The Rest Of Amsterdam

To be done with my Holland vacations – the last bits and pieces of my stay there.


There was one more museum which we visited – the Rembrandt House. There are not that many Rembrandt’ paintings there, but to see the place where he lived and created his art was exciting. That was one of many times when I thought about me as a 14-year old studying Rembrandt in the Hermitage museum in then Leningrad. He is one of my most favorite artists, and I was thinking, that back then, forty-two years ago I won’t believe if anybody would tell me I will be walking these rooms.

The kitchen
The room where Rembrandt would meet with his patrons
The workshop
A part of Rembrandt’s art collection

A couple of words about the conference: the venue was the old Amsterdam stock exchange, and I can’t recall ever being present at the scientific conference in the building that old!

I didn’t even plan to go there, but then came this early breakfast problem and the fact that I didn’t want to deprive Boris of his morning meetings. So I’ve accompanied Boris there on Sunday morning. And a couple of people said hi, and I replied – I am actually not here! And Boris said something to the effect whether I could stop explaining everybody, that I am not participating.

Then I went to a couple of keynotes – I was already there anyway! And then I saw C. Mohan, and for those who know him, it’s not a surprise that I’ve got a picture with him!

And then I’ve asked a couple of questions to the speakers. And I talked to several people. Later I thought that giving all my this year’s circumstances and the fact that I am unlikely to go to any other conferences till the end of the year, I could very well register and leave not on the 3rd, but on the 4th of July… whatever 🙂

Here are my last Amsterdam pictures – a beautiful afternoon in a beautiful city.

Next the morning I took a train to the airport, and before that, we had the nicest breakfast ever!

And Then There Were Dunes!

On my last full day in Amsterdam, the SIGMOD conference was already in full action, Boris was busy, and I was still trying to be on vacation and not to attend the conference :). I didn’t succeed entirely, but at this point, I was going to make it happen.

That’s why my Tuesday morning was reserved for meeting in person with the friend whom I only knew online before that. Slava asked me whether I’ve seen the sea in Holland yet, and I’ve replied – no. She said: well, then that’s what we are doing! We are going to the Dunes!

“Dunes” is a magical work for anybody living around lake Michigan (maybe that’s true for other Great Lakes as well, but I can only speak about ours). I might write a post about Indiana Dunes National park at some point, to tell you how awesome the Dunes are, but for now, trust me!

I was thrilled to learn that there are Dunes in North Holland, too. And that the Dunes over there are also considered a National Park. It was a weekday morning and quite a windy one, so there were very few people on the beach, but everything looked gorgeous!

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Resistance Museum Without Pictures

This post will have no pictures. I didn’t take any pictures in this museum, mostly because we were short on time. We wanted to visit this museum very much – we’ve read a lot about the Dutch Resistance. Even when we were visiting other museums in Amsterdam, such as Stedelijk, there were multiple mentions of how people, artists, and curators, in particular, felt compelled to aid the Resistance, and how vital the Resistance was for cultural and national preservation.

The location of the Resistance Museum is not a very central one, so it required some planning, especially because the conference had started already, but we made it. By that time, after being in Amsterdam for a couple of days, we’ve already realized how useful their museum audioguides are. They are way more convenient than the ones we have in the States, at least here in Chicago.

When we visited Brussels several years ago, we ended up being very disappointed in the Magritte Museum – there were not that many of his paintings there (then-recent Art Institute exhibit had more!) and we could not read any of his letters and diaries, which were on display in abundance. We were a little bit concerned that something like this will happen in the Resistance Museum, but the audioguides helped a lot!

That’s another reason I didn’t take any pictures inside this museum – obviously, all explanations are in Dutch, and the exhibit is mostly useless without them. I’ve learned a lot about how life in the Netherlands was unfolding during WWII. It turned out I didn’t know a lot, including brutal hunger towards the end of the war.

