Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Rembrandt's and Anne Franks's House

Rembrandt’s and Anne Frank’s House

Today was supposed to include chores that needed to be done, but we felt the pinch of time getting the historical places fit into the schedule. We arrived for breakfast shortly after the restaurant opened and we were dining alone. It did not take long for the dining room to fill with hungry people.

The restaurant has windows on two sides, both overlooking the canals. The drapes are artistically wrapped and tied to the rods in a casual fashion and left open for a wonderful view. The tables and chairs are dark wood and they match the half wall wood covering on the walls. The dark wood bar with a portion of a glass showcase for pastries, is L shaped. The work area is tiny, but all of the waitresses that work there are skinny, but shapely and attractive. All around the room are large pillar candles in hurricane glass holders. The holders are filled with birdseed, sugar, and rice presumably so that when the candle drips over it is an easy clean up and the wax doesn’t need to be scraped from the glass. Function assists creating atmosphere. All of the candles were lit from the time we walked in this morning.

One daily visitor is loud and boisterous. He seems to arrive shortly after we do and he creates quite a ruckus every time he enters the restaurant. Surprisingly no one pays a bit of attention to his outbursts, except for Ron and I. He grabs our attention immediately with his bass baritone voice. This little guy is only about a foot high at the shoulder, but about three feet long with a furry coat that defies defining his breed. For such a small dog, he sounds like a St. Bernard when he enters the restaurant and does not stop speaking until his mistress yanks his chain out the door. It is not uncommon in the mainland Europe to see people with their dogs in restaurants, bakeries, bars, department stores, or just about anywhere their master goes. Rarely do you see a sign that shows dogs unwelcome, but the ones that I have seen are usually Internet cafés.

Feeling a little lazy and definitely not caffeinated enough, we hopped the tram for the one stop to the post office, where I mailed back home some of the books that we bought as souvenirs along the way. There were a few other little packages that we had to mail, but I was not surprised that is cost over one hundred guilders for all of it. I was not thrilled, but not surprised. With this expense, it cleaned out the wallet and the search for the bank machine was mandatory. It is such a buzz when the machine spits out that cash.

Right around the corner from the post office is the Rembrandt House, the home where the great artist lived and worked. Our Amsterdam pass gave us a discount of three guilders each. Once again, I had been here eight years ago, but wanted to see it again with more art appreciation behind me. It was a good decision since it had been refurbished completely since I had been here eight years ago. We started by watching a video of the renovations. They used the same materials that were authentic to the period and the way Rembrandt had the house decorated. Dear Rembrandt was a collector of art, which he did sell for a profit, but he also collected shells, coral, parts of armor, weapons, and other props that he used in various paintings. However, his purchases put him into bankruptcy and he lost it all including his home. He and his son, had to move into a small rented apartment after his wife died.

The curators were able to gather the original pieces of furniture that filled the rooms amazingly enough and were able to recreate his life as he had lived it. The document that was the prized possession for assisting in this task was the log that the Ministry of the Exchequer of Insolvency had compiled. Every little possession was listed, sold, and the purchaser noted. Let this be a lesson to us.

Of all of the furniture, I found the beds the most fascinating. Rembrandt’s beds as well as the beds of the maid and the one reserved for company were built in closets or bed chests. They had to have been short people, because neither of us would have been able to stretch out in any of them. With the doors closed, they looked like beautiful pieces of furniture or closet doors and you would not have to make your bed in the morning if company was coming. The very typical Dutch steps were narrow and circular to the fourth floor. Rembrandt lived, worked, taught, entertained, and acted as an art dealer here.

In addition to being a painter, Rembrandt worked with etchings that were done on copper plates and put through a press. This is the first time I had seen any of his etchings and all were magnificent. He only did one still life in his career and that was of a seashell.

Aside from Rembrandt’s work, in the modern addition attached to the original house, is a room filled with a current sculpture’s pieces of people that were inspired by Rembrandt’s paintings and sketches. In the next two rooms were the etchings done by another contemporary artist who spent a year in residence of the Rembrandt House and created dozens of etchings that although much more contemporary, were equally as impressive.

