Tuesday, October 9, 2012


      We spent such a short time in Amsterdam, that it is nearly impossible to make a judgement of any kind. When I say I was in Amsterdam, people ask about the negative aspects of this great city - the "coffee houses", the streetwalkers. We saw none of this. What we experienced was a beautiful city with great crowds of walkers and cyclers, tourists and locals all vying for places to stroll, ride, sit and drive. I realize we were visiting during the height of tourist season, but oh my, it was overwhelming to be there. Traffic was abominable. We cancelled plans to take a canal tour, as it was just too stressful to find our way to parking for the boats. Our afternoon in the big city was cut short and we ran for the solace of the farm.

"I amsterdam" in front of the Rijksmuseum
But I get ahead of myself. The early part of the day was the fulfillment of a dream for me. Having studied Art History all those years ago in university, visiting both the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum in one day was a long-awaited joy.  The Rijksmuseum, a castle of a place, has been closed for over ten years for repair and renovation, but a number of wings are open to the public. There in those rooms, we got to see Rembrandt's "The Nightwatch." Standing there seeing it in person was surreal. I remember a visiting lecturer at school spending two hours explaining the details of the piece. Unfortunately, I forgot most of it, but the enormity of the painting did not disappoint. There were hundreds of pieces to fill the senses, but my favourites were the small Vermeers. For years, I'd pour over glossy reproductions, but here I was spellbound in front of oil panels that Jan Vermeer had actually touched. The light! And a wonderful aspect of the Rijksmuseum - they allow photo taking.

Vermeer's "Milk Maid"

Rembrandt's "The Nightwatch"
And then there was the Van Gogh museum. No photos allowed. My husband snuck a few pics from under his coat. No, we didn't use a flash, no harm was done. But to stand feet from "The Sunflowers" and many self portraits, having become so familiar with them from calendars and texts was other-worldly. We rented MP3's for running commentary as we walked through the gallery. And I really wanted to purchase something from the gift shop as a remembrance of the place; but when I saw Vincent's sunflowers on everything from scarves to pencil cases, to umbrellas and lunchboxes, I could not lay out a single Euro. The merchandise cheapened the experience for me, so I walked away with some postcard memories. But I was feet from Vincent's handiwork. Imagine he sold only one painting in his short lifetime and now everyone knows his name.

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