A Soggy Sojourn


From Amsterdam in the rain

It is somewhat ironic that the finest old merchants houses in the very centre of Amsterdam now overlook tourism at its tackiest – especially at 0800 when the streets are  piled high with left over junk food from the night before. We were en route for the recently reopened Rijksmuseum , and determined to get there before the hordes , most of whom seemed to be eating enormous breakfasts in the really rather horrible bars and restaurants of the area round the station. Yet , veer off just a few streets to the West and Amsterdam reveals its other side –smart , cultured , sophisticated and friendly – so we thoroughly enjoyed our walk to be first at the museum gate.

Reader , we were far from first. 50% of the population of Japan had got there before us and flooded into the museum like a swarm of bees – or to be more precise , in the  random yet subtly organised movement  you might see in a  murmuration of starlings flying overhead their eventual roost. It was really very spooky ; they would wheel as one and flow over the floor to a Rembrandt , scattering all before them . At some undiscovered sign they would all approach one side of the painting , stand back and sigh, then minutely examine the other ,then raise their cameras in unison before turning en masse to devour a Vermeer.  I began to take notes for a paper entitled “Mass hysteria  and Loss  of Individuality induced by Dutch masters “ until I noticed they all had little earpieces , and slightly set back from the group was a Svengali like figure whispering into a microphone. All at once it stopped being spooky and was just irritating , until we realised they were all so short , even Lynda had an undisturbed view over their heads . Luckily , once clear of the central hall  and the really famous paintings , the crowds diminished somewhat and we were able to lose  ourselves to the serious business of seeing how it was to live in the Low Countries in the 16th and 17th centuries.  It was OK if you were a man it would seem – they looked as if they were having a fine old time , but it was about 1750 before you saw so much as a flicker of a smile on any women depicted therein.

After 4 hours we had covered less than a quarter of the place , but our eyes had glazed over , our feet hurt and our tummies were crying out for sustenance, so we fled. Its quite a jump from the seventeenth century to the 1970’s , but having filled our bellies we staggered randomly into a park and followed the masses ,all  pulled along by distant music  ( shades of the pied piper  – but wrong country!). The crowd led to an open air theatre surrounded by beer tents so we joined the rest of the 20 and 30 somethings (!) ,  dancing and jigging about to a band playing music from – you guessed it – the 70’s. By the time this came to an end we realised we had quite a long walk to get back to the boat – made all the longer by the fact that every street /canal has delightful cafes and bars to break the journey up into small pieces , so we got home pretty late!

Our feet still hurt the next day , so I was determined we would continue to explore by bike – it’s  what all the locals use – and what could be more pleasant than wheeling easily in and out of the canal side streets in the sunshine. Well , the one slight problem with this plan is that I had become too cocky about our weather predictions ,so  a small  low did a U turn and  parked above Amsterdam for a couple of days making it so soggy that it was difficult to distinguish which was road and which canal. The locals just carry on cycling , with an umbrella in one hand – and scarily , often talking into a mobile with the other! Undeterred we have thus spent two days soggily careering round the streets , usually totally lost ( maps turn to pulp in seconds!)and stopping every so often when the wet becomes too much ,to stock up on caffeine . Oh , and a cultural treat and meal out at the Bimhuis (a rather upmarket Jazz theatre) to hear a brilliant /thoroughly eccentric singer /pianist called Patricia Barber.

Yup , citys are fun , but rather hard on the wallet, feet and latterly bottoms ( hard saddles and cobbled streets) so its time to move on! Next stop the Ijselmeer – upwind in half a gale. Could be interesting!

One Comments

  1. And I thought we were having a tough time with the weather. Not sure what’s happening up there but we are beset with cold northerlies, some sun, and not much rain.
    People keep saying, it will improve the further south we go……………
    Keep smiling!
    M & L

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