07 April 2008

oude zijde

this morning scott went to the diemen town hall, yet again, to get additional documentation required for a bank account and apparently for my resident's card. i have to admit that in semi-typical style, i got very frustrated at the clerk and blurted out "so what do you need, then!!!" scott gave me a look and i returned to the waiting area to get some coffee. government stuff is not easy in your own country, let alone in one that has seemingly endless red tape and speaks a different language. if only someone could just say "these are the things you need...so go get them." that i could do. it when we think we have everything we need, then the immigration attorney calls and says "just kidding you need this too." they are supposed to be the experts, so why didn't they know that in the first place?! anyway, then we went across the street to try and open a back account with a huge folder of documentation we had collected in olympia, salem, portland, den haag, and diemen. a "banker" took the file and made photo copies, but when he returned them he informed us that his colleague who could actually open an account for us was "busy." i'm not kidding. it was 9:15 am and he was too busy to take our money. poor scott held it together relatively well until we got outside. his works were, shall we say, colorful.

the morning did get better, however. much better. because i was up and wired from the coffee and the drama, i got on the train with scott and headed into amsterdam. on monday mornings there i remembered that there is a market held on monday mornings at (what i thought was...) nieuwmarkt. anyway, i said 'goodbye' to scott and was off. i didn't have a map so i went to one of the canal tour places to nab one, but they were all gone. there was a map of the city on the building so i figured out the general direction i needed to be going, which was through the red light district. i had promised scott that i would ot go through that area alone, but i figured he meant at night, and that a monday morning would be okay.

for the most part i was right. all of the red curtains were closed and the cobblestone streets were all but empty, save for a couple of middle aged men who really ought to know better! but all the pimps and sleaze-ies were still in bed, so at that time of the day it was as peaceful as it probably ever is. right around the corner ran into a church that appeared to be open...zuiderkerk. however, rather than a pulpit and pews inside the massive sactuary, there were huge models and displays of holland and amsterdam. there were two people working there, so i asked them, literally, what it was. well, it turned out that in 1988 the church was turned into a city planning information centre. he laughed and said that lots or tourists come in expecting the same thing i did! i looked around a bit more, bought a couple of postcards, used the bathroom (a huge find!), and was on my way.

i made it to where the market should have been, but was not. what i figured out later was that i was in completely the wrong area. the market i was looking for is near the jordaan, as is called nordermarkt, not nieumarkt. come on! but, i was pleased to find the waag, which is amsterdam's only remaining medieval gatehouse. apparently they used to do public hangings there! times have changed, though, as it is now a restraurant! it's probably for the best. ;-)

literally the next thing i new i was standing in front of the rembrandt huis. i went right in because one, it's not often that i find a museum so easily, and two, i had been wanting to see the current exhibit. it was pricey...10 euros, but it was literally two amazing exhibits in one massive old canal house. first, rembrandt eventually went bankrupt trying to pay for the house, which may give you an idea of how big it was. i lost count, but i believe it was at least 6 floors high. the place was really incredible, with it's narrow winding staircase that took you up each floor, to the 5 foot long bed chamber/closet that rembrandt slept in, to the massive collection of artworks hung in the entrance and his showroom. also, on one of the upper floors there was a etch-master demonstrating how rembrandt made his famous etchings. they had a large collection of them on display. i had not realized that they were created using metal and ink. the best room in the house, though, was the painter's studio. his easel was situated in the exact spot as it would have been in the 20 years that he lived there in the mid 1600s. the massive fireplaces on opposite sides of the room were all authentic as well.

besides just the rembrandt house, which was great in it self, there was a very prestigious exhibit of maria sibylla merian paintings, who lived the last part of her life, until her death in amsterdam. i have always loved botanicals, so i recognized her work from the posters i'd see around town. i have been a relatively large amount of art exhibits in the past, but this was like nothing i had seen before. as i found out, maria sibylla merian is who you think of when you think botanicals. she was a scientist and an artist and a success full businesswoman. she collected insects, butterflies, caterpillars, and more, and then illustrated them in prefect detail in thier various stages of development...every hair, every scale, every wing was so perfectly detailed they could have been photographs, not watercolours. she had two daughters, helen and johanna, whos works were also on display. incredible! the thing that was so amazing to me was that these works are over 300 years old and they were watercolour...they looked das if they could have been hot off the press!! another special fact was that many of the watercolours are owned by hm queen elizabeth ii, and have never been displayed in public before.

i spent well over two hours between touring rembrandt's house and gazing at maria sibylla merian's artwork. i'd say that's 10 euros well spent. actually 20, if you include the poster and postcards i bought...but who's counting!!! considering that when i got home i immediately started hunting online for reproductions of merian's work, and found that they started at around $1,000 each. maybe someday, but for today i'm thrilled with my poster and with the memory of actually seeing them in person.

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