On Friday, we visited the Van Gogh museum right across from our hotel. The museum has the collection of Van Gogh's paintings and sketches that remained in the possession of Van Gogh's nephew, and includes some of the iconic images I associate with Van Gogh, one of his sunflower paintings, and the beautiful picture of his bedroom, with the violet walls and the big yellow bed. I was amazed to learn that Van Gogh painted most of the famous pictures we associate with him in a period of only two or three years, painting furiously, sometimes one painting a day. Especially moving are the paintings he created while hospitalized for his severe mental illness and depression.
After the museum tour, Larry and I headed out for a long walk through Amsterdam, following a route that connected various spots associated with Rembrandt. We had a list of our Dutch tour guide Marieke's favorite Amsterdam places, so we stopped for lunch at a little restaurant on the canal, walked for a couple of hours and then had dessert at her favorite apple pie place. It was a beautiful cool and sunny day, and the city is full of blossoming trees and beds of tulips. Amsterdam is very pretty, but especially in some neighborhoods, crowded and busy. There are a huge number of bicycles everywhere, with the riders every kind of person in every kind of dress, sometimes two to a bike. Not only are there tandem bicycles, but large group bicycles with beer kegs on tap, where groups of friends go pedaling and drinking down the street. Marieke says the person steering the vehicle is not supposed to drink, but nobody follows the rules.
Thursday evening we went to the Concertgebauw to hear the Netherlands Philharmonic play a program of American music, Rhapsody in Blue, Quiet City of Copland, American in Paris, John Adams The Chairman Dances. Great acoustics. Larry slept.
Saturday morning we went to the Rijksmuseum, which has just recently reopened after a more than ten year renovation, so naturally there are still huge crowds. We were able to buy a couple of tickets for the late Rembrandt exhibit, and got into the exhibit hall right after it opened, so at least for the first twenty minutes we had some of the rooms with thin crowds. These paintings are amazing, and I'm glad I saw the film of the exhibit at Santana Row a few weeks ago. After the special Rembrandt exhibit, we took a tour of other highlights of the museum, ending up at the famous Night Watch of Rembrandt's. In the afternoon, our group had a private canal tour (with champagne and Dutch cookies) and a visit to the Anne Frank house, where Anne and her family and four others hid for more than two years, before being betrayed and sent to the camps. Only Anne's father survived and eventually found Anne's diary left behind in the apartment where they had lived during the war.
Finally, we took a bus to board our barge. It's cozy, little rooms on the lower floor, a lounge and dining area on the upper floor, a staff of five to take care of the thirty or so of us. I am enjoying my fellow guests. As I type my blog this morning, Larry is having an animated conversation about the internet with a gentleman from Palo Alto who appears very interested!