One would think that after spending years at Winterthur, I would be sick of historic house museums. Nope! I love them! And Sunday and Monday turned into a celebration, a'palooza' or 'fest' if you will, of the house museum. Unlike college 'fests' such as UD's famed Chapelfest, there is no resultant hangover for House-Museum-Fest, only sore and tired feet.
First was the Theater Museum. The Theater Museum aspires to teach the visitor about what goes on behind a theatrical production. The permanent collection was small but fun; the best part being a small curtain chamber that the visitor goes into, where he/she can press buttons to have different lighting/sounds happen. (This is to illustrate the influence of light/sound on the production). A whole new dimension of fun is added when the labels of the buttons are in Dutch! The museum itself is located in two beautiful adjoining canal houses, one built in 1638 and the other in 1617.
One room had some amazing flocked wallpaper. If you've never encountered flocked wallpaper, I'm sorry for you. It's fabulously ridiculous.
Adhesive is applied in the shape of the desired design and then bits of fluff/fuzz/lint are wafted towards it so that it sticks on the adhesive, creating a velvety wallpaper! I learned that in graduate school. Let's hear it for advanced degrees!
The central staircase in the Theater Museum.
One of my favorite parts about the canal house museums, apart from being able to peer into other peoples' houses, is that they have private gardens attached.
I think this was my favorite: Museum van Loon. The original van Loon was a co-founder of the Dutch East India Company. I also like saying van Loon.
The van Loon Museum had a nice video playing of the current van Loon patriarch, an ancient and extremely tall and thin gentleman. In the video he walks around to the various rooms and tells what the room was like when his grandparents lived in it, and stories from his childhood.
This is the garden of the Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis, built in 1687. The garden was the best part of the house. The guide I spoke with said it was the most beautiful garden ever. I was like... right... I said, "Oh yes, absolutely lovely," but in my head was thinking, "Those du Ponts sure knew a good garden though..."
I took a greater part of Sunday afternoon to journey back to the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam, the awesome library with the apple tarts, in order to more fully explore its awesomeness. Everyone else in Amsterdam must recognize the awesomeness of the library, as it is packed with patrons! Jam-packed!
Main entrance. As you can see, it was quite windy.
I was thinking that it would be awesome to get a library card, check books (in English) out and take them home and read them. Maybe a movie or a CD, who knows? Well... I did a little research online to find out how you get a library card.
The steps to get a library card:
1). Identity document - no problem, I have a passport.
2). Proof of address - easy, I can mail myself a letter from work.
3). Membership fee - what? A fee?
A 24 euro fee! That's like $35!
And I read further - there are lending costs! Books and (oddly enough) sheet music are free. CDs and DVDs are 1-2 euros. Good grief! Patrons are charged a membership fee and then must pay to borrow certain items? How is this possible? I can't afford to pay these paltry fees. I have never heard of such fees - only late fines. Oh, how I miss you, Free Public Library, Proud American Institution!
So, I thought, scope out the English section. Visiting, reading, tart eating, could make a really great afternoon/evening. Minus a registration fee or lending cost. I felt like a genius.
Looking down into the children's and young adult section. Alas, all in Dutch. Observe the molecular-model shaped lighting: I think I see a pentane!
Escalators take you from floor to floor, and there are hundreds of iMacs available for people to use. It almost seems as if Apple had designed the library, as the aesthetics are similar.
I'm off to the engels section.
Alas, the engles section was disappointing. Some books, like Pride and Prejudice and The Great Gatsby, were there. You know, works not just for an age, but for all time. But the complete works of both Austen and Fitzgerald were not present. There was a significant amount of crap. Like the books you can pick up for $2.25 at a WalMart, or worse, Big Lots. So I'm glad I didn't get a library card.
I like books. And these fun chairs. And reading a book, looking out onto a view of Amsterdam.
I'm pictured with a copy of The Secret Garden I was very much looking forward to it. Then I quickly realized that it was The Abridged for Idiots Version of The Secret Garden. "Mary was a little girl who was born in India. Her father was in the army. Her mother liked to go to parties. Mary had a nanny who looked after her." Who makes a shortened version of a children's book? Boo. I ended up reading The Nanny Diaries, which was okay. I think most future visits to the library will involve only eating apple tarts, at least until their English-Language librarian decides to get some good books on the shelves.