Today, the film that I had left for developing onto CD-Roms was due to be picked up. On the way, we rediscovered the oldest neighborhood in Amsterdam. It is an enclosed area and is protected by a gate from which you enter. Homes surrounding a park almost complete a circle, but where the closure of the circle would be, there is a Catholic Church and a Presbyterian church across from each other. On the other side of the Presbyterian Church is another small park with more houses. The park has a lovely statue of a bountiful woman with a cape on. Discovering that the Catholic Church was open, we went in to investigate. It was small, but very unusual. One wall had a huge painting that went the length of the wall. We think it was a procession behind St. Michael the Archangel as he was riding into a town with a demonic dragon on a stiff leash walking ahead of him. The church was dedicated to St. Ursula, but there was a large statue of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Amsterdam with his distinctive cross of the three black x’s on a red background, below him on a crest.

Picking up the pictures, I was not able to have it put on cd-rom only, they insisted on giving me one set of prints also. We took them to the little restaurant to preview them. I have to say that I am impressed with the photography, but the developing looks like the best I have seen. The pictures include Manchester, Liverpool, and Bath, England, plus Amsterdam’s Sint Nicholas parade, Volkendam, the clog maker, and the town of Marken. It will be awhile before I can find a fast enough Internet café to upload them to the album, but they are really fine shots.

From here, I sent Ron off to see the Anne Frank House, the place we probably all have read about in the “Anne Frank’s Diary”, where we was kept hidden with her family and others in a small space being protected from the Nazis. Years of hiding and deprivation did not help them in the end. The only survivor of the concentration camps was her father who later published her diary. Having been there four times, I did not have the emotional energy to feel the pain one more time. After having toured concentration camps in Poland, it would be all that much more real. Ron shared later that he controlled his crying to three episodes while touring the house.

While Ron was there, I was at the ‘good’ Internet café uploading the previous part of this tome. I was able to touch bases with a couple of friends who work in Budapest part of the time and another friend who is on a Fulbright in Slovakia and only two hours away. We will all get together once we get there and settle in. Also, my friend Maia, who was a classmate, is going to defend her research proposal tomorrow. She had conveyed all of the mixed emotions that everyone feels, but survives during this process. Knowing Maia, it will all be for naught, she is creative, intelligent, and fluid in her processing, so she will do superb.

Ron and I met up again for tea after his tour and my Interneting and roaming. Ron’s sister-in-law, Mary Ellen has given us a quest. She collects children’s books with a Christmas theme and asked that if we came across one to get it for her. We did see a couple in our wandering earlier today, but they were not early elementary level, but higher. Therefore they were more text and few pictures. We went back to a toy store that sells children’s books to check there, but they said they did not have anything like the book we were after. They suggested a different store, but the directions were so convoluted, we decided we would look for this store in the daylight.

After taking a siesta, not knowing the Dutch name for it, we took off again for dinner and nighttime entertainment. There is a falafel restaurant that provides six meatball size falafel in a pita bread and there is a large selection of toppings to flavor it with. Some of the toppings are quite substantial on their own like small eggplants, marinated carrots, coleslaw, plus the usual yogurt and sauces. For those of you not familiar with falafel, they are ground chickpeas with spices, grain and they are baked in oil.

We thought about taking in the Harry Potter movie, but the evening show came to $10.00 each, so we will wait and see if we can make a matinee which will be $7.00 each. Four times a week, it is in dubbed Dutch and the rest of the time it is English with Dutch sub-titles. We went to a different movie theater after some wandering, but missed the last show. So much for nighttime entertainment, we went for a beer and went home to watch CNN. Since we turned the clocks back an hour, the same time as the States, it has been getting progressively darker later, but now it is dark out by 4:30 pm. It has been raining a lot too, so it is not conducive for our exploring mood.

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