the trip, with only the morning to kill, we ventured to the Amsterdam Historisch Museum which captures the history of Amsterdam with art, navigation technology, maps and displays. I captured a picture of a Golden Age sitting room in the third picture above. We finished the trip with a stop for coffee at the famous art deco Cafe Americain near our hotel (fourth picture above). I headed for the airport and John headed for the train station.

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