Today Louise and I travelled to the Hague, or as the Dutch say, Den Haag. If we're making analogies, Amsterdam is to New York City what the Hague is to Washington D.C.; cultural capital vs seat of government.
Quick complaint about Holland: they refuse to accept Major International Credit Cards. I went to buy my train tickets this morning, and the teller goes, "Oh, we don't accept credit cards". I was like WTF train station? And my debit card only works at certain ATMs here. It certainly makes things annoying. Okay, done.
Louise convinced me to bring along theSweet Ride, which has now been re-named in honor of my Mum, the Dam Bike. The Dam Bike was useful, as will be explained later, but was also a total albatross to haul on and off of the trains to/from the Hague. Especially as two lazy, indolent Dutch young men took up all the room in the part of the train meant for people with bicycles, who did not offer us the seats or even condescend to move their giant bags. Louise and I decided that in a culture where a Red Light District exists, the men don't need to bother with being charming or thoughtful to women. We noticed this in the bars we went to on the night of the big football/soccer game as well.
Is that the Dam Bike in Den Haag? Why yes, it is!
My main goal in going to the Hague was to see this:
Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675), Girl with a Pearl Earring, c.1665.
It was pretty good, you know. Whatever, only one of my major life goals was to see it in real life, and it totally lived up to my expectations. The painting is larger than I thought it would be, but I was basing that judgement off of Vermeer's Girl in the Red Hat, which I forged my senior year of college. Vermeer is easily my favorite painter of the Dutch Golden Age. Rembrandt doesn't really do it for me. Vermeer was forgotten by the art world for several hundred years and only became considered as one of the masters around the late 19th century. Only 35 works are attributed to him. No preparatory studies or drawings by him exist, and only a few details of his life are known. His paintings are mostly domestic scenes, and what is most remarkable about them is Vermeer's use of light.
David Hockney, among others, think that Vermeer used a camera obscura to achieve his amazing compositional effects. I think this is crap, and that David Hockney is just saying that in order to make up for his own lack of skills. Vermeer was just that good. (I also have read/seen some serious scientific investigations of Hockney's theories, so I'm going on more than my instinct).
I also love Hans Holbein the Younger (1497-1543), court painter to Henry VIII, as opposed to Hans Holbein the Elder, also a painter and the Younger's father. H.H. II's portraits, drawings and paintings, are fabulous; he also did a great series of woodcuts of the Dance of Death. Both H.H. I and II were movers and shakers, leading Northern Europe out of the Gothic style and into the Renaissance.
The Mauritshuis: a little proud to have the Girl with a Pearl Earring? Maybe.
This is some sort of large and beautiful historic governmental building right next to the Mauritshuis.
We arrived and it began to downpour. Lou looks sad, I look like, "It'll still work out okay! Maybe?" but inside I was thinking, "This Dam Bike is going to be a huge Dam Albatross. I hate that poem!"
This rain cleared up rapidly, and we quickly found out that traffic between the two side of town would be closed for several hours in the afternoon because it was Veteran's Day, and there was a big parade with huge crowds. Helicopters and airplanes flew in fancy formations over the Hague as part of the parade, and the Dutch loved it. Louise and I clapped for all of the little old WWII vets who paraded down the street at the very beginning of the parade. That's always the best part, and it made me miss my own Grandpa. Some things were rather odd; one marching band was playing 76 Trombones, others played New York, New York and My Way. For real.
In this picture, I am standing in the middle of a compass, and I am really hungry and still a little rain-damp. My sweater also smelled faintly of wet sheep - ugh.
After lunch we met up with Hanne (pronounced like Hannah), a conservation student from Norway and one of Louise's co-interns at the Mauritshaus. She took us to a fabulous 'secret garden' - a large private park inside the city. It really was like walking through the woods.
Then the Dam Bike had it's time to shine. Hanne took us to the beach. She and I rode the bikes, and Louise rode on the back of Hanne's bike. I would not trust myself to drive any other person around on the bike. The beach we went to was technically a nude beach, but there were barely any people there, and the ones that were there were fully clothed.
