Thursday, October 1, 1987

1987 Low Countries: Amsterdam II (10/1/1987)

Thursday, October 1, 1987
We were up at 7:00, which was too early for sightseeing. Waited until 8:00 to go look for breakfast. Stopped in the coffeeshop Villa Zeezicht near the hotel for coffee and hot chocolate with croissants that were served cut in half and buttered. A tiny place with four tables. When we sat down, a man asked us in Dutch to shut the door, and when we didn’t understand, he did it himself. We were a bit embarrassed that we may have left the door open, but felt better when the wind kept blowing the door open many times during our stay. We went up to the counter to pay the bill of 8 NLG 50/$4 and left an extra guilder.
Back to the hotel to pack and check out. The proprietress came out in a camisole, like we would wear as underwear, and her cat escaped. The proprietor arrived with his Doberman Pinscher, and gave us back the 10 NLG deposit for the key.
We headed straight to the train station, passing people on ladders washing their windows. Lots of people walking their dogs, and lots of evidence of that activity; they need a pooper scooper law! Also lots of cats sitting in windows. At the station we made the long search for the baggage lockers, and finally saw the sign of a suitcase with a key. All the old lockers were too small, but they had large modern ones, all computerized with no handles on the doors. We read the instructions carefully, watched others, and had our money ready. We began the process and were told to wait for over a minute. Our locker opened. We started again, but this time it requested three guilders, and wouldn’t take any. We kept throwing in coins, and it finally accepted one, then two, but no more! Kent found an employee who came to help us throw more coins in, including US quarters! Finally the computer gave up, opened the locker and gave us back our money. We tried once more, and this time it accepted 2 NLG 50/$1.20 and gave us a ticket.
Locker ticket
Since we were running short on time, we decided to take a tram. First we mistakenly looked at a bus schedule, and couldn’t find the #64 “tram.” Finally figured we could take trams #16, 24, or 25, so ran and hopped on. But I saw no place to buy a ticket! We hopped off and searched the square to find an information kiosk, where we learned more than we needed to know. We boarded a tram, and bought a ticket from the driver, seemingly a round trip ticket for 1 NFG 75/85 cents each.
Amsterdam tram ticket
They do have an honor system for tickets, and you can push a button to open any door to enter the tram. We finally could sit down, for the ride to the Heineken Brewery.
There were long lines at the Brewery and they are now requesting for a 1 NLG/50 cent donation, to go to one of four world charities.
Heineken Brewery ticket
A large crowd waited to be taken on tour in groups of 10-12 people. Our group set off at 10:30, starting in the kettle room to have the first step of the brewing process explained. We couldn’t watch it actually happening because today was cleaning day! We were shown acrylic boxes of the ingredients: barley, germinated barley + malt, hops, water, and yeast. The yeast was specifically developed for Heineken and is a well-kept secret. There is another strain of yeast for Amstel beers. We were then shown the fermentation vats, and the larger tanks.
Heineken fermentation tank
Next we went to the bottling plant. This was cleaning day here also. Outside the employee cafeteria, we were given a history of Heineken, and Kent asked about dating bottles, since they are pasteurized and good for six months without artificial ingredients or preservatives. They don’t date the bottles, but move them out fast. We were taken to the reception hall and seated at tables of eight or so. Free glasses of beer were passed out, and you could have up to three glasses to taste test. Kent had two glasses. There were also bowls of a non-cheesy cheese doodles in yellow and pink, with squares of cheese around them. People sipped and munched as we watched a seven-minute movie about the Heineken family, and other breweries around the world by or under sponsorship of Heineken.
We viewed the city of Amsterdam from the balcony, and left before the last set of glasses of beer. We took a couple coasters as souvenirs, and at the souvenir shop filled with tons of stuff, we bought a deck of cards marked with the Heineken name.
Amsterdam from the Heineken Brewery
Local transportation
Heineken sign shadow
We walked across the canal and headed to the Museums Park with a man raking the dirt and a statue of a side-lying bugler dated 14 March 1945. When crossing streets, you not only have to watch for cars, but all the bikers, too! We often had to grab one or the other to pull him/her out of the way!
