Haha, tough! Have a picture of the Night’s Watch by Rembrandt.
In case it escaped any of you, we had a fairly great weekend in Amsterdam.
The Romanov museum at the Hermitage exceeded all expectation first of all. No imperial Easter egg sadly, but plenty of other Faberge. I could have stared at it all day. To see the girls gowns, little Alexai’s sailor suit, love letters between Niki and Alix. It was just wonderful, and told a very human story. The technology they had used to stage the exhibition was perfect. They had built a boutique shopping arcade, where each shop window facade told a different story and really set the scene with the goods, politics, art, literature, fashion and music of the time.
There is a picnic hamper tea service, a gift from Queen Victoria, plus drawings and paintings done by the children when they used to holiday on the royal yacht. There was a portrait of The Tsar complete with bayonet holes that was hanging in the palace on the day of the revolution, and most astonishing of all a bayonet used by one of the hired militia to finish off the family’s botched execution. Unsurprisingly, a couple of tears were shed. Such history, such suffering, so many bad decisions. We could have saved them you know. George V denied them asylum. Makes you proud doesn’t it.
We ate, and we drank and we wandered. An evening canal boat tour where you could set the language to “freshwater pirate” was most amusing. Even if hubs didn’t realise it was for kids until a little late in proceedings….
Anne Frank’s house was also such a privilege. My hair stood on end from the minute I walked in. Before we entered the street, the clock from the church tower began to chime. The sun was out and I thought, this is the clock Anne used to hear as she lay in bed. She found it a very comforting noise, a connection to the outside world. I had to fight the tears back then so the waterproof mascara was a good call, I knew I was going to be a right mess. The first thing that strikes you is that they really were hiding right in plain sight. It’s a busy thoroughfare overlooking a busy canal off a bustling square, not some little back alley. The bookcase. You see the bookcase, encased in Perspex but the door was incredibly well hidden. If they weren’t betrayed how on earth did they find them? I find fascination in the most everyday historical objects. The handle on that bookcase, who and what had it seen? The kitchen tap in the communal living and cooking space. I looked in the bathroom mirror and thought about the faces that would have stared back. The photos pasted on Anne’s bedroom wallpaper of film stars like Shirley Temple and the young princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. Again, great use of technology and brilliant audio guide, the diary excerpts as read by a young girl added such context to where we were. To see passages I’m so familiar with written in Anne’s own hand was extraordinary, I’ll never forget it. For me the hardest thing to see is the photo of Otto Frank standing alone in the empty attic on the day the museum opened in 1960. That was it, I’d struggled to keep a lid on it throughout but that was me gone. The queue for the ladies toilet was an interesting one, a melancholy bunch, all in various stages of panda eye, from Burt Racoon to full on Gene Simmons. I had reached number 7 on this scale, attaining the level of drunk Courtney Love.
I signed the visitors book, then popped my sunglasses back on. Nobody needs to see this…
Then for some light relief, after some walking, beer, walking, beer, we did the Amsterdam dungeon, where I was accused of being a witch as I had been seen naked and “jiggling” in the moonlight trying to summon Beelzebub himself and I was to be burned! After the judge agreed to pardon me if I did more naked jiggling ( I jiggled but to the relief of the audience stayed firmly clothed) I had to go in a dark room all by myself and await my fate. Not keen I can tell you. All in all though it was more funny than scary and we all had a lot of fun as our little photo mementos show I think.
We had a wander round the red light district, it’s the law. Found it quite sad to be honest. Lots of vomit and stag dos, and we had a beer in a bar that had a really weird atmosphere, not a fan. Various ladies in varying degrees of undress, and drunken tourists antagonising a swan on the canal, you can imagine I was thrilled with that. Seen it, no desire to return.
After we said our goodbyes to Patrick & Helen on Sunday morning we hit the Rijksmuseum hard, which is why I’ve been boring the crap out of you with obscenely beautiful treasure for the past few days. I mean, the British Museum is wonderful but this place is like Indiana Jones storage locker, it has all of the shiny things. The Nights Watch is truly stunning. The light and shade and detail. Could stare at it for hours. Van Gogh’s self portrait, The Milkmaid by Vermeer. Wow. All in one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. You get complacent after your 4th hour though, oh, another 15th century miniature apothecary cabinet you say. My feet hurt. You need days in here, not enough time and my feet were once again the feet of Frodo Baggins. (Slightly less hairy).
And then it was over 😭
This week’s Sesame Street was brought to you by the words, kroketten and stroopwafel, and was sponsored by No 7’s waterproof mascara.