Sunday, 3 November 2013

A View from Abroad Continued

    Behind the scenes in the museums:        Amsterdam : Part Two..

                            the modern Van Gogh Museum just round the corner from my hotel

After a good walk around the little narrow streets and districts of the central canal ring, I  devoted a whole day to visit some museums. My bike ride two years ago was themed on art and artists, so I was relishing the prospect of taking a look at the Van Gogh Musuem and the Rijksmuseum, which holds Rembrandt's  The Night Watch painting.

                              the airy and modern interior of the Van Gogh Museum

Van Gogh's 'boy reaping'
                                                    Van Gogh's sketch book
After seeing Anne Frank's original diary in the museum, it was also moving to see Van Gogh's personal sketchbook which he took with him wherever he went.
                                                   resting in the museum
Van Goghs tubes of paints.

The introduction of tubes for paints made it easy for artists to paint outdoors, essential to the impressionists and artists like Van Gogh who wanted to capture light and movement. 
Van Gogh's bedroom in Arles: note the red blanket on the bed and see next photo 
a microscope photo showing the thick brushstrokes and newsprint left on paint after Van Gogh wrapped the painting in newsprint when transferring it.
microscope photo of Van Gogh painting showing particles of sand mixed in with the paint, proving he painted one of his pictures outdoors by the beach.
The Rijksmuseum :also just around the corner from my hotel
Studying Rembrandt
crowds gather to see Rembrandt's Night Watch
Rembrandt's The Night Watch
crowds kept back from the huge Night Watch painting
The crowds are kept back from the canvas as a few years ago, a person of unbalanced mind, slashed the painting with a knife in a few places. The painting was carefully restored and now the knife marks aren't visible

 In awe of the Night Watch
Rembrandtplein: The Night Watch in life size statues with Rembrandt's statue in the background
In amongst the life size statues of the Night Watch
Rembrandt's House
Rembrandt was a wealthy artist with commissions to do the Night Watch and others. However, he overspent and couldn't keep up payments on the house with it eventually being sold.
Rembrandt's studio on the second floor, where he painted many of his most well known paintings
More images of Amsterdam:
The streets of Amsterdam
Girls reading on steps of Amsterdam house, Prinsengracht
storm damage along the Amsterdam canals
more storm damage in Amsterdam centre
another tree down, luckily they all fell canal side and not on the houses
bridges over the canals
Amsterdam has it all.
the floating pagoda Chinese restaurant
old Dutch clogs
tulips from the canal side tulip market
the largest pancake I have ever seen covering
the dinner plate underneath
                               Heineken being distributed around the city

the delightful 'brown cafes' in the city (not to be confused with the seedier 'coffee shops' that sell hashish and cannabis and where people can openly smoke it)

plate display in city centre shop window

wooden Dutch clogs
more bikes
my last afternoon I spent in the delightful Vondel Park

And other things...
street musician in Covent Garden

Hedi and daughter Sabine enjoying the sights of London during their recent visit

On my first day back, I unpacked and then rushed out to the Cassiobury Park Firework event
dazzling fireworks in Cassiobury Park
amazed at the firework spectacle
more fireworks
keeping the wind at bay at the fireworks event
waiting for the fireworks display
A good few, hectic, wonderful weeks. Tomorrow - back to work
(c) Deborah Anne Brady. 2013

A View from Abroad

' I long to ride a bike, dance, whistle, look at the world, feel young and know that I'm free...'  (Anne Frank)

I've had a hectic few weeks;  a visit from my friends, Hedi and her daughter Sabine, followed by four days in Amsterdam. Having never been to Amsterdam I was looking forward to a four day break in my hectic schedule, but what a day to choose to travel! I'd already booked my train and ferry crossing  (I had been visiting my mother in Suffolk, so a quick shuttle to the port of Harwich was the chosen route) when the St Jude storm blew across the south and east coast of England.

My journey started precariously; all East Anglian trains had been cancelled that Monday morning so I had to drive the short distance to the port, still not sure if the ferry would sail. However, unlike other ferries, Stena Line sail in hurricanes but the captain with only a handful of passengers, decided it would be safer to set sail 45 minutes early. The gusts were so bad that the five walk-on passengers, including me, had to be bussed onto the ferry due to the instability of the foot tunnel in high winds. Three barges were the only support holding the gigantic ferry stable and stopping it from clattering into the harbour walls. However, something, maybe a crane, maybe a previous ferry, had damaged the holding pylon in the harbour. This is why I love to travel - the drama!