Crossed back to the Rijksmuseum/National Museum and paid 6 NLG 50/$3 admission.
Rijksmuseum receipt
Headed towards the Night Watch by Rembrandt on the second floor. In alcoves preceding it, there were paintings by Ferdinand Bol of the School of Rembrandt, as well as other paintings by Rembrandt including a dark monk’s portrait of his son Titus, a self-portrait as St Paul, and the Jewish bride with paint gooped on to a quarter-inch thick. There was the Staat Meesters (of the Drapers Guild), a later corporate painting designed for the Cloth Hall (known for its honesty, could we tell by the faces? No!). Came to the cleaned up Night Watch, which supposedly had more action than the neighboring Bartholomeus van der Helst painting that was at least crisper and more colorful! We thought each character was given more character than in Rembrandt’s corporate painting for which he did not get paid, because of the contrast in prominence of each man portrayed, such as one man had someone else’s arm across his face. Prominent were only Captain Cocq in black and Lieutenant van Ruytenburch in yellow. The painting was not actually of a night watch, but darkened with coats of varnish. We overheard a guard say the painting was rolled up and hidden in the dunes during World War II. In the next room was a 17th-century copy of the Night Watch which shows the original has since been cut down in size. The following rooms contained paintings of Gerard ter Borch and Pieter de Hooch, the latter often drawing tiny people in window panes or bordering stairs. There were cameos (small, but not miniatures) by Jan Vermeer, including four of his 36 greatest: Little Street (Delft), Maidservant Pouring Milk (exquisite still life detail), Woman Reading Letter, and Love Letter. These are said to be silent compositions compared to Rembrandt’s slashing emotion. Whoever said that is given to extremes! More School of Rembrandt with Gerard Dou, also Frans Hals and Jan Steen (more amusing than witty). More by Rembrandt himself including a dark self-portrait and unflattering portraits of his mother, and wife, Saskia. Another gallery contained Goya, Tintoretto, Veronese, and Canaletto. As Kent checked the directory, I found postcards of Rembrandt’s Oriental Potentate and Salomon van Ruysdael’s The Mill at Wijk by Duurstede. Kent was not impressed and I was more impressed with Jan Vermeer.
We went through the sculpture, including Govert Flinck, another pupil of Rembrandt. Next the applied arts department, mostly medieval, and then the Delftware: birdcages, tall pyramidal tulip vases, as well as plates and pots, etc. The usual blue scenes and designs on white, but also a collection of colorful oriental designs (still by Delft). Down on the first floor we searched for Dutch History, ending up having to go back up and over a street that goes through the building. The Dutch History department was totally in Dutch, and the World War II section in which Kent was most interested, was a library of books! Saw a Dutch political cartoon exhibit and heard the workings of a giant clock. It was time to leave one of the greatest art museums in the world, founded by Louis Bonaparte in 1808. It was originally housed in the Royal Palace in the Dam Square, then moved to the Trippenhuis on Kloveniersburgwal in 1818, and finally to the red-turreted building here in 1885, which was designed by P J H Cuypers.
We walked through the building on the street to a large square with a modern square concrete building of the Vincent van Gogh Museum, completed in 1973. It contains some 200 paintings and 500 drawings of the artist, the most complete collection in the world. On the second level, most of van Gogh’s paintings were displayed in chronological order by area in which he lived. A brief biography was given per location. Van Gogh was born in 1853 in the province of Noord-Brabant, and studied theology. He died in 1890 in Auvers-sur-Oise in France. He spent time in Brussels, London, and Paris as well. We saw his early Potato Eaters in almost a Spanish-style. Vincent’s Room in Arles, Gauguin’s Armchair, and Sunflowers were done about the same time. Earlier was Boats on the Strand and later Cornfield with Cows. A metal strip was placed before each painting to help you keep your distance when admiring it.
