Muntorren (Mint Tower)
Duvven & Trekken (day 1).
Prinsengracht (day 2).
Koorbankjes (day 3).
My final day in Amsterdam. I woke up later than I'd hoped, and headed out in the cold - it got colder every day! - to the Nieuwe Kerk, the New Church, which had up a huge exhibition on Indonesia. The objects in the exhibition were stunning - statues from an ancient Buddhist temple, traditional clothing and jewelry, much of it made of gold, weapons, palace decorations, musical instruments, shadow puppets. Oddly, the objects were arranged by collector, and nearly all the context provided was about the men (and occasional woman) who had collected the objects, and under what circumstances. Not having a great deal of interest in the biographies of Dutch colonialists and explorers, I would have far preferred to read more about the objects themselves. The exhibit extolled the collectors' meticulous and faithful descriptions of Indonesian cultures, but included very little of this kind of description itself!
Finally, I took a canal tour, on which I learned that canal houses with shutters were warehouses, that the canal house roofs came in four shapes, including steps and bells, and saw Amsterdam's smallest canal house (only a meter wide!), two of the locks (or was it the same lock, twice?) opened to flush the water from the canals five times per week, the "dancing houses" - five canal houses leaning intimately (and perilously!) against each other - and the Muntorren, so-called because money was coined there in 1672. We passed beside houseboats - the city is not issuing any new tie-ups - and beneath bridges.
I hoped the tour would address my burning question: how often do people and/or cars fall into the canals, and what happens when they do? but it did not. I had to settle for a quick snapshot of this sinking rowboat; I like the little moments when reality breaks the veneer of charm. I like seeing someone's shoe fall off when they are bicycling, or a sleeve catch on a door handle, the look of surprise on a person's face, not to laugh at them but to laugh at life, at the familiarity of the moment.
One of the museums I visited, I believe it was the Rijksmuseum, noted that many Dutch painters, Vermeer in particular, included glimpses into other spaces - through windows or doorways - in their paintings. To me, it seems obvious: Amsterdam is a city of glimpses - down alleys, under arched bridges, through windows with shutters cast open, into tiny cabinet-beds - and of shafts of light angling through clouds. In the stairs in Het Rembrandthuis, I peered down through a small round window into one of the drawing rooms below. From here, the uppermost paintings were at eye-level.
And that's the end. When the canal tour finished, I'd hoped to go either to the Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum), or to the Heineken Experience. The Verzetsmuseum seemed too far off in the cold, dark late afternoon, and I got hopelessly lost on Jan Vermeerstraat and turned up at the Heineken Brewery just after it closed for the day. I spent the evening in a French restaurant, eating Swiss fondue, drinking red wine, and reading by candlelight.