                           storm damage at Harwich harbour

We missed the worst of  the storm while out at sea as the crossing while rough, was nothing more than a very breezy and choppy swell. However, we caught up with it again when docking in Holland. The storm was now passing through their coast and had already hit Amsterdam causing some problems there resulting in the cancellation of trains to the city.

                           approaching the Hook of Holland

                           but the storm quickly closes in

I managed to get by train to Schiedam and had to take two slow trains to Leiden and The Hague before boarding a bus, laid on by the train companies, to Schiphol airport. However, even that wasn't without its problems. Due to arriving at The Hague, thousands of Dutch were also trying to get home from a hard days work and had been waiting hours to find out what when and where to finish their journey.

Every bus that arrived at the station was met with hoards of pushing, frustrated commuters and I was no exception. Every time I waited patiently for my turn at the front of the queue, the bus would be full and then the crowd would turn as one, and swarm towards the bus coming up behind, leaving me at the back of the queue and therefore missing that one as well. So when the fourth bus came along, I remembered my British manners and love of queuing, thought, 's..d this!', copied what everyone else did, engaged my elbows and like  Bodicea's spiked chariot and leaving a wake of  bruised masses behind me, my luggage catching their legs and ankles as I pushed, pulled, eventually struggled my way to the front. It worked! I climbed aboard with not one person moaning or swearing at me for doing it!

                           man waiting for the train

An hour later I arrived at Schiphol airport and without any regard for the expense, I hailed a taxi and arrived tired, relieved  and 40 Euros lighter at 10.30pm. I had been on the road since 6am in the morning!

My taxi driver had a sense of humour. My hotel was situated in the middle of one of the most exclusive shopping streets in Amsterdam, the Pieter Corneliuz Hoofstraat, full of Bond street style high end shops. An odd location for a budget hotel. My taxi driver pointed out with a sincere and jolly smile on his face, all the shops I could frequent during my stay. What I didn't tell him was that I didn't think my luncheon vouchers would stretch to Armarni, Tommy Hilfiger, Hugo Boss, Fermango and Cartier! Budget hotel it may have been but it was clean and comfortable and all I wanted was somewhere to put my head for four days.

Anne Frank House
I have always wanted to visit the Anne Frank House. I got up early the following day to beat the queues (the Anne Frank House and museum attracts over 1000 visitors a day and they queue all day) and at 9am experienced one of the most moving occasions of my life. The exhibition is over 5 floors and each floor  is accessed by the steepest stairs I've ever seen. Near vertical wooden stairs took me through the house and its empty rooms with only photographs on the walls, purposely furnished in the photos to show how they lived and worked. As you climbed the steep wooden stairs you eventually came up to the original bookcase and hidden annexe area where the families (8 people) had lived for two years.

                        263 Prinsengracht:  Anne Frank House  (centre)

Up until then it had been a museum but when entering the dimly lit, blacked out, narrow rooms where Anne and her family hid, the claustrophobic atmosphere caught up with you. The bedroom walls still had the original  pictures of magazine cut outs of famous stars that Anne had stuck on these dreary walls and to help her keep cheerful, was simply overwhelming. Anne was thirteen when they had to go into hiding and seeing the pencilled marks drawn on the wallpaper to indicate their growth in height during the time there, really hit home. It makes you realise that she was a teenage girl like all of us were and still going through the rights of passage and every day experiences that all teenagers have done, while suffering that impossible incarceration. And on top of this, the routine and discipline of not making a sound or moving around during the day time so as not to alert the warehouse workers below was unimaginable.

Anne died in a concentration camp three months short of her sixteenth birthday and one month before the liberation of Bergen -Belson concentration camp. She didn't live to become the journalist she wanted to be but her legacy lives on with her diary selling 35 million copies around the world.

Scenes of Amsterdam
Amsterdam building

I needed a contemplative break after the Anne Frank House. So I decided to walk around the city and canals soaking up the design and atmosphere of the canal network.

                              bikes and canals

                            bikes and canals

                           entrance door

                               the 'dancing houses' due to subsidence

                             Amsterdam street

                           Keizergraacht Canal

                                iron lift bridge on Prinsengracht canal

                           The best terraced café view in Amsterdam at the Café De Jaren
                                on the Prinsengracht canal

                            Bike and canal

                               ..and I thought Primark's clothe strewn floors were bad.
                          Flea market near Rembrandtplein

The weird and wonderful of Amsterdam

                                Picasso style post box on houseboat

                           sculptured cat on wall of Amsterdam house

                           One outlook

                               the latest designer shoe

                                blues brothers statues on roof of a blues club in Jordaan district

End of part one - due to the number of pictures, part two will be in a separate blog following this one.

(c) Deborah Anne Brady