The dunes by the shore.
Beautiful! And very windy.
Hello, North Sea!
Heading home from the beach was tricky, as Louise had hurt her foot somehow and had a painful time walking. We decided to take a tram, but the tram was too crowded for the Dam Bike to fit in it. So, I took the map of the Hague and just drove the Dam Bike right back to the train station. Somewhat nerve-raking, as it would mean that I would likely have to stop at some point and because the streets in the Hague are very poorly labeled. I am getting better, much better actually, at stopping. It turned out completely fine, and Louise and I had time to get a cup of tea before catching our train back to Amsterdam.
Louise and I met with a large group of other conservation interns and ended up going for drinks and dinner with them. We were the only American conservation students; the others were from France, Norway, Austria, and England. One of the French conservation students is in paper conservation and knew Jean-Baptiste! Louise and I were so excited! Jean-"American men have no style"-Baptiste! The world of conservation really is small.
It turned out that all of the other interns have been in Amsterdam/the Hague for months already and will soon be leaving, returning back to school/graduating, so they already had time to find some really great and unique places.
We started out at what Louise and I called a 'Gin Bar' named Wynand Fockink. We had to ask directions to get to it, which was a little awkward.
The bar actually served a liquor called jenever. Jenever is a traditional juniper-flavored liquor typical of the Netherlands, where it was invented, apparently by a chemist named Sylvius de Bouve in the late 16th century. It is what the more modern gin evolved from. A small glass of jenever is supposed to be accompanied by a beer (no doubt Heineken, as Heineken=beer in Holland), but I don't really do beer.
The Wynand Fockink has all sorts of differently flavored gins. You stand in the pretty little alley outside, placing orders at the nearby window. You can get one flavor or more complicated mixed ones: kind of like how Jelly Belly Jelly Beans suggests eating different combinations of flavors to make one other flavor. Except that it is alcohol instead of a teeth-rotting synthetic.
So many flavors, and all different colors.
The jenever is served in these charming little glasses. This particular flavor is a ginger and lemon combination that tasted like limoncello, though the color was less than spectacular.
The bartenders fill the glasses up as much as is physically possible. So much though that the meniscus of the solution is bulging over the top of the glass. Much in the same way I fill a tea cup: attempting to jam as much liquid as possible in a container of finite size. Because of this, before you pick up your glass to take outside and sip, you have to crouch down and drink some, glass resting on the counter, until the amount of liquid has decreased enough so that you can safely carry it.
Note: despite the French students' capabilities of rapid and massive jenever consumption, the drink is meant to be slowly sipped, not done as a shot.
Louise takes a sip.
This flavor was Japanese Cherry, but it tasted like licorice to me. Whatever.
The Wynand Fockink closed relatively early, as 9:00, which means the crowd was really relaxed and friendly and not at all wild. That was very pleasant. So as the night was still young (the sun doesn't set here until like 10:30, which is still causing havoc with my internal timetables) we headed to a Moroccan restaurant. This place was definitely not Dutch and appeared to be frequented by mostly foreigners as the menus were available in multiple languages, not just Dutch and English. The food was good, and the company was as well. It was really fun to hang out with some other conservation students. Conservation school seems to be the same, no matter the country.
Portrait in the mirror of the fabulously tiled bathroom of the Moroccan restaurant. Observe the tall blond woman behind us: no doubt she is Dutch.
I took some time to find the most outrageous-looking store that sells all sorts of illegal-in-the-United States products. I almost took a picture of the Bob Marley-themed shop, but all the high and dirty potheads outside made me nervous. Perhaps, like the Amish, they too are reluctant to be photographed.
I've been saving this photograph for a few days, waiting for the optimum moment to share. I tried Michael's bicycle dismounting advice today, and wonder-of-wonders it worked! So this pot shop photograph is my thanks to both of you, Liang and Michael. If I sight some more bizarre shops, I'll be sure to let you know!
One of the great things about working at the Atelier is that there is a Studio Bicycle! Yes! Easy mode of transportation about Amsterdam!
