We went to Amsterdam.
"Part of the ship, part of the crew"
- the vagabonds
Just kidding. Our first day in Amsterdam we visited the Anne Frank House in spite of the threat of anti-Jewish violence. Security was on high alert in the wake of several successful raids on suspected terrorist cells across Europe. We refused to let the terrorists win and visited the museum anyway. The small living quarters with blacked out windows imposed claustrophobia, even without imagining eight people sharing the rooms. Journal entries of Anne's dreams, from becoming a famous writer to just seeing the sun and breathing fresh air, punctuated the space. Interviews with Anne's father Otto and his employees who helped hide the family (filmed after the liberation) always elicited tears.
Whilst recovering from our tour outside the house, we were approached by an enthusiastic Canadian. He ensnared our attention with promises of a more personal boat tour of the canals. We agreed to go on the journey with him and a few other tourists.
The boat was awesome. Mulled wine and blankets kept us warm as we floated through the city. The sights we saw were the highlights of the event. He was a nice guy but his tour lacked the historical perspective we had come to expect from tours, spoiled by Sabela and Sandeman's city tours. The sights we saw included: leaning houses (a natural consequence of building cities on mud), luxurious houseboats, the Amstel river, a bunch of canals, the Red Light district, and the world's narrowest house.
For dinner our tour guide recommended Mooters, a famous Dutch restaurant dedicated to mothers, and told us a great joke. "What do you call two piers next to each other?" ... "Pair o' docks." Micah thought it was hilarious. Gonna remained impassive. Maria didn't like it very much.
On Saturday we took a day trip to Delft. We checked out the Old Kirk, which had some spectacular and confusing stained glass. Inside the church we stumbled upon the graves of Antony van Leeuwenhoek and Johannes Vermeer, as well as many other important Dutch folk.
Tucked away in Delft is a small but excellent museum honoring the spectacular works of Johannes Vermeer. While none of Vermeer's originals are housed there, the museum educated us on the world he grew up in and the world he influenced with his art.
Maria spotted a shop named "Cheese S'Mores!" (Also known as Cheese and More). We were tempted inside by the many golden rounds of cheese. Unable to resist, we purchased a lot of cheese and a collection of designer mustards, as well as the world's most perfect cheese knife. Triumphant, we escaped with our food purchases into the night. We promptly detoured to an Italian restaurant in the heart of Delft. Our hearts yearned for the Italian countryside full of seafood and cheese and vineyards and friendly Italian people who haven't seen a clock in ten years. Despite these seductions we stayed the course.
Back in Amsterdam the next day we went to church. The service was entirely in Dutch, but fortunately, as it was a Catholic service, we knew all the cues.
For our last afternoon in Amsterdam we toured both the RIJKS museum and the Van Gogh museum. At the RIJKS we saw Rembrandt - the original night watch and his self portrait as a young man, Vermeer - the milkmaid, the love letter, and the city street, Monet, and Waterloo. The Van Gogh museum led us on a journey through the old master's life. We watched his painting style develop through his life in the context of many difficult life events. We saw Potato Eaters, Sunflowers, Wheat Fields, Almond Blossoms, and dozens of other paintings, both by Van Gogh and the painters who inspired him.
Amsterdam charmed us into staying a day beyond what our original plan called for. We were entranced by the city and would definitely visit again.
"Part of the ship, part of the crew."
- Giana and Micah