Monday, April 21, 2014

Amsterdam City Fun

On our last day before the Davidsons headed off to Berlin, Matt and I let the kids sleep in a bit and went to the BEST bakery for some freshly baked breads, etc. for breakfast.  We rallied the troops, picked up some other snack/lunch provisions for later.  We all met at the Van Gogh Museum, where Karie had made an advance reservation, so we avoided waiting on a huge line (and I think tickets for that day were already sold out anyway. . .)   Like, the Picasso Museum in Paris, it is cool to visit a place that really takes you through the entire life and work of one artist (even if Van Gogh’s life was a lot shorter than Picasso’s).  I was surprised how much darker the paintings at the start of Van Gogh’s career compared to later.  (You could not photograph the paintings, but here’s a link.)  I also remembered (from the exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art) the influence of Japanese art on Van Gogh, and that was evident here.  On the first floor of the museum, they have Van Gogh’s paintings next to those of his fellow artists from Paris, and it was interesting to see how the impressionists of that time had such an impact on each other.

Diary of Anne Frank in dozens of languages

After the museum, we headed over to the Vondelpark (Amsterdam’s “Central Park”) and basically just sat in the sun for a couple hours.  There were several young women celebrating their bachelorette parties there, which involves dressing up the bride to be in an embarrassing outfit and making her try to sell useless products from the dollar store to people in the park.  We purchased some junk.   Before the evening visit to the Anne Frank House (which I had pre-ordered, so again, no lines!), we popped into the very chic Dylan Hotel for drinks in the lobby bar.  Then Andy found us a great Dutch pub for dinner.  
Even at night, the Anne Frank House was crowded, as we moved through the story of the Frank family going into hiding, their life in the Secret Annex of Otto Frank’s business, and their arrest and sad fate.   But the visit is very well organized and moving.  What I found most interesting was how much Otto’s non-Jewish co-workers did to hide the Frank Family and four others over a long period of time.  Over the last few days I was also reading stories of other Dutch children who went into hiding (but survived), and though their stories were harrowing, we learned that those who went into hiding had SO much better chance of survival.  It is a shame that Anne and her sister died of illness so close to liberation or they really might have made it through the war.
After some late evening apple pie at Winkel, we bid the Davidsons a very fond farewell.  Time passed so quickly with them, and I’m pretty sure it will feel like no time until they are back in NYC.

On our “Goldsteins are Alone” day, we woke up a bit earlier so we could all go back to the best breakfast EVER.  Since our 72 hour transit passes were expired, we walked all over, which was nice on a beautiful sunny day.  We started at an awesome interactive science museum (like the Queens Hall of Science or Philly’s Franklin Institute), with fun stuff to do on every floor and a sunny rooftop terrace. 

Next we headed to the old Jewish neighborhood, where the Portuguese-Israeli Synagogue looked beautiful from the outside, but was closed for Passover.  We went to the Resistance Museum, and learned more about how Dutch people had to make the choice to go along with the German occupation, collaborate, or actively resist.  The Dutch did lead a national strike when Jews started to be deported, and it seems most generally wished the Germans ill or actively tried to protest in some way.  Still, 78% of Amsterdam’s Jewish population was killed after being deported.  The Hollandsche Schouwburg  was a large theater built in the late 1800s, that eventually became a Jewish theater under German restrictions and then the center of the German deportations.  Today, though the outer walls remain, instead of the theater, the stage and seating area are an open air memorial.    

 After all the sightseeing, we again took a rest in a little outdoor square and then walked over to the Eastern Docklands (reminded us of “Battery Park City meets Williamsburg”) to dinner outside of a cool Spanish restaurant called Mercat.  They made a great paella with the nice crusty bottom.  We walked back to the center of Amsterdam for a ride on the big ferris wheel set up for the holidays and once back to the apartment, Matt and I got our last Dutch beer in a little pub near our place.   A good ending to a GREAT week.

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