This beaut is currently My Sweet Ride.
It may appear to be the color of a John Deere, but it is actually a green apple color. It also has a little bell on the handlebar, to ring when you are about to flatten an unwary pedestrian.
The bike had two locks: a huge steel chain (shown encapsulated in a red cloth) and a more subtle pin-lock that prevents the back tired from moving. These are necessary to prevent bike theft, which the guidebooks refer to as Holland's number one sport. Two locks are good, and it really is best to wrap the chain all around the bike, through the frame, around some immovable object such as a house, and back through the spokes of the wheel.
A mentioned previously, Dutch people are extraordinarily tall. (The other day on my way home from work, I saw a man jogging, and he was taller than the bus on the other side of the street! I kid you not!)
The tendency to be eight bazillion feet tall can make life trickier for the shorter people attempting to exist in Holland. I have no problems reaching the pedals of the Dutch bicycle. I just can't touch the earth with any part of my feet while sitting on the seat. It is as though the whole apparatus is higher up than an American bike. A bike designed by and for the enormously tall. And yes, the seat is the whole way down, as low as it can get. This is fine when riding around. It took a little getting used to at first, sitting higher up than I am tall.
It is a little hard to get on the seat. I have to step on a pedal and then launch myself onto the seat.
Attempting to stop is always a harrowing experience. Sure, I can stop, but I can't put a foot down in order to prevent myself from crashing to the ground. I've tried many techniques. The best is to move close to a curb, using the height of the curb to make up for my lack of leg length.
When getting off the bicycle, everyday is a new adventure. Yesterday I slid, rather jarringly, off the seat to the side. Just this morning, I somehow slide off the back of the bike, still desparately clutching the handlebars. It was like I slid off the back of a still-moving pony. Yee-haw!
I took the bicycle out for a spin after work today, for two reasons:
1). To practice stopping, and to stop freaking out about being on a tall bike
2). It was a lovely day, and it seemed like a good idea to see more of the Jordaan neighborhood
All very well. I was doing very good. Riding with no problems, enjoying the pretty neighborhood, feeling confident, then... an oncoming car approached! There was no danger of an accident, the car was going slow, room on the street. But my brain goes, "Ahhh! Car! Loose all sense of balance and motor control!" and I careened around the road (luckily empty, so nobody could observe my inane bicycle antics) and somehow slid off the bike and ended up standing next to it, no doubt looking like a total wild-haired manic. I got back on and wavered around and ended up standing next to the bike again. Then the next try worked out, and I continued on my way - though I did quickly decide to go home.
Apparently I cannot fall off a bike, I just end up standing next to it. Does this mean I'm not a squib, and I can go to Hogwarts now? It seems awfully Neville Longbottom-ish.
Me and the bike, post harrowing after-work ride.
I therefore try to stop as little as possible. I'm like a startled-girl-green-bicycle-avalanche.
I also don't really ring the bell, as I equate it with honking the car horn, which I think is very rude. So I'm also a menace to society as well as an occasional danger to myself.
Since having received the bicycle, I have been closely observing Dutch people and their bicycles. I was always taught that you should be able to touch the ground with the front part of your feet while sitting on the seat. Apparently this precaution is unknown in Holland, as I have seen many many people riding bikes much too large for them. Once I realized this, I began observing their methods of stopping. I need to practice.
Klompen is the Dutch word for clogs. Ergo the 't Klompenhuisje is the Klompen Store, or as I prefer, the House of Klompen. I really enjoy saying the word 'klompen' and had already associated it, in my mind, with clogs, because it seems like an onomatoploeia.
Louise and I did a little window shopping at t'Klompenhuisje. As you may have expected, there was a wide selection of klompens, but also some more modern synthetic shoes.
Look! A whole rack of paint-your-own klompens! (They're actually usually not painted. People still wear them doing farm work and gardening and stuff like that.)
We tried on some klompen at the Bloemenmarkt. Because klompens are good to wear out in the garden, growing your tulips. These are Louise's feet.