That won’t be the first time that I am realizing how little did I know about WWII before I came to the US. My knowledge about the events of WWII was very obscure. The way World War II history was taught at school would give you the impression that even though there was something else going on, the most significant part of it was the Great Patriotic War. When I first rented a set of DVDs about WWII in our local library was the first time I’ve realized that WWII was a WORLD war and that so many countries have participated. It was a shock for me that the USSR was mentioned on less than half of these DVDs.

Since that time the more I travel the world, the more I learn about different countries’ history, this realization becomes deeper. In this sense, the Resistance Museum was a great history lesson, and also an outstanding ethical experience. The museum is organized in such a way, that the visitors are presented with the questions the war-time Dutch citizen had to answer: should I cooperate or disobey? Should I fly or stay? Should I hide or should I protest? I could not even imagine one could build the whole museum based on these ethical choices.

And one more thought. I agree with my friend, who was saying that the visit to this museum and her subsequent research made her realize that the Soviet Union was the only country under German occupation which did not have a resistance movement. The “partisans” were organized and controlled by the communist party, or the communist party would acquire a leadership over a spontaneously organized group. Also, the focus of the “partisans” activity was on blowing bridges and military echelons, not on saving people, as it was with the Resistance in other countries. Sadly, I have to admit, that by the time the war broke out, the idea of resisting any authorities was wiped entirely off people’s minds and was not considered even a remote possibility.

Amsterdam Day 4 – The Church Of Our Lord In The Attic

This attraction was not recommended by the app originally, but my local friend told me, that this is one thing she would strongly recommend to see.

Fortunately, it appeared to be super-close to the conference venue, and even though the conference has started already, I’ve asked Boris to find a session he can skip, and we went to see the church.

What is this church anyway? It was one of the many underground (although we should probably say – upground) Catholic churches which existed in Amsterdam at the time the Catholic churches were outlawed.

The building does not look like a church at all:

You might wonder, was it really possible that such a large institution would remain unnoticed and undiscovered. The audioguide says that it’s not like nobody knew what was going on – you just had to bribe the right person 🙂

I’ve made tons of pictures in this church, however, when I’ve started to go over them, I’ve realized that due to the size of the space most of the pictures do not give the right impression – they show only small fragments of the beauty!

Actually, it is one of the oldest museums in Amsterdam – the church was operating will 1887, and was reopened as a museum in 1888! It consists of three houses adjacent to each other, and the church itself occupies the two upper floors of all three buildings combined (if you understand, what I am trying to say :))

Everything starts from the kitchen
All these plates, and pots, and other things were excavated at this site
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One Funny Thing Happened During The Cruise

There was a big group of Japanese tourists on the same boat, and they took the task of taking pictures very seriously. They were way more organized than us, so while several of them were standing on the stern and taking photographs, the messenger from the inside was periodically popping out and alerting them about upcoming attractions. It turned out; you do not need to understand the language to figure out that something is coming up.

Later I’ve returned to the cabin. At that time we were passing the habituated boats, where people live permanently, and some of them had hose plans in the pots displayed on the decks. It was hilarious that one of the ladies started to point at these plants: bonsai! Bonsai! I can’t tell for sure what her neighbor was replying to her, but looked like she was saying something to the effect: you are out of your mind! What kind of bonsai it could be?! But the first lady did not seem to be convinced :).

Amsterdam Day 3 – A Canal Cruise

Several people have asked me, both in writing and in person, how did I manage to take pictures of Amsterdam with almost no people at sight. Especially because I’ve been saying that there are too many tourists.

Indeed, the city seems to be very crowded in the middle of summer. And in spite of the whole army of garbage tracks and janitors on the streets every morning, the city center only remains relatively clean for a couple of hours.

Yes, I could take tons of pictures of the garbage everywhere on the streets, of thousands and thousands of people in the city center, who make the said streets very difficult to walk on. But I didn’t see any point in it.