On the next floor was a complete set (55 prints) of the 53 Stations of Tokkaido done by Utagawa Hiroshige. Many were collected by van Gogh and his brother Theo. Japanese art supposedly had an influence on van Gogh’s paintings, and a there were a couple of his “loud” copies of Japanese art. We also saw many pen and ink sketches, watercolors, and charcoal drawings. Up another level to see more van Gogh paintings and those of his contemporaries including Gauguin. Back down to the ground floor to view a photo exhibit by Pat Bognar, a Hoosier from Indiana. She photographed the locations that inspired many of van Gogh’s paintings.
We walked back to Museumplein/Museum plaza, and were asked where the US Consulate was? We didn’t know, but watched as someone else pointed to a brick building with a US flag across the street. At the end of the block we could see the Concertgebouw/Concert Hall, an older building with a lyre on top.
Concertgebouw/Concert Hall (1883-1888)
Old and new, 5 and 9 Museumplein
Saw a couple strange “peace” monuments.
Peace Memorial near the Rijksmuseum
Returned to the canal and walked along it in hopes of getting to the center of the city. As we made a turn, I assumed we were crossing the canal when, indeed, we had not. So I got us lost by directing us to the left. Did see a calliope that sounded from a distance like it was playing Philip Glass music!
We were also looking for a place for lunch, and there was an abundance of coffeehouses, and East Asian restaurants, but no regular restaurants that were open at 14:30! We finally figured where we were and went to a Bakery de la Haye on Prinsengracht. We had a meat broodje (curried ground beef in a flaky pastry) and a ham-kaas croissant (ham and cheese mixed into the dough before baking). We sat on the edge of the canal to eat and drink our beer and lemon-flavored mineral water. We could see a couple houseboats, bikes locked to the handrails of bridges, cars zipping down narrow streets and bicyclists with cars at their heels dodging pedestrians.
We saw Avner in Providence in August!
"Is the Kremlin beginning to thaw?" (KSS)
We continued down Prinsengracht to Westerkerk, the West Church built in 1631 by Pieter de Keyser after his father’s (Hendrick’s) plans. It has the tallest church steeple in the city at 275 feet, topped by a giant crown representing Maximilian of Austria.
Westerkerk/West Church
Westerkerk steeple
Queen Beatrix was married here, and Rembrandt is buried in this 17th-century church. Outside stood a small statue of Anne Frank by Mari Andriessen, which was unveiled by her father, Otto, the only surviving member of the family, in March 1977.
Anne Frank statue
A block later at 263-5 Prinsengracht was Anne Frank’s House, where the writer of the famous diary hid for two years with her sister (Margot), her parents (Otto and Edith), family friends (Hans and Petronella van Daan, real names being Hermann and Auguste van Pels with their son Peter), and the dentist (Albert Dussel, real name being Fritz Pfeffer), until found by the Gestapo on August 4, 1944 and sent to Auschwitz, then Bergen-Belsen. Anne died of typhoid in Bergen-Belsen before the liberation. Miep Gies, a secretary to Anne’s father, found the diary after the family was taken, and gave it to Otto when he returned. It has since been published in numerous languages and become known world-wide.
Anne Frank House guide
After paying the entrance fee of 5 NLG/$2.40 each, we climbed two sets of very steep stairs. In an empty room we watched a video on the Frank family and this house, in English with Dutch subtitles. We then went behind the bookcase to enter the secret rooms, one for the Frank parents, and one for Anne that she decorated with photos of movie stars like Deanna Durbin and Ray Milland. There was a bathroom with a ceramic toilet, which looked worthy of a Delft museum! We climbed another set of stairs, more like a ladder, to the van Daan’s room. Models showed the rooms at that time. Surprising was the large window looking down on an empty back courtyard. You could see the stairs to Peter’s room. We were taken across the upper floors to the front of the same building to see an exhibit on the life of Anne Frank (in English as well as Dutch), and see copies of books printed in other languages. Down on the next floor was an exhibit on National Socialism (Nazi-ism), and history of Holland during World War II. On the first floor was an exhibit on the history of anti-Semitism, plus the Oscar from Shelly Winter, and the gift shop. In the building next door was an exhibit on racism and political repression. Mostly concerning homosexuals, and there is a drive to have a homomonument built along one of the canals.
