Saturday, November 28, 2009

Amsterdam, the weather, biking

I've been out and about by bicycle all day again. I headed to the Anne Frank Museum first but when I spied the long line queued up to get in I went instead to Rembrandt's House, located in a fashionable part of the city then (as now), near De Waag, and about 3 or 4 miles off.

It wasn't a good day for biking. It was chilly and windy and every so often a rain squall would come along and drive big droplets of water onto the sidewalks. But people are always out riding. Young business execs, both male and female, dressed in fancy skirts, a good suit and raincoat, or maybe something leather, maybe holding an umbrella or a cell phone, but everyone you see is just biking along as though it were summer. I don't know why the bad weather isn't bumming me out but suspect it has to do with the fact that here in Amsterdam everyone's riding, all the time, no matter what the hour, no matter what the weather. You just get into a certain frame of mind from within which you can effectively ignore the rain, the wind, the chill, and just go with it.

Rembrandt's house dates from 1630 or so and as such is a an example to me of the way my Dutch ancestors might have lived if they had been wealthy. Here are a couple of photos of what's inside. This was an expensive house when it was built. Rembrandt apparently lost it in a bankruptcy when he was unable to make the payments. I show only the kitchen and a photo of his pigment mixing bench.

I did return to the Anne Frank house and looked with fascination at the place where 6 Jews hid from the Nazis for years. They were eventually reported and ended up in various concentration camps. Only Anne's father Walter survived the war. He discovered his daughter's diary and had it published in 1947. Another achingly sad  story from the WWII years. I don't have photos and for the most part, especially here, that's alright. The general rule in the Dutch museums and churches is that no photos an be taken. In France cameras amd photos are permitted as long as you use no flash. In Berlin, it varied depending on where you were.

Anyway, I got back here after a long ride, a ride in which my normally trusty GPS took me far out of my way to get to one of the big parks on the west side of the city. Every so often on the ride to the park when the rain would pick up in intensity, I would pull over to take shelter under an awning or some other overhang. I'd warm up for a while and then ride the next piece. I note that all the while I'm staying dry others are streaming by on their bicycles. So I take off and move to the next intersection, and the next one after that. Certain intersections by now are starting to look familiar. I'm recognizing where I've been before, and sometimes even where I'm going.

One of those spots I call The Lido, after a department store that's perched on the banks of the canal. It seems as though my travels inevitably take me though here and I'm always pleasantly surprised when  I recognize it as "The Lido" (It's actually the Leidesplein). The Rijksmuseum is a stone's throw away, the Paradiso and the American Hotel overlook the Singelgracht--to my mind the scene couldn't be more perfect as a representation of an exemplary metropolitan area. Knowing the Leidesplein neighborhood with its restaurants and museums is nearby makes me want to live right here someday in order to experience it fully.

And let me tell you, these Dutch girls are TALL. I swear most of them are at least 6 feet  and some are taller than that. I'll pull up at a signal and see a woman on a bike ahead of me. She is often young, maybe twenty, twenty-five at most, and she's usually tall, my height, and attractive. I'm not used to looking upward at a woman, but I don't find it uncomfortable at all. I wish I were 20 years younger because I would love to chase one of them for a while. It's not the first time I've wished for that, and it won't be the last.

I got a bit wet and a I got a bit chilled on my ride home but I did get back after a while. The Euphemia Hotel is very close to the Rijksmuseum. I recalled the rest of the route back from the Rijksmuseum to my hotel from memory . After stashing the bike I had a coffee in an tiny restaurant appropriately called "The Little Coffeehouse" right next to my hotel where I managed to get myself warmed up. The rain is, after all, just water. And here I am. All charged up and ready to go again tomorrow.