Thursday, May 10, 2018


 (Above: Steve during the canal tour!)

What I wonderful way to celebrate success at the Smithsonian Craft Show!  The day after the show ended, Steve and I flew to Amsterdam.  Steve really is some sort of genius when it comes to finding affordable flights and cashing in hotel points. Otherwise, we couldn't travel like we do.  Steve had never been to Amsterdam (because passing through the Schiphol airport doesn't really count!)  I've been there twice, but plenty has changed since 1971 and 1980!  We had a great time, especially since we had the Iamsterdam City Card.  Dozens of museums, historic houses, and other attractions are free with this pass.  It also included local mass transit and a ride on the canals.

Amsterdam is a city full of bicycles.  Maybe another time, we'll rent one.  This time we did a lot of walking.  It's the best way to really get the vibes of the city and see some amazing things ...

... like itty-bitty electric cars getting a charge ...

... and typical Dutch architecture ....

... that is popular even on magnets!

People watching is also wonderful.  There are all manner of languages hanging in the air ... and odd aromas.  (Yes, we knew that pot is legal but we didn't bother even when walking through the Red Light District.)

We are much more interested in window shopping, especially when some of the displays are so hysterical!

Some walks, however, took us to deeply spiritual, solemn places like the Homomonument.  It is near the Anne Frank House.  The reflections on the water just seemed to put my mind on my own reflections of bigotry, social injustices, presidium, and the many inequalities in the world.  As serene as this simple piece of granite is, it was not the most profound experience we took from Amsterdam.

During our trip, all of the Netherlands commemorated Remembrance Day. Every year at 8 PM on May 4, there are two minutes of silence to remember victims of WWII and those who have died in wars and/or peacekeeping missions since then.  Everything stops, including transportation, shops, hotel lobbies, people dining in restaurants ... and it even seemed that birds knew to stop flying.  Radio and television broadcasts air only the ceremony at the National Monument on Dam Square.  Steve and I walked with the crowds to this central plaza in front of the palace. We were surrounded by thousands when the silence started.  Profound is not a strong enough word to describe the feeling.  By the end of two minutes, just about everyone had tears in their eyes.  We then watched dignitaries, survivors, government bigwigs, selected children, and others place large floral wreathes around the monument and lay single flowers on the ground.  It was an experience I will never forget.

 (Above:  Our Lady in the Attic.)

Aside from walking, when Steve and I travel, we hit the museums.  During this trip we went to the following places in which we didn't snap any pictures:

The Outsider Art Museum
The Van Gogh Museum
The Museum of Canals
The Costume Museum
The Anne Frank House
The Huis Marseille, Museum for Photography
FOAM, Museum for Photography

Some of these places permitted photography, some didn't.  For the most part, we were simply engrossed ... especially at FOAM.  I found it most thought-provoking.  To be honest, I was a bit disappointed in the Costume Museum.  The Van Gogh Museum was amazing and the Museum of Canals was excellent.

 (Above:  Steve in the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art.)

We ran out of time at the Stedelijk Museum of Modern Art.  We needed at least another hour after closing!

We had plenty of time to enjoy the Portrait Gallery of the Golden Age with its collection of massive 17th group portraits (advertised as "cousins" to Rembrandt's Night Watch.) The audio-visual effects were tremendous, especially the light-show on the paintings and the room in which visitors could have their images snapped for composite pictures with other people.  (Ours is above! No, we weren't actually there with any of these other people!  There were only two chairs!  Such fun!)

(The Portuguese Synagogue.)

In addition to museums, the Iamsterdam card includes other tourist attractions like the Portuguese Synagogue which was incredible ...

 (Above:  The Cabinet of Curiosities at the Rembrandt House.)

and the Rembrandt House which was absolutely excellent.  Of course I loved Rembrandt's Cabinet of Curiosities ... which was an entire room filled with exotic objects ...

from all over the world ...

... and sculptures for his students to draw.

Best of all, there was a man making pigments for paint ...

... and a very entertaining and equally skilled printmaker demonstrating on a reproduction press just like the one Rembrandt used.  Steve and I watched the last demonstration of the day.  At the end, the printmaker gave us one of the etchings!  What a treasure!  It's of a sea shell.

(Above:  Rembrandt's Night Watch on display at the Rijksmuseum.)

Speaking of Rembrandt, we went to see his most famous painting, The Night Watch, in the Rijksmuseum.  I adore snapping photos like this.  So many cell phones, so many cameras, so many bad pictures of a perfect image available for free download on the Internet!

Actually, I understand the compulsion to take pictures of great artwork.  There's something special about framing an object or image in a unique way to bring back the memory of seeing it in real life.  I took loads of photos in the Rijksmuseum.  Many were detail shots, especially in areas featuring decorative arts like this mother-of-pearl inlaid lacquer table.

I also like capturing the feel of a place using sculpture in the foreground ...

... or selecting some of my favorite historic/religious characters like St. Sebastian ...


... or how Moors in elaborate costumes were the legs to a great table ...

... and how I really, really wanted to enter the Rijksmuseum library just to descend on that red painted wrought-iron spiral staircase.

Scale is another fascination.  This boat commanded a very large room but in another area there was a fleet of smaller vessels.  Steve and I didn't get to every room in the Rijksmuseum. We went to less than half of them.  I could definitely go back!

 (Above:  The Van Loon House.)

One of the most unexpected joys was the Van Loon House.  The garden was gorgeous.  The cafe was ideal, and ...

... every room was absolutely dazzling. The place wasn't crowded and the signage was great.

We spent quite a bit of time on every level of the place.

Going up and down the stairs was nice too!

On one of our last days, we took the bus to Amsterdam's "new cemetery".  It was quite amazing to see the diversity and individuality expressed through unique final resting places. Personalities seemed to radiate from every sort of marker from etched glass, a cross section of an old tree, contemporary sculpture in metal and ceramics to elaborate marble pediments and more traditional blocks of granite.

(Above:  Haarlem.)

That same day we took a train to nearby Haarlem where we visited the Ten Boon House, a Christian home who rescued scores of Jews during WWII, the bustling market, and ...

the magnificent church.  Our trip was wonderful!  Of course, we came back to South Carolina and have been working non-stop, trying to catch up!  Life is an adventure!


Els said...

Ahhhh Susan, looks like you had a wonderful time here in Holland
(so sorry I didn't know : we could have met ... ;-) !)

Ann Scott said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Scott said...

This post was a joy to see and read (Some of your writing and images brought tears to my eyes too). Thank you for sharing some of your travels.

Gabriele DiTota said...

This looks like it was a wonderful trip. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos. We can only hope to see a bit of what you managed t fit in to your trip when we go this summer. We’ll only have a few days, and we will have a 7 year old with us who may not be as interested in museums as we would be.