After the tour, we sat at the edge of a canal to rest Kent’s cramping calf muscles.
Canal houses on Keizersgracht
at Leliegracht
We continued walking, passing the narrowest house at Singel 166, with a façade of only 1 m/3’3”.
Another narrowest house
We also saw a hoisting hook being used.
At the Dam Square, the Nieuwekerk/New Church was closed for a private event as they carried in red velvet upholstered chairs. A late Gothic church begun in the 15th century, and completed in 1540. It was reconstructed in Renaissance style in 1645. Traditionally it is used for inaugurations of new monarchs. Originally the tower was to be taller, but was stunted so as to not dwarf City Hall. The huge building next to the church was built as the City Hall in 1655-62 at the apex of Holland’s Golden Age, but wasn’t found suitable enough. It is built over 659 piles driven underwater. Louis Napoleon took over the building in 1808 and it became the Royal Palace of King William I. It was sold to the state in 1935. It is still the official residence of Queen Beatrix, although she rarely uses it.
We wandered down Kalverstraat, window-shopping along the way. At #92 was the former orphanage, which had a Renaissance gate dated 1581.
Renaissance gate
Inside the gate was a courtyard, and along one wall were marble squares that made it look like a tomb. We continued to the old annex of DeWaag, later used as a convent until 1578, then an orphanage until 1960, and now houses the Amsterdam Historical Museum. There were interesting shops in the back streets. We looked for a recommended Delftware shop, but it had been replaced with a clothing store.
Headed over to Rokin to look for a restaurant again. After much searching, we decided to do a foreign one, Ristorante Caprese, which had just opened at 17:30. Candlelight, but like the night before, paper napkins. Kent had a Heineken beer, and I had a Spa mineral water (from Belgium!). We shared a tomato and mozzarella salad with olive oil on the side. Fresh but dry mozzarella. I had penne alla carbonara in a delicious egg and mostly cream sauce with Italian pancetta. Kent helped to eat my dish, and I helped with his Pizza di Quattro Stagione/Four Seasons with real tomato sauce and mozzarella, prosciutto, red pepper, onions, olives with pits, fresh mushrooms, and artichokes. Delizioso! The pizza came as large as his plate, and Kent ate it like a native with a knife and fork. The bill was 35 NLG 25/&17, and we left 41 NLG 25/$20. We are outrageous tippers!
Caprese restaurant bill
As we walked to the train station, it was getting shivery cold. At the baggage locker, we put in our ticket and retrieved our bags effortlessly. I changed our Dutch guilders into German Deutschmarks, plus $100 in travelers’ cheques. I got confused as to what the Deutschmark was worth in dollars, trying to go from guilders to marks to dollars! We went to the platform for the 20:02 train to Amersfoort, but boarded the 19:02 train that was still there. The conductor just glanced at the Eurail Passes. We arrived in Amersfoort at 19:38 and sat in a small waiting room for the 21:22 train to Berlin. I was a bit nervous when I saw on the schedule that a supplement was needed and wasn’t sure if our tickets for the East Germany portion were first or second class. We used up our change for the restrooms, coffee, and Rolo chocolate caramels. We had checked the train car order to wait at the corresponding area on the platform, but an announcement in Dutch alerted us to a change in section “A” that Kent translated to “E.” We found our first class reserved seats and the train left a couple minutes late. The conductor came through after the last Dutch city, and said nothing about a supplement. Soon the Dutch and German passport controllers came to look briefly at our passports. At the first German station, a man with a cart passed by the train windows and we bought mineral water and a Dortmünder Union beer. Kent ate his Saté soufflé we had bought near the Italian restaurant, and we were told it contained peanut butter. But it was a ground beef mixture in pastry. (N.B. Actually ground beef in peanut sauce!) We were able to lie out across the seats in our compartment to sleep.

Next: West Berlin.

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