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More news from Amsterdam

09/03/2012

The academic year at the University of Amsterdam begins tomorrow, and I have the pre college jitters this evening.  Settling into my accommodation on Prinsengracht has been fun.  There was a thunderstorm on Thursday night, which my flatmate described as being “of biblical proportions.”  It certainly was impressive, and falling asleep with tremendous peals of thunder and flashing lightning was quite fun.  Friday night was our house warming for our residence, which was also very enjoyable.  The fellow residents are quite amiable, and are certainly a mixed bunch.  I ended up talking to Americans, Chinese, Brits and Spaniards.  

There is a large church almost opposite our residence called the Noordekerk, designed by Hendrik de Keyser.  He also designed the Westerkerk, further down the canal.  There is a Borenmarkt there every Saturday, selling wonderful bread, cheese, fruit and veg and other delicacies.  I naturally took the opportunity to stock up my fridge since I love really good bread and cheese.  

Since I only live about 200 metres from the Anne Frank House, I decided to go early on Saturday morning and miss the queue.  My Museumkaart came in handy, it gives me a years worth of museum visits for €50.  The tiny annexe where Anne Frank and her family lived for two years before being betrayed was really moving. The iconic photographs of Anne provide a close, individual scale to the enormous tragedy of the Shoah.  Her diary was rescued by two employees of her father, who was the only member of the family to survive the war.  He published it in 1947, and it has since been translated into sixty languages.  I would recommend that people wishing to visit the museum to visit early, or in the low season, as it does get very crowded.

I decided to visit a number of canal houses which have been turned into museums, which are an illuminating view into Amsterdam’s social history.  The Bijbelsmuseum is one, and has lovely views of the canal as well as a well preserved garden.  The Willet-Holthuysen museum is an absolute treasure, with fantastic rococo furniture and yet another glorious garden.  It was willed to the city by a childless widow, Sandra Wille- Holthuysen, in 1895.  Both of these are on Herengracht canal, and on my way back to my accommodation I passed another small museum which does not even appear in my Rough Guide.  It was the Museum Geelvinck Hinlopen Huis on Keizersgracht, and is really stunning.  The entrance is via the coach house and visitors walk through another magnificent garden to access what was the main residence.

All of these buildings date from the seventeenth century, what is known as The Golden Age of Holland, like many buildings in the city centre.  The Netherlands was more urbanised than any other European country at this time, with half of the population living in towns, according to J.L Price.  England’s population only reached a similar rate around three hundred years later.  Lacking natural resources, the Dutch worked hard and put intellectual resources into a trading empire.  This widespread trading network saw outposts established in New Amsterdam (now New York), Malacca in Malaysia, Indonesia, the Carribean, and of course, Cape Town.  This era is covered in one of my history course, which I am thoroughly looking forward to studying.

Many of my Dublin readers will be pleased to discover that there is a Unitarian fellowship in Amsterdam, but unfortunately they only meet once a month.  I attended the service this afternoon, which was thoroughly enjoyable.  It has a wide range of attendees from many countries and spiritual traditions.  Their website is as follows:  http://www.nuuf.nl/.

I wish you all an enjoyable week, and if not enjoyable then at least tolerable.  I hope you enjoy my photographs.

 

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