I'm sure the sound made by a pair of klompens is fantastic, but they have little arch support and (oddly enough) aren't very flexible. Also, if like me, you are afflicted with rather high arches, it can make finding a pair of ready-made klompens difficult. The klompen I'm wearing in this picture are a few sizes too big for me, because I couldn't fit my tall (but short) feet in the klompen of the appropriate size. You can actually see the spaces between my feet and the side of the klompen. You can't really force your high-arched feet into too-short klompens; not unless you don't mind fracturing a few foot-bones. I guess if I wanted a pair of klompen I'd have to get some custom-made.
These are the flowers I bought at the Bloemenmarkt on Saturday.
On Sunday Louise and I set out on more grand adventures in Amsterdam. The goal was to visit Rembrandt's House (the Rembrandthuis).
The Rembrandt House is part of the same consortium of historic canal house museums, which is fabulous, because it means the we can use our ICOM cards to get in for free! Woo! ICOM is the International Council of Museums.
The Rembrandt House is one of the former homes of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 -1669), one of the greatest painters and printmakers of the Dutch Golden Age. He lived in it for almost twenty years, and had to leave after it turned out that he could not repay the 13,000 or whatever guilder bank loan he had used to purchase the house.
The Rembrandt House is home to several works by Rembrandt, as well as "the School of Rembrandt," and his teachers/friends/admirers. The "School of Rembrandt" refers to the fact that he had a large studio of painters and apprentices working for him, all churning out pieces in his name, not necessarily by his hand. This was the same sort of situation that many other painters had, like Peter Paul Reubens (1577 - 1640). This can cause some difficulties in the Art Historical world, and questionable paintings more back and forth between the artist and the artist's school with some frequency.
One really fun thing about the Rembrandt House is that they demonstrate making an etching in the same room Rembrandt used as his printmaking studio. Here I've snuck an image of some demonstration plates, inks, and prints. It took me right back to those miserable days working in the studio, pulling print after print. Like all those times I cut my fingers on rough spots on the plates, and then got ink in the cuts, and then was afraid I had given myself inadvertent (and very ugly) fingertip tattoos.
After the Rembrandt House we went to the ship museum, which had a large replica of a sailing ship used by the Dutch East India Company. Sorry no photos of the ship; it was so windy it almost blew the shoes right off my feet. We clambered all over, and sat down in the bottom of the ship, watching a Dutch documentary (subtitled in English) about the Dutch East India Company. It was very educational, and we stayed down there for maybe half an hour, until the creaking of the ship started to freak us out.
Some memorable dialogue from the documentary:
"And the Dutch had such a great system set up, it was strange how nobody else tried to copy it."
"They forced each family to grow three nutmeg trees, and to give the harvest to the company. They then cut down all the other spice trees. It worked really well."
"Some villages rebelled: in these cases all of the people were killed, and Dutch people and slaves were brought in to harvest the spices."
"The Japanese traded exclusively with the Chinese and the Dutch until the 19th century, when open trade was forced by the American navy, who threatened to blow up Japanese cities if they refused to trade with them."
Some things never change.
After that, we headed to the Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam. This is the most awesome library ever. A full report will have to follow in the future, as its awesomeness demands an individual posting. Suffice it to say that you can come in, watch a movie, listen to music, read a book, and then go up to the top floor and have a cup of tea and a piece of apple tart. Sweet.
This is a view from the balcony of the library cafe.
I am all tired out today - I was "conservering" all day long, and a part of the expected work by Major Artists arrived today! Yes!
Hup Holland Hup!, which apparently translates to Go Holland Go!, is the slogan used to cheer on Holland's football (soccer) team. As you may or may not know, the Netherlands is part of the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA). The UEFA is currently in the midst of a huge summer tournament. All the member's national teams are invited, and this year the matches are being held in Austria and Switzerland.
People weren't expecting much out of Holland, but the team really generated a buzz when they smashed Italy in one of the opening qualifying matches.
The team is fondly called the Oranje; their uniforms are bright orange. (Little brother, be prepared to get a bright orange Holland soccer something upon my return.)