When we were walking down the streets of Amsterdam, I was trying to imagine how they looked at the time when young Peter the Great was visiting the city. For a person born in Saint Petersburg, visiting Amsterdam is like visiting living far-away grandparents and searching for your roots. You can’t stop from metally comparing the sights, the bridges, the overall feeling of the city. You can’t stop recalling the “new Holland” island in Saint Petersburg, and canals around it, which look exactly like in Amsterdam.

So yes, I was trying to capture even the most touristy places in a non- tourist mode.

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A Glimpse Of The Hague

The promise of the Hague in the name of this tour was misleading :). When I was visiting the Hague on my own, I saw the old palace, and the Art Museum, and the Escher museum. And it was great. I was hoping that we will have at least the palace and the Art Museum, but there were no stops except the International Court of Justice.

A whole hour was dedicated to the Madurodam, a park with the scale model of Holland. All the models were just exquisite, but you need to know the real places and monuments to appreciate the likeness and details truly. Besides, since we’ve arrived pretty late, close to 7 PM, when all the interactive activities were about to close. I do not regret us visiting the place, but perhaps time would be spent more productively otherwise.

A Half-Day Trip to Delft And The Hague

The Netherlands is not a very large country, and when you are in Amsterdam, it is easy to travel to multiple other places in the country for a day trip, or even just a half-day tour.

During my previous visit, I took a train to Rotterdam and the Hague and although initially, I could not believe my host that I can do both in one day, it appeared to be entirely possible.

This time I’ve opted for the organized tour. First, I was trying to book a tour to Delft, Rotterdam and the Hague, but unfortunately, it is only offered three times a week, and these specific days didn’t work for us.

A half-day tour to Delft and the Hague turned to be available every day, and I’ve booked it for the afternoon of our Day Two. This was the right decision because everything was organized just perfectly, and we didn’t need to find our ways and coordinate the tour time.

The buses depart from the Central Railway station from the upper level:

The bust brought us straight to the entrance of the famous Delft Porcelain Factory, and we got out and started the tour right away.

I like our tour guide a lot; she was very passionate about the history of the factory, and the porcelain in general; and was not a kind of tour guide who is bored to repeat the same text twenty times a day. She was really engaged.

How To Distinguish The Hand -Painted Delft Porcelain

The view from the factory window:

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Amsterdam Day 2 – More Museums

Previous (and the only time) I’ve been to Amsterdam, I’ve only been to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, and the Holland Pass listed several dozen. Since I didn’t know much about either of them, I left it to the app to choose. In the end, we did everything, except for one – the Anne Frank House.

For this latter one when I’ve started to explore my options about three weeks before our vacation, I’ve found out that it’s already too late to book advanced tickets, and my only option is to catch the “same day” tickets at 9 AM whatever day is it. We tried to stay in the virtual line on Saturday morning (our Day Two), but when it was our turn, the available times were only late in the afternoon, and we already had a trip to Delft booked for that time. I’ve tried one more time on Sunday morning and reached my turn quite fast, but whenever I was trying to book tickets for available slots, it would tell me – sorry, there are no more tickets … I could not continue these experiments, as for the next two days Boris was already at the conference, at least for a part of the day, so there was no Anne Frank for us this time.

We’ve been to Van Loon House Museum, and this was quite interesting. Willem Van Loom was a co-founder of Dutch East India Company at the very beginning of the seventeenth century, and since then the history of the family was closely intertwined with the history of Amsterdam.

The house was built in 1672, but the interior was completely redone in the middle of the 18th century in a more popular Loui XV style.

This was the first house we saw on this trip, and later we saw the similar features in the other homes. Many of them look very much like the palaces in Saint Petersburg, where we both are from. No wonder, since Holland was a model for life transformation in the18th century Russia. But what I really liked in all of these museums was the fact that the living spaces on exhibit were not separated from the visitors by ropes, you could actually walk around each and single room and take a close look at all of the objects on display.

The Staircase
The Hallway
The Dining Room
Continue reading “Amsterdam Day 2 – More Museums”