Sunday, June 19, 2005

10 interesting things about Amsterdam

10. From the Anne Frank house which hid persecuted Jews to the Amstelkring Museum which hid an entire Catholic Church in an attic (when that faith was illegal), Amsterdam has an amazing history of hiding things. I assure you that the city no longer hides anything.

9. Marijuana is legal in the town where it doesn't need to be. Van Gogh and Rembrandt do the trick just fine.

8. Ironically, this city of prostitutes is also home to one of the greatest visual testimonies to marital fidelity that I'm aware of. Regarding this work of Rembrandt Vincent Van Gogh said, "Would you believe I would give anything to stand before that painting for a fortnight with only a dry crust of bread to sustain me?... Only Rembrandt knows compassion."

7. Amsterdam's Oude Kerk, a textbook victim of Protestant iconoclasm, is now in the heart of the Red Light district. So much for whitewashed walls adding to the spiritual vitality of a congregation. The Reformers were right about a lot, but not this.

6. Amsterdam seems transportationally challenged. Not only was there a country wide rail strike on my way there, but a two hour dead-stop delay in a windmill field on the way back. Even so, it beats American car payments.


5. Doing my bit to keep the not-so-smart American sterotype alive, when looking for the Rijks Museum I asked someone where the Reichstag was. They said it was quite a ways. This conversation of course took place in the English that everyone has learned to speak in Amsterdam. (Come to think of it, that may not be much of a compliment to the English speaking world.)

4. Van Gogh, I learned while looking at the best collection of his work in the world, said this:
"I exaggerate, I sometimes change a motif, but in the end I don't invent the whole painting, instead I find it ready made in nature, though I still have to extract it."
It's seems the best artists humble themselves before the beauty of nature and try to capture it, apprenticing themselves in a way to the Creator, rather than competing with him in narcissistic gestations of self-expression.

3. Another Vincent, the one from Pulp Fiction, was right as well: The Dutch put Mayonnaise on french fries... and it's actually quite good.

2. Haarlem is a gem. One can only take so much of the 'Dam, so the central Church and Frans Hals Museum in this more charming sister city are well worth 15 minute train trip.

1. Amsterdam is more fun with friends. It was good to hang with Lenlow, and for a little bit his colleague "Phuegoo," a Dutch Mash-Up artist whom I plan to listen to. In the meantime I recommend Lenlow's new stuff, especially his spin on the Cheers song.

Speaking of which, if there happens to be a "place where everybody knows your name," lets hope it's in not in Amsterdam.