Greensboro. What a relief after everything. A quiet room in a Hampton Inn where the AC works pretty well and even if it's a little noisy, they provide quality earplugs. Gruhhhhhhhhh ....
24 hours. 3 planes. A quiet room with two beds. Woke up early - still on euro-time. Just spent an hour on the treadmill (No room is quieter than the gym in a Hampton in in the south.)
We were right in the tourist area and these weren’t the usual tourists. Many of them were kids looking for a good time, legal weed and the novelty of the red-light district. It draws a specific kind of person at a specific age looking for a specific kind of thing.
But there were highlights, yes there were highlights beyond that.
The Rijkmuseum – extraordinary building. See the old master. Learned a lot about the man. Rembrandt.
The Rembrandt house was much more our speed and size. Learning about his life – how he was successful early, and then sort of crashed and burned in middle age. His wife died. I could relate to that. Rembrandt ran out of money. I don’t think he ever recovered from his first wife dying. Like some of us creative types, maybe wasn’t interested in or great with money. He liked to collect interesting objects – curios brought back by sailors. Skulls and samarai helmets and shells and all manner of strange exotic creatures. The highlight was the young gentleman demonstrating how Rembrandt and the gang created pigments.
Ochre came from earth.
Black came from burnt bones.
White came from lead and the process was super toxic.
Red comes from bugs – in fact, they still use the same bugs to create red food dye! So gross. And the bugs need to be handpicked because when the females are scared they turn red and that’s when you kill them. Red #120 or something – something acid. Uck.
Anyway, you mix the pigment with linseed oil and that’s how you make oil paint. It’s incredible and mind blowing really that all of the shades
There was another room where a young woman walked us through the etching process – applying the ink, etc.
(I wonder if I will ever upload photos, or if I’ll just get sucked back into the drama. We will see.)
After the Rembrandt house we went to the Joods Museum, which was heart-wrenching. There were two Jewish Communities in Amsterdam and Holland, the Portuguese or Sephardic and the Ashakanzi, that were the more Germanic who spoke Yiddish – they each had their own communities and Synagogues. The narrative of the museum walks you through the Jewish experience, from being outcasts to fighting to participate into society to having their own community up until the Holocaust – out of 600,000 people, only 30,000 were left after the war. Those are the numbers. It was good to humanize the story behind the numbers and put faces.
I’m starting to lose my narrative of the trip, what happened when – Already! But we also went to a cool leftist bookstore that had books about the pre WWI period that I’m fascinated with – when labor and anarchists were actually on the verge of uniting the world’s workers – and we had a war that a) solidified the modern nation states, including the USSR, and effectively wiped the Hapsburgs off the map; and 2) Put the internal combustion engine to use in the form of the tank, etc. Created the machine first future.
Walking back from the Jewish Museum was hellish, despite the cute old architecture and picturesque canals. Unending times square, the dutch version.
How does one even keep up.
Amsterdam is as advertised.
Our rental on the top floor at 582 Kreizengracht is amazing. Right on the canal.
A lot of walking. After the 3 hour train ride.
Yesterday, we got a great lunch at Zero Zero - which was like Aliota, in Soho NYC, a Roma street sandwich place. The line was long and the people were tall. The average young woman in line at this place anyway was a statuesque 5'9". But what do you expect in a nation where I sit on the toilet and my feet don't reach the ground. Tracey had the pesto with mozzerella sandwich; I had the melanze and Ally had something different I forget. All of the sandwiches were on warm fresh foccaccia. The juice drinks were amazing as well - I bought two pear juices for Tracey and Ally. Conspicuously absent were chips, candies, etc – the sort of stuff they use to upsell you in the US.
After lunch we went came back and reoriented ourselves briefly and then went for coffee on the next street over at Bocca. High end archetypical 3rd wave coffee joint, the Amsterdam version. The coffee was excellent and the barista a true artist. Everyone takes their time, in conversation and in preparation of the coffees– I'll have to get a bag before we go home.
After that, more and more and walking and walking.
We walked through the Bloemenmarkt (I'll definitely have to get some bulbs before I head home.)
We walked through central Amsterdam and ended up at the Maritime Museum which was a relatively relaxed scene and answered many of the hanging questions about Dutch history. I was reminded that of course, South Africa was founded by the Dutch. Jakarta or Batavia was their Asian Capital. They discovered Australia and were in charge of Brazil for a time before the Portuguese threw them out. They were the merchant marine of the world with a navy to match for the 17th century – also, shamefully, were more than complicit in the slave trade.
Dinner - we had Pho at a homey Viet place. Nothing too stunning but easy.
After the Maritime museum we came back and chilled for all of 11 and 1/2 minutes, hit a meeting - our first of the trip - and then got a stroopwafel. Had to do it.
Slept great - ready for another fun day. With we were staying longer ... never want to go back to all the bs.
Ach! Can't believe it. I'd actually done 20 minutes of writing and every minute is so precious! But what does it matter, really. I won't read it - the point is that I did it and I can recapture it - and now I'm a little more awake.
