Amsterdam-August 4

Amsterdam is known as a city of museums, containing 75 of varying scope and size.  We were interested enough to purchase IAmsterdam cards in advance providing free entry and reservations, remembering the summer’s tourist invasion.  Our conservative preference for Rembrandt and other early modern Dutch and Flemish masters led us to the Rijksmuseum during the first morning.  It wasn’t surprising to see the rainbow flag displayed over the entrance as it was everywhere else celebrating the upcoming climax of this year’s Pride Week (or month).


The building itself, another late nineteenth century combination of Gothic and Renaissance Revival style, opened onto a grand plaza and park, unlike the other compressed spaces of the city, where only the waterways offered open vistas.


On the way to the Rembrandt galleries, I relished the raunchy canvases celebrating peasant delights in drinking and sex




along with more refined visions



and appropriately lurid illustrations of Bible stories



The Rembrandt galleries held fewer works than I expected, and the most famous of them, “The Night Watch” was obscured by the enclosed apparatus of restoration.


But that helped me devote enough time for fuller impressions of a few.  A youthful self-portrait, the light coming from the left illuminating every strand of curly hair and frail  mustache leaving eyes and mouth romantically cloaked in shadow


the mature face, hiding nothing, full of sags and wrinkles, mouth and forehead expressing both resignation and challenge: this is what life’s done to me, too bad if it isnt pretty.


Another seemed to combine youth and age: a portrait of his son in the habit of a Franciscan monk.  It was a costume, but nevertheless conveyed spirituality without glamor, earned through  suffering and compassion.


Behind us in the gallery, the outlandishly coiffed son along with sister and parents closely studying a small painting struck me as a true Continental family.


A shocking example of the juxtaposition of splendor and proud brutality we’d seen throughout our travels was displayed in a vanity portrait of the befeathered Director-General of the Slave Fort in Ghana–the place from which enslaved Africans were dispatched to the New World–inside a lavish parlor being presented with a  painting by a native chief kneeling at his feet.


After lunch next to the museum, we rode the tram back to the hotel for the indespensable siesta and then ventured out again for a canal tour of the City starting at the dock across the street.


The Dutch Boy boatman appeared to enjoy his work as he helped passengers aboard the small craft and handed us each a glass of wine.


The captain spoke fluent English with a slight Flemish accent.  He was a native of the City he said, and never tired of sharing its sights and stories.


In this ultimate amusement park I was too enthralled by the light, the water, the floating motion, the sensations of gliding under bridges and around tight corners


the opulent houseboats


the variegated facades


the trees and bikes and bridges


and the great old monuments


to take any notes. And now after three and half months, so much is forgotten.

Back on land, after dinner I continued roaming wide-eyed until the sun set.



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