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My abject failu…

10/01/2012

My abject failure to post a text last week was due to an unfortunate cycling accident last Saturday.  I am still petrified of cycling Amsterdam’s busy streets, so I inevitably go to a park where there is no traffic.  What I was not counting on last week was a dog running in front of me, which saw me fall off my bike.  While this caused me (and the dog) no permanent damage, my hand was sprained, thus being unable to write.  It has also left me with a rather bruised face, so everyone has assumed (wrongly) that I had been in some kind of fight.

This week saw me visit some museums as well, in the interests of historical research.  It did become something of a social occasion as well, since the Tropenmuseum is directly opposite a brewery called Brouwerij t’Ij.  Students naturally gravitate towards alcohol, so persuading some friends to join in was no trouble at all.  I have to confess still becoming lost once in a while, and when asking for directions I asked how to find the zoo, which is nearby.  Upon hearing that we were actually looking for De Gooyer windmill, our Dutch guide replied, “Well that is not the zoo, even if it resembles one in the evening.”

With our directions to the brewery secured, we arrived in time for the tour.  The business was begun in 1985 by Kaspar Peterson, who was inspired by Belgian style beers.  The name comes from the IJ river in Amsterdam, because there is another brewery named after a river in the city; which is of course Amstel.  Brouwery t’Ij is still a microbrewery, although it has recently been bought from the original owner and capacity has been increased.  We did a tasting, and I have to say the beer is very nice indeed.  What I knew from visits to Belgian breweries, but what seemed particularly apt to mention in Amsterdam, is that beer contains an ingredient related to another item often consumed in this city.  Hops is a member of the cannabis family, and aside from the role it plays in giving beer it’s characteristically bitter taste, has been used as a preservative in beer for some centuries.  It is also used in sleeping tablets, as it has the natural effect of making one sleepy.

It was while walking across the river to the Tropenmuseum that I saw a brilliant Kodak moment, and unfortunately did not have the presence of mind to actually have my camera with me.  A small flock of geese were crossing the road as calm as you please. One could have been forgiven for thinking that they owned the place.  It is always at times like this that you don’t get a chance to take a photograph unfortunately.

The Tropenmuseum is a wonderful institution, housed in a scenic historical building, and is part of the Royal Tropical Institute.  It is primarily an ethnographic museum, and it deals with the effect of European colonisation of the tropics in Asia, Africa, the Americas and West Indies.  An interesting element to the museum is a socio political theme which shows how European and native beliefs have interacted since colonisation.  Interesting fusions of religious beliefs have occurred in countries such as Brazil, South Africa and the Caribbean as a result of missionary work and indigenous beliefs coming into contact with each other.  

Such fusions include Mexican celebrations of the Day of the Dead, which owes it’s origins to pre Christian times, but now includes Catholic elements.  The Shembe  Church in South Africa is an African church founded Isaiah Shembe and is a blend of Christian and Zulu beliefs.  It is amazing to think that I never knew that it existed until I came to Amsterdam and visited the Tropenmuseum.  The immense scale of displays and information can only be described as epic, and the museum is definitely worth a visit.

It has been a busy weekend, as I also managed to visit a museum called, Onse Lieve Heer op Solder.  This means “Our Lord in the Attic”, and it dates from the seventeenth century when practising Catholicism openly was proscribed.  The property was bought by a wealthy businessman called Jan Hartman, who also bought two adjacent properties on Heintjie Hoekssteeg and converted the attics of all three into a Catholic Church.  It is a very beautiful interior, as you will see from the photos, and the views from the windows are also amazing.  It did seem rather strange to find a church “hidden” amidst the red light district, but the apparent irony only added to the attraction of this museum.

I hope you enjoy my photos, and have a good week everyone.

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