Amsterdam

We’ve been in Amsterdam two days, and will spend our third day in the country surrounding the city. The days have been long, hence my silence. Even now, I don’t have time to write a full post, so I’ll just give a few snapshots:

The heat wave we experienced throughout this trip followed us to Amsterdam. Apparently yesterday’s temperatures were in the 90s — it certainly felt that way. After two hit summer vacations (Mediterranean and Japan), I was hoping for some cooler climes. So it goes, I guess.

Today is the Gay Pride parade. Amsterdam is even more welcoming than San Francisco, with rainbow flags festooning everything. The city is packed, but the museums have been empty. My only bit of pique is that the rainbow image has been co-opted to become the symbol of a single special interest group. I think rainbows should belong to everyone.

The Rijksmuseum is a great museum — and well-organized too. While the Hermitage was a bit of a disappointment (too much shlock, which is unsurprising when you think about the kitschy palaces), the Rijksmuseum was just fine.

If you’re in Holland, visit the Rembrandt House, where you can see a meticulous recreation of his home in the building he occupied for almost 20 years after Saskia died.

Anne Frank’s house has become a thriving industry since I saw it in 1980. The remodel is splendid in that it channels traffic skillfully so that every visitor gets a chance to walk through the Secret Annex. (Buy tickets online if you go there. The crowds waiting to get in are horrific.) The museum around the house focuses in tightly on Ann, her family, and her friends. It makes the Holocaust very personal but, by doing so, fails utterly to educate people about the Holocaust or fascism.

At the end if the museum, there’s a room with very short videos, many of which are about special interest demands against a greater European culture that is not bowing to their dressing, immigration, or marriage requirements. The videos begin by focusing on a fictional young person with needs, and then, having personalized that need, gives a brief, shallow, fairly even-handed look at the issue, whether it’s veils in schools, forcing Christian civil servants to perform gay marriages, or allowing people to serve in the military while wearing religious garb.

Having started each video with the personalization, everyone knows what they’re supposed to think. None of the videos delves into the deeper issues. For example, are the veil-wearing girls embracing Dutch culture, or undermining it? (E.g., are they fifth columnists, like Maj. Hasan, or multicultural patriots?) If the veil is a symbol of religious faith, that’s one thing. If it represents the thin edge if the wedge for sharia, it’s another. By simplifying and personalizing the matter, the Anne Frank museum manages to say that a country’s desire to protect certain laudable institutions against a self-professed form of religious fascism is tantamount to Nazis killing Anne Frank.

I watched about ten or twelve videos, and the only nod to antisemitism was in the video about Holocaust Denial on YouTube.

I’m homesick. My idea of a good trip is about two weeks. Being gone for 27 days drains me. Even a good trip — and this was good — can go on too long.

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Comments

  1. Charles Martel says

    Book, I’ll be glad to have you back, too. Your sojourn this summer sounds too much like “If It’s Tuesday This Must Be Belgium.” I don’t care how catered you are aboard ship, schlepping around the North and Baltic seas for almost a month does not sound relaxing. Interesting, but not relaxing.
     
    I’m wondering if in the future your husband might not see his way to shorter, less expensive and exhausting trips. You can create whole vacation themes out of California alone, such as touring Southern California museums (the Gettys, the Norton Simon, the Huntington, MOCA, LACMA, yadda yadda). For a break, head down to San Diego and take in the splendors of the small museums and San Diego Zoo at Balboa Park, one of the best city parks in America.
     
    Or head out to the small seaside towns on the Central Coast—Pismo, Avila Beach, Morro Bay. The seafood is good and you can drive on the dunes at Pismo. (Give the fledglings a thrill!) Visit Hearst Castle at San Simeon, then head up Highway 1 through Big Sur. Do an overnight at the fabled Ventana resort than hit the great aquarium at Monterey Bay. None of this costs an arm and a leg in terms of money or time. You’re in almost constant Internet contact (well, don’t bet on Big Sur), and home is never more than four hours drive or a 60-minute flight away.
     
     

  2. Call me Lennie says

    We had the experience of bringing the heat we were trying to escape to our previous two vacation spots; one in New England, the other on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  In the case of the Outer Banks, we ran into a record breaking heat wave that caused my glasses to steam up the instant I stepped outside.
    So we did San Diego in July this time.  It never lets you down .. heat-wise, that is. 

  3. danal says

    I agree with you about the rainbow, and you are the first person I have heard articulate this.  I have no abjection to gay rights, but why did they have to appropriate the rainbow, and why did the rest of the world go along with it?

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