Louise and I wanted to go to a match, and Holland's next was Saturday night. They were playing in the quarter finals against Russia. The bar around the block seemed to be a nice place where we could watch the game. However, it was so crowded, we couldn't even get in to door to buy a beer. Advice was asked of the nearest Dutchman, he said to go to the bar across the street and buy a drink. As long as the glasses were returned, they didn't mind where you took them.
So here we are, out in the street, trying to look at the tv screen over the heads of the really tall Dutch people. And Dutch people are really tall.
That was frustrating, so we returned our glasses and set off for another local place. This one was much smaller, but we could actually go inside and share a stool!
This was definitely the best place to be for the match. The woman in charge of the bar kept up chants of the keeper's name (van der Sar) and the striker (van der Vaart). We also got to eat spicy bar-peanuts, and the cook came out from the back during the half-time break with a big plate of fried things. They looked like hush puppies, and you dipped them in spicy mustard. Inside though, they were kind of gooey and had chicken pieces? maybe? Who knows, but they were good! Sure all the talk in the bar and commentary was in Dutch, but soccer is soccer, and thanks to all those games I went to back in the day watching little Little Brother play, I pretty much knew what was going on in the match.
Holland just scored a goal, and this brought the match to 1:1, so it was really exciting. Everyone in the entire nation was cheering (last match we could hear the revelers yelling even though the nearest bar is a few blocks away). Appropriately, the image turned out really orange-colored.
Unfortunately though, Russia made two more goals in the end of the match, so Holland lost and is out of the tournament. I'm really glad we did make it to this match, in that case.
On a strange side note, there is apparently one type of beer in Holland. We ordered a Heineken, and the bar tender said, "You want a beer?" And the bars all had only two taps - both for Heineken. So, in Holland, I guess beer=Heineken.
Later in the day we went to see the MuseumOns' Lieve Heer op Solder, or the Museum of Our Lord in the Attic. This is a house museum dating to the 17th century, which is interesting in its own right, but in hidden in the upper stories of the house is a Catholic Church - Our Lord in the Attic literally in the attic.
The church was created shortly after Catholicism was outlawed in the Netherlands. The Dutch laws, as they still are (cough, red light district, cough), were pretty lax, and as long as it didn't look like a church on the outside, they didn't really care. Which was great for all the Catholic people.
Sorry these images are so tiny - like a good conservation student I did not take photographs in the church, so I borrowed these from a Catholic website.
It was really cool. Most of the rooms on the tour are as they were around 1660, which is around the time the church was made. The church is totally hidden from the outside and was in continual use until the time Catholicism was allowed in the Netherlands again. The museum itself is one of the oldest, formed by local Catholic Amsterdam citizens around the 1880s.
On our way home from the Flower Market, before we went to Our Lord in the Attic, we were walking back to the Jordaan with flowers and fruits. We passed a fancy outdoors restaurant.
Louise says, "I just saw a famous person!"
I say, "Who?"
Louise, "Miss J. from Top Model."
It is no secret that I love America's Next Top Model, basically because I like the hair cuts and the outlandish photos that are taken (one time they dressed a girl up as a cactus!) and I like nothing better than a good solid critique.
Anyway, there is a dramatic intake of breath, I turn around and there is he, in all his ambiguous-gender glory. Though, I must say, he looked actually normal in a black shirt and blue jeans.
Louise and I compared notes as we walked on through the Jordaan. We both made eye contact with Miss J, and we know in that moment he knew that we recognized him. Nobody else did, and they were just blithely walking past.
We go home, eat sandwiches, recheck maps and museum hours and head off to Our Lord in the Attic. Our SpecialMuseumPeople cards get us in for free, and we head off into the house.
The first room I walk into, who do I see? Miss J. Alexander. Again. Like he's stalking us! Though he probably thought we were following him!
'Miss' J. Alexander's head shot.
Once again, eye contact with myself and Louise was made, and he recognized us from the street corner - his eyebrow went up like, "Girl, you following me?"
Oh, and we were definitely recognizable. I was wearing the screaming red dress Mum made ages ago for 'the Pajama Game' and Louise was wearing a navy skirt over black pants and a bright blue headscarf. He definitely remembered us. I almost wanted to ask him for a photo/autograph/whatever, but was afraid I would receive a fashion scolding.