A Journey Out

Sorry there was no update yesterday; I think the travel exhaustion is setting in. Yesterday we went to the museum center where I went to the Rijksmuseum and Mom went to the Van Gogh museum. After we reuinited, I found out that she skipped the museum in favor of relaxing in the public gardens. I braved the long lines and crowds to see "The Night Watch", Amsterdam's favorite painting. They even have a statue re-enactment of it surrounding a large statue of Rembrandt in a park. Despite the crowds, it was worth it. The painting is huge, as the figures are life size, and if you fight your way through the hordes taking bad photos, you can stand there and look at it as long as you like.

Surrounding it is a big hall of Dutch Masters, which I picked my way through. The realism of the still-lifes is astounding, but I could do without the landscapes and portraits.

I breezed through several galleries to find the other Rembrandts—early works, sketches, and lithographs. They were charming, and it was less crowded so you could get inches away from them. (Necessary, as many of them are quite small.) I also stumbled upon a display of knit caps recovered from a sunken whaling ship.

Today we went to The Hague to see the Escher museum. It's a small museum, but worth the trip if you like his work as I do. We finished there about 3 pm and realized we had made a big miscalculation on the location of the second museum we wanted to see. It was too far way to walk to, and it closed at 5 pm. As we were debating if we should return to the train station to try to get a cab, Mom spotted one and in we hopped. Very lucky!

The second museum was the city museum, but we went there to see the de Stijl pieces, especially the Mondrian. There was a large exhibit, but not as much Mondrian as we had hoped. Still, the building was worth the trip.

It was an adventure trying to get back to the train station. No cabs at this smaller museum so we had to figure out how to take the tram. The one that the guidebook (and the web) said to take wasn't running in its usual manner because of road and building construction. A nice woman noticed our distress and explained that we had to take a different line & transfer. In the end, it all worked out, and a train to Amsterdam was leaving in 10 minutes when we got to the station. Sometimes when traveling you just have to make a guess and hope that you can recover if you head the wrong direction!

We thought we might take a canal tour this evening, but most of them had stopped running by the time we returned to Amsterdam. So we will try tomorrow, before it rains. But we also have another museum to see, a market to visit, shopping to do, etc. whew!

Time for bed, if the ducks (?) will stop hooting. I don't know what gets them so riled up at times! The canal has been quite active tonight, too. But as tired as I am, I suspect it won't stop me from sleeping.

Photos: double-decker bike parking at the train station in Haarlem, knit whaling caps, Gemeentemuseum in Den Haag, de Stijl tile in the Gemeentemuseum.

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Easing onto Amsterdam

Getting around Amsterdam isn't difficult, but buying a multi-day pass took more effort than I expected. The main problem is that the U.S. does not use the chip-and-pin system for credit cards and Amstderdam has aggressively moved to automatic ticket machines. We ended up riding the tram for free to Centraal Station (the tram driver wouldn't take cash) where we finally found that the Western Union desk would sell us a card—but not the 4-day one like we wanted. Goodness knows she you can get those, if you cannot get them at the main station! We bought 3-day ones instead.

We then made the mistake of walking to the department store in the central, old part of Amsterdam. (I didn't realize that we could have taken the tram.) it wasn't far, but it was insanely crowded with tourists. It is THE tourist spot. Happily, none of them were shopping at the department store.

After that, we walked around the Jordaan and looked at lovely residential (and tourist) areas. It was time for dinner, so we ate at a sidewalk cafe and had a good meal with Amstel beer. And wonderful apple cake, which I forgot to photograph until we'd eaten half of it. Excuse the crumbs.

The tram system is great, but the spoke-like layout does have drawbacks. We ended up pretty far from any N-S lines, so it was faster to walk back to Centraal Station and catch our tram there. (We may have walked a little too much today.) I was even brave enough to ask the driver if she was going to Amstelkade—butchering the name as I did so (I made it rhyme with arcade). But she said "Oh, Amstel-kah-deh! Yes, I stop there." So we caught the right one.

Everyone speaks Dutch to us at first, which I find oddly reassuring but baffling; they quickly switch to English, however. Pronunciation is tricky; very similar to German, but often the G is soft and there is some back-of-the-throat manipulation I cannot mimic. And don't ask me to say Van Gogh.

Tomorrow it's museum day, and Wednesday we to go Den Haag (The Hague) for, you guessed it, more museums (Escher!). Then its more museums on Thursday. Somewhere in there we will eat rijstafel, take a canal tour, and visit the fabric sellers. And maybe more shopping. And cheese.

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