Anyway, Ally, Tracey and I are on the train from Münster to Amsterdam. I know. "Where's Münster?" And that's just it. Yesterday we headed out from Berlin, headed for Amsterdam, and the winds and rain was so bad - I guess they even gave the storm a name, Polly, that all trains were cancelled in the Netherlands. So the day had started with no intention of every visiting Münster, not yesterday or really ever in my life. But it was quite a revelation.
So when the announcement came over the intercom on the train, Ally's ears perked up and the German gentleman sitting next to me in our first class compartment said "toll" sarcastically and translated for us. All of the trains would be stopping at the border at Bad Bentheim. The couple told us that Bad Bentheim was very small and they recommended that we stop at Münster. So I'm glad for that part of the recommendation - he even said there was a hotel across the street from the train station but Tracey got on the computer and search and did her thing - found restaurants, coffee and most wonderfully, I really nice hotel called Mövenpick to stay at.
So we disembarked at Münster and I was feeling unsettled but Ally didn't wanted to deal with the DB clerks about the train change on an empty stomach so we hopped the bus for one stop and wheeled our carry-ons for a block or two to an Indian restaurant called Indian Ocean. We were the first people there and they had set our a quite passable classic Indian lunch buffet. The whole scene was very homey and vegetarian friendly. I had cauliflower, a red curry with potatoes and a yellow dal plus we ordered garlic naan which was fresh and warm and drizzled with ghee and mango lassis. The waiter was a young man in his early twenties who spoke excellent English. He had a tattoo of a Sanskrit phrase on his neck and when I paid I asked him what it said. "Beyond the physical." I instinctively pranaamed and warmth and connection passed between us, I had touched something important to him; yoga without borders.
Tracey asked if we should get coffee first but I was feeling unsettled - "what are we doing here kids?" so we headed back to the train station to figure out the tickets. Ally did a heckuva job talking to the clerk, and got our tickets chanced to today without charge. I didn't want to be sitting at coffee later, unsettled, not knowing if we maybe could have caught a train today so I spoke up and asked "Eine Frage" -. Was so glad I did. Partially because I'm so self-conscious about such things but also because I didn't want to be thinking about it later. Like I said. The result was surprising/not surprising. He slowed down and showed me the only option - four different supposed transfers. It's my suspicion that people appreciate it when you make an effort. I've noticed when I ask "how do you say this ... in Dutch, or "auf Deutsch" people respond positively.
I also had fun telling the guard at the Maritime Museum that we were from New Jersey - you know, like the Sopranos. The guy then said "Steven Van Zandt is in that show" which it strikes me now is a Dutch name. Huh. Never know how your pop culture references are going to overlap with people from across the oceans. Walking to dinner with guys after a meeting in New Zealand and a guy points out the name of restaurant that reminds him of a Zappa song. At any rate.
We went to this place for coffee called Roestr that was beyond solid. After that, we caught a bus and it took us around a lake to a hotel where Tracey had booked a suite. The hotel was called Mövenpick and apparently it is a Suisse company? And it def had the Swiss attention to detail. And it all ended being exactly what Dr. Jung ordered. We got to chill out and go to the gym - did a couple km on the stairmaster and sweated out some toxic details. After taking a shower and watching some Deutsche Fernsehen w Ally - so gratifying that she can actually understand the conversation and commentary - she's definitely outstripped my knowledge, and thank God, since that's what she's doing in Germany.
After we chilled a bit we walked along the most idyllic street filled with bikes. You've never seen so many bikes! Apparently Muenster is the bike capitol of Germany. Maybe the world. there are 500,000 bikes in Muenster and only 300,000 inhabitants. My kind of place. So we walked along the lake and into the old town and ate at the best healthy restaurant ever -
Krawummel. I'll even throw a hotlink in here Krawummel.
Veggie burgers but with actually vegetables. I had a salad with sliced vege Gyro/doner on top. Was amazing. I'd eat like that 4 days a week if I could. Even the sodas are amazing. I had a rhubarb soda - that had actual fruit in it, and less sugar than a glass of orange juice. Their sodas are more like a Sprintzer - if I could drink sodas like that, I'd do it all the time.
After dinner we walked around town and found this old Gothic Cathedral that I think probably had bats to go along with the gargoyles in the Belfry. And ghosts. There were actually 3 cages attached to tower high above that the remains of three anabaptist rebels had been left in, sometime in the 1500's.
But well other than that, the town was absolutely idyllic. Felt like a movie set, Ally said more than once. Everyone riding bikes, everyone healthy and young. The trees, the lake.
And the perfect break between two tourist tramped huge wonderful urban centers.
Things are starting to look more industrial on our trip. We are getting closer to Amsterdam. This is going to be really fun.
Now we're in Amsterdam. The place we are staying is so amazing. The furnishings are like a modern art gallery. Top floor of a house overlooking a canal – the Kreizer-somting 582. (I can always remember numbers better than names.)