Thursday, August 02, 2012

Netherlands July 30

Woke up and ate the breakfast I bought at Albert Heijn last night.  I briefly visited Albert Cuyp market, even though it was really be too early for most of the booths to be open. Still interesting. I jumped into the queue for Rijkmuseum and was one of the first through the door.  This proved to be very valuable, since the museumkaart also allowed me expedited entry.  The early hour meant that I missed all the tours coming through and had excellent access to all of the exhibits. I only spent about 1 hour there, since most of the museum is under renovation. Next I took a look at the Van Gogh museum.  Because I don't need to worry about the cost of the museums, I felt that if I didn't see as much of the museum as I wanted, I could come back later, but I saw what I wanted in an hour and a half.  The information about Van Gogh and some of those who influenced him was very interesting.  They even had the original vase he had used in one of his still life works. The third floor housed an exhibit about graphic arts, including posters advertising shows and such.  The artist I am familiar with is Toulouse-Lautrec.

Next was the Jewish Museum.  I thought it would be more about the history of Jews, but it was more about culture and reflections. It was okay. St. Nicholas, the catholic church across from Centraal Station was exceptionally beautiful, but no photos were allowed.  It reminded me of some tour guide who spoke about the rational for building beauty that makes you look up towards god.  This was certainly the case. It was juxtaposed by the restrictions on how far you could enter the church, even though there were no services. Really truly a magnificent church, even seeing a tiny portion.

There are free tours put on by Sandeman. You tip the guide according to how much you can afford and how much you enjoyed the tour. Our guide explained the Dutch attitudes about marijuana and prostitution as, in part, a knee jerk reaction to WW II and the cooperation of Amsterdam in the collection and persecution of the Jews.
  He also showed us Amsterdam's solution to men pissing in the streets and the consequences of attempts to provide women the same kind of facilities (after the women protested). The women's facilities were shuttered because since they were totally enclosed and could be locked, they were used for drug use and women were being assaulted in them.  He also talked about the thousands of bicycles dredged from the canals each year and explained that the canals are purged and flushed about every 3 days.  This is one of the reasons the canals don't stink like the ones in Venice.  Yesterday I watched someone in the canal with a face mask on, trying to locate a boat which sank and apparently a long time ago people would throw their dead horses in the canals. Makes you wonder what you would see if you drained one totally. Parts of the old wall and gates still exist, as well as one of the weighing houses, from the times when ocean going ships came right down the canals to the city walls. It is amazing to see how skinny most of the houses are; this one was so skinny it is hard to imagine having anything more than a single sized bed in it.

I ate cheese sandwiches and an apple for lunch, but couldn't resist the urge to get a very un-vegetarian fried roll out of the hot vending machines.  Such an interesting concept.  The staff is still there, but they stock the machine continually from the back and serve things like french fries.
In Dam square (named because the river used to be damned there before the whole great harbor was enclosed) there were costumed, music and performance buskers.

My hotel room is on the 4th floor and overlooks a lovely backyard deck.  There is no privacy in back yards, since other buildings overlook them from far above.

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