Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 11: Past and Present

Part 11 of my vacation diary. If you are joining the trip in progress, the prior entries are:
Day 1: Standing Stones | Day 2: Cotswold Way | Day 3: Don't You Know There's a War On? | Day 4: The Black Country | Day 5: Ironbridge to Shrewsbury | Day 6: The Enchanted Palace | Day 7: Uncovering the Past, Cataloguing the Present | Intermission | Day 8: From Hampstead Heath to Our Just Deserts | Day 9: Stitches to the Sea | Day 10: City of a Thousand Bridges

7/4 Sunday

Egad! I missed a whole museum yesterday. I completely forgot to mention that we went to the Amsterdam History Museum in the afternoon, after the canal boat tour and before the rainstorm. It’s an excellent small museum, I learned a lot.

Sunday morning, we woke in our hosts' commodious living room and hit the pavement for another busy day of touristing. We did a bunch more walking around Amsterdam...the wealth of canals all looked alike to me, but JT had both the map and his excellent sense of direction, so I left him to navigate and just focused (so to speak) on taking pictures. It was a gorgeous day, even nicer than than Saturday, and the rainwashed city was shown to its best advantage.

I sampled the local version of the doughnut, which was denser than I expected, but very nice. We fetched up at the back of the queue waiting to enter the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam’s famous art museum. Since we’d forgotten to take Erika’s advice and book tickets online the day before (which would have let us bypass the line), we just waited, me again with my trusty sock.

The Rijksmuseum is only half open at the moment—large sections of it are closed for renovation. But for our purposes this was actually an advantage. The area that was open had been filled with all the best pieces in their collection, and they were truly dazzling. No modern art here—we walked around slowly and feasted our eyes. It made me wish I was more knowledgeable about art, but even to my untutored eye, these were simply amazing paintings.

Afterward we walked some more, and wandered into the Vondelpark, the largest city park in Amsterdam. It was a beautiful day, and it seemed like the whole population of the city had gone there.
All of Amsterdam is enjoying the sun.

We sat on a bench for a while and people-watched, or perhaps bicycle—watched, though there were so many riders it was practically the same thing. We had previously noticed that bicycles were regarded far more as basic transportation than as a piece of sports equipment...people hopped on wearing whatever they happened to have on, be it a dress, flip-flops, or a suit. There many bicycles with large bins on the front, which were filled with groceries, children or dogs. Many bikes had sturdy luggage racks on the back—heavier than you usually see in the US. We saw people riding pillion on the luggage racks—sometimes children, but often adults as well. Hardly anyone wears a helmet. And nearly all the bikes had extra-long chain guards, clearly meant to protect riders from the greasy chain. A great idea, I thought. (I have a number of pairs of pants with grease-stains on the inside of the right pants-leg.)

We had some lunch and went to visit the Anne Frank house. Another long line—the Anne Frank house is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. They had a very good audiovisual presentation, with all materials available in English. The rooms were bigger than I’d imagined, but still very small for eight people to live in. It was impossible to see it and not feel angry at the incredible waste of the war. I was impressed by Anne’s father, Otto, as well. The only survivor of the family, he pushed for the preservation of the house and its conversion to a musuem. But not just a museum or a memorial to the past. It was his desire that the center be focused on the future, on educating people, on human rights for all people and all religions. The site hosts not just the museum, but a youth conference center that focuses on current social issues.

We left the museum soberly and went back to have dinner with our hosts and collect our luggage. We reversed our incoming journey, starting with the train station and ending with catching the overnight ferry back to England.
Channel traffic at the Hook of Holland

Slideshow of more Amsterdam photos: (You can click on the show to see it with larger photos.)


  1. Gorgeous! It looks like a postcard-kind of city.

  2. Harumph! Somebody does not want me to read your blog. For two days now, every time I try to access this page...IE goes belly up. I WILL read the rest of your travels...mwwhhaaa...they can't stop me forever. (obviously, since I'm commenting now)