Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Oldest Bell in Amsterdam

Saturday, August 22

Well our second day in Amsterdam started out no different than any other Saturday morning, slept a little late, had a little breakfast, and drank some coffee. No different than any other Saturday, except we were in Amsterdam! As we headed out for our first full day of vacation and seeing the sights, we could not help but stop and take pictures everywhere we went. It really is amazing that almost every street, every bridge, every canal has some attribute that makes you stop and say, "Wow!"

As we made our way through town, we crossed over the Amstel river, and found several row houses with picturesque vines and flowers adorning their facades. They don't have the big yards or flower gardens like we have back home, but it seems that everyone does a little something to liven up the brick and stone lining each side of the street.

Our first stop of the day was at the Rembrandthuis, the canal house where Rembrandt lived and worked as a painter, creating etchings, and teaching other artists. He was lucky, his work was popular while he was still alive, mostly because of his well-to-do wife's connections. Tragically, once she died, so did most of the interest in Rembrandt's work. He ended up going bankrupt, resulting in the seizure and sale of the house and all its furnishings.

The basement kitchen was something to behold. The water had to be pumped in by hand, and even then it wasn't safe to drink. Most people drank a weak form of beer that was safer to drink since the water was boiled in the brewing process. The fire in the hearth was never allowed to run out, and Rembrandt's house had one of the first stoves installed in the kitchen. It's amazing that in today's world of refrigerators, microwaves, and ovens that heat up at the push of a button, to remember that people used to cook everyday in such a kitchen.

The anteroom of the house was filled with paintings, a very large ornate cabinet, and a few pieces of delftware pottery. Turns out none of the paintings here were actually Rembrandt's, but from other artists of the time that he represented. Rembrandt was not only an artist, but an art dealer as well, and this room was used to greet his guests and display the artwork that was for sale. One of the other unique details of the room was the marble trim around the doors. Except, it isn't really marble at all, it is wood that has been painted to look like marble, one of the earliest faux finishes. It was so well done, it really had us fooled until it was pointed out to us in the tour. In the next room we also saw the box bed Rembrandt slept in. You may be wondering, why is it so small, and wouldn't that be uncomfortable? It seems that people at the time had a fear that if they slept on their backs, they might stop breathing and die in their sleep, so they slept semi-upright instead. It also had some faux finish touches as well, with the black sections painted to look like pieces of ebony that had been inlaid in the wood.

We next found ourselves walking into a demonstration of the etching process used to create the many etched printings that Rembrandt designed. A tool is used to engrave lines into a plate of copper, which is then covered in ink. As the plate and a piece of paper are run through a press, the ink is transferred to the paper, giving a mirror image of the engraving on the plate. Rembrandt created approximately 300 unique etching plates, one of which was displayed next to an original etching that was made from that plate. It was really amazing to such detailed depictions of people, nature, and different views of Amsterdam created by scratching lines on a piece of metal.

So what does one do after waking up, having breakfast, and touring a museum? Why you eat again, that's what! We found a great little sandwich shop down the road from the Rembrandthuis where everything was fresh and made from scratch. The wife was excited because her salami sandwich came with slices of hard-boiled egg. I was excited because I got a chocolate covered waffle for dessert!

Other than wandering the streets and peeking into different shops here and there, our last major excursion for the day was a trip to the Zuiderkerk. It was built in 1614 as Amsterdam's first Protestant church, and has one of the tallest and most amazing towers in Amsterdam. We read you could take a tour to the top of the tower, what we didn't realize was that we had to climb stairs the 200+ feet to the top of the tower! But it was well worth it, as the view from the top was spectacular. It was really one of the best ways to see all of Amsterdam on a nice sunny day. To top it all off, we each got to take turns ringing the largest bell in the church, which was also the oldest bell in Amsterdam.

We rounded out the day with dinner at a small Italian restaurant just down the street from our hotel, and were treated to not only a magnificent meal, but a wonderful view of the sunset at the opposite end of the canal. Really just a perfect end to a perfect day.

Tomorrow, the Anne Frank house and Pancakes!

1 comment:

  1. All very gorgeous Lauren! So glad you are having a great time!!