Month: October 2015

Amsterdam, Day 9, Haarlem and Droog

We went to out Waterlooplein Metro stop this morning, near the “Stopera”, combination state house and opera. Jim had read about this line in the sidewalk outlining the perimeter of an orphanage for Jewish children, which was emptied by the Nazis, all the children sent to camps.  Another sobering reminder.  When we were in Paris in 2007, there were many plaques showing where people had been killed during the war.  While sad and disturbing, it is good to see these kinds of commemorations and reminders. We ended up taking the tram to Central Station to go to Haarlem, only two train stops away.  The tram system is just fantastic.  Except for this morning we kept taking the subway to the station, but the trams are fast, because they don’t have to deal with traffic, and you get to ride through the city, which is beautiful wherever you go. In the Haarlem train station, part of my gyros-around-the-world series: The train station is gorgeous, once you get off the gyros level. Haarlem is a nice, quiet Medieval …

Amsterdam, Day 8, Van Gogh Museum and Concert Gebouw

We spent from 10:00 to 3:30 at the Van Gogh Museum. It is very nicely laid out, with his work going chonologically. There were sufficient descriptions, but not too many. What’s really lovely is that no photography is allowed (and we saw only two people taking illegal pictures). So there are people listening to their audio tours who will stand in a prime viewing spot for a painting for what seems way too long, but no jockeying for position for the best angle to take a photo, no selfie sticks, and while it was crowded, not nearly as crowded as New York museums seem to be without exception all the time now. I learned quite a bit about Van Gogh, that he only drew and painted for ten years, for one thing.  I had known that he started drawing and painting as an adult and struggled at first, but I didn’t know just how short a time he did draw and paint.  One nice feature of the museum was readings of his letters, with a choice …

Amsterdam, Day 7, Utrecht

We took the train to Utrecht, only about a half hour away. There were several windmills along the train route, and cows and sheep. The animals are not fenced in. They seem to stay in their fields because of small canals bordering the fields, although I think I might have seen an electric fence along one of the bordering canals. When you get to the Utrecht train station, the way out is through a giant, cheesy mall. The guidebook has a very funny description of it and also says they are fixing it so that you won’t have to go through dozens of tacky shops before being spit out into the medieval streets. Utrecht is a university town, has been for hundreds of years. It has two-level canals, with the bottom level originally having wharves that connected to tunnels under the businesses that occupied the higher level. Very ingenious. I wonder why all canal cities don’t have such a system. We headed first for the Catarijnen Convent Museum, which had an exhibit on Breughel and …

Amsterdam, Day 6, Oude Kirk and The Church in the AtticB

We didn’t hurry this morning, but got out about noon.  (It’s wonderful but also exhausting taking in so much all day!)  It was a beautiful, sunny day, so we decided to do a lot of walking.  We started out towards the Oude Kirk (Old Church). We wandered past Amsterdam University, a really lovely corner of the city, even more lovely with the yellow autumn leaves in the canals. The neighborhood degenerates into the Red Light District, where we passed the notorious women in windows.  The other times we’d been in the Red Light District, we’d been on main streets, but we happened through some of the narrower streets on the way to the church, and so witnessed the windows.  It was very strange going past them.  Curiosity made me want to see what I’d heard about for so long, but I definitely felt like a voyeuristic, crass, American tourist looking at the women, as if by looking I was participating and, therefore, validating; and I definitely felt sorry for them that they had to do that, …

Amsterdam, Day 5, Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank

We went straight to the the Rijksmuseum this morning.  We had barely scratched the surface when we went before.  We went back to the “Gallery of Honor”, where they have the Vermeers and some of the Rembrandts, with others as well.  Then we went all the way around the entire floor, which was of the Vermeer and Rembrandt era, with another room with some really exquisite Rembrandts.  Also, there is a still life painter, Coorte, for which they make tote bags and mugs and coasters in the bookshop, but no books or postcards but one exist.  The one book on him had only postage-stamp-sized pictures of his paintings, but all kinds of pictures of him, where he lived, etc.  I checked on Amazon.  No books on him in print.   They had one magnificent Heda in the Gallery of Honor.  I wish they had more of his work. The Rijksmuseum is very Netherlands-oriented, very much containing Dutch work rather than art from all over, which is lovely.  Obviously Rembrandt and Vermeer, but also the “Dutch Impressionists” and The Hague …

Amsterdam, Day 4, The Hague

We got up early today to get the tram to the station to take the train to The Hague (Der Haag). We took The Hague tram to the “Peace Palace”, housing the court of international arbitration and the court of international justice. Both courts involve at least one country (as opposed to involving two people or entities other than countries). Trials like the Nuremberg trials, where individuals are tried, are not decided at the peace palace.  There are other courts in The Hague that deal with those kinds of trials as well as many other aspects of international justice. We had a great tour, which Jim arranged ages ago. The building is huge and fabulously decorated for the most part with lots of amazing tile work and other Arts and Crafts style decoration.  My favorite thing was a fountain donated by Denmark, glazed with tiles, of polar bears and seals. (No cameras or phones are allowed, so I didn’t take pictures. I found this one.) After the Peace Palace, we had lunch and then went to the Galerij Prins …