What Happened to Spring?

Published: May 9th 2014
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Well it's a very good thing I took my umbrella today because once again it rained although there was nothing on radar. Just as we were walking from the tram stop to the Portuguese Synagogue the skies opened and the rain poured down. It was also windy enough that I wondered if our umbrellas (yes, Willard brought his along too) would turn inside out, but they didn't and we made it inside relatively dry.

The synagogue is quite amazing, having been completed in 1675 and surviving so many potential disasters. It survived WWII despite all odds by convincing the Germans they would never be able to blackout all 72 large windows. Sadly, only a small portion of the 140,000 Jewish citizens returned to Amsterdam at the end of the war. Of those who did return, many chose to emigrate to the US, Israel, England and Australia. Those who did stay have been hard t work rebuilding a strong community--smaller but vocal and strong in their identification as Jews.

We left the synagogue, found a great pub for lunch; one of the perks of traveling by ourselves is that we are free to explore neighborhoods and find interesting places to eat. We double backed and spent some time in the Jewish Historical Museum, which I found kind of depressing because so much of what was there used to belong to families that had been wiped out. They had taken portions of old synagogues that no longer existed and brought the arks together to fashion building--the great synagogue and the "new" synagogue. It was quite ingenious and at least a lot was preserved, but it still seems sad.

When it finished raining (yep, again), we got on another tram (we are getting so good at this) and headed to the Van Gogh Museum. Here's the dirty little secret they don't tell you when you purchase your ticket in advance for a specific time: if there are too many people inside you will have to wait until someone leaves before you are permitted to enter. So, we arrived a few minutes before 4:00 expecting to go right in and found ourselves in this very long line.....hmm, I was wondering, what happens to all these people in the other line without tickets? Do they get to purchase tickets and then add to the confusion and delay us getting in? And, are there people who stand in line for hours who never get in? Sigh, I know, I'm on vacation, I should give it a rest.

We got in shortly after 4:00 and it was crazy crowded, so much worse than when Nathan and I came in December. What is going on? It's not summer, it's not spring break; people should be at home working and their kids should be in school. OK, enough......we made the best of all the people and really enjoyed the museum. I kept thinking back to yesterday's "art is therapy" and only went to paintings that spoke to me--still there was a lot to see. We took a break in the cafe over salad and pizza (yeah, what were we thinking to let Willard eat pizza, but it was so good.).

The museum is open on Friday nights until 10:00 p.m. When we left the line was still way down the street; it's amazing how Van Gogh still speaks to people.

The last event of the day was Shabbat services. This one was tricky--just finding the synagogue was a feat itself, but that's half the fun. We took two trams and a 15 minute walk, then we presented our passports to the guards who asked us a number of questions before deciding we were harmless and allowed us inside. Once inside (after a quick bathroom break) we went into the sanctuary where services had already begun. The man beside me pointed to a page, but it clearly was not the correct one. While I was trying to figure that out, a woman behind us showed me the correct page. I knew I could follow the Hebrew once I had the first prayer. So, the only thing we couldn't figure out completely was the sermon. We knew it was about a new theatrical production on Anne Frank that had the premier this week; we didn't know if it was favorable. No problem, my new friend behind me explained it all after services. We retraced our steps--15minute walk, two more trams (different ones this time) and back to our hotel.

I'm exhausted! I think bike riding will be a break from this. But speaking of bike riding, if you dare to walk in the bike lane they will run you over! I do hope it warms up a bit; I'm thinking I may go buy a warmer jacket tomorrow before we take off. Shabbat Shalom to those of you who observe; to everyone else, have a great weekend.


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