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Published: March 3rd 2018
While I shower, Sean steps out to buy pastries and hot chocolate for breakfast; then it's onto the Van Gogh Museum. The way they have displayed his art tells the chronological narrative of his life--from early studies of color and shadow; to study of the self ("the painted self portrait could reveal more of the man than where the machine--the camera--could ever go," he said). We learn how greens and oranges and blues up close create a peachy skin tone or ochre beard from afar; how letters from Vincent to his brother Theo reveal the thought he put into color and form; how his sorrow and self-consciousness over not being recognized for his work--selling only three paintings in his lifetime, ultimately wore him down; how after his first Sunflowers painting, he proclaimed himself the painter of sunflowers; how criticism and rejection--even by friends (e.g. Paul Gauguin), led to madness; how he cut off of his ear and presented it, wrapped up, to a prostitute; how he spent his time institutionalized, painting white blossoms against a pale blue sky; how his total despair led to his eventual suicide by gunshot. What a sad story of disappointment and longing for acceptance, offset by
bright artwork with warm oranges and blazing blues.
After Van Gogh, we lunch at Cafe Cobra. Me: quinoa salad and Sean: smoked chicken sandwich.
Then it's into the Rijksmuseum! A huge, Louvre-esque museum with model ships, imported blue porcelain (to inspire Delft blue), stemware, and best of all, the hall of the Dutch Masters. We see Rembrandt's hulking Night Watchmen at the end of the hall in its inky blackness, and his Merry Drinker, a kind faced self-portrait in his old age. I enjoy Vermeer's Milkmaid, a small but vibrant painting of humble peasant life. Largest and most imposing is the wall-sized Waterloo with tired but proud Wellington at center, and victorious English and Dutch soldiers.
After the Rijksmuseum, we rent two bikes from the hotel again and ride to the Brewhaus in the eastern part of the city--a brewery inside an original windmill. We share some meats and cheeses and drink some beers at the bartop, watching people come and go. It's lively and bright and a pleasant afternoon. Biking back to the hotel occurs, unfortunately, around rush hour and we find ourselves swept up in the current of biking Amsterdamers. Dozens of them! They listen
to music in their earbuds, pedal deliveries, ferry children, yak on cell phones--each eager to get home. Next to the bike lane is the tramline, and lane three is for cars, although scooters seem to go anywhere they Amsterdam-well like! One scooter with two unaware girls nudges my front bike tire in mid-intersection as I squeal in very real fear. Madness! Chaos! Mayhem! We are glad to arrive safely at the hotel again, unscathed. Dinner is at an Indonesian restaurant two blocks from the hotel. We drink more beer at the bar and dinner is served to us at the table: two plates with assorted bites atop rice or noodles: spicy green beans, bean sprouts, kebabbed beef, falafel, zucchini, other sauced meat, and a fried plantain. We are quickly full and glad for bed!
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