OK, seriously? I've posted all of twice this entire month when my goal is to post every 3 days? Definitely below par. Let's fix that, shall we?
Things on our escapee/transition vacation were progressing, as Mike and I could tell from our willingness to laugh at ourselves more than usual. Looking for a seat for us in a well-filled open air restaurant and bar in Amsterdam, carefully making his way through the patrons with their drinks, loud conversations and expressive gestures, Mike nearly ran into another man coming the opposite direction. Mike begged forgiveness and went one way, then the other, the other person mirroring his actions.
I had caught up behind him and was trying not to laugh too hard. Mike had apologised to his own reflection in a floor to ceiling mirror. I do believe the gentleman in the mirror was understanding. He was on vacation too, after all.
We can't leave Amsterdam quite yet without telling you about this: according to Mike, and I believe him, there are two places in Amsterdam one simply must go.
The first is the Rijksmuseum. Home to Rembrandts and Vermeers. My spousal unit is particularly enamoured with this enormous painting, the one you see when you first enter the museum:
It's called Militia Banquet and though we thought it was a Rembrandt, it turned out to be by a fellow named Bartholomeus van der Helst in the 1600's. For some reason, this painting is not as famous as similar paintings in the Rijksmuseum like Rembrandt's The Night Watch or Hals and Codde's The Meagre Company (below), but the details really sing to us. The expressions, the way your eye is directed, even the excellent sort of still life in the bottom lefthand corner, are all exquisite.
(Doesn't the main fellow, in the middle there, look an awful lot like Nicolas Cage?)
The museum is one of the best laid-out ones I have ever been in, nothing to detract from the paintings (except for the occasional similarity to quirky and very successful Hollywood actors) and, oh, thank you, thank you, thoughtful seating where one can rest, concealing jet lag as art appreciation.
The other place Mike felt was an absolute necessity was Anne Frank House. I am going to assume you know who she is, and what she came to represent for all of us, and especially Jewish and humanitarian history. I had re-read her diary, and been amazed anew at how wonderful and poignant it is. I expected to feel terribly sad at their hiding place, then...and I did. But there was something else I didn't expect. I came out of there feeling strangely hopeful.
The Secret Annex and museum at Anne Frank House has had more than a million visitors. Every time we went past there were lines around the corner of more people waiting patiently to enter. (I recommend buying your tickets ahead of time online.)
Mike was most moved by the marks on the walls measuring the children's' growth which suddenly stop, I wept quietly over the photographs of the smiling Anne, and her handwriting on pages of her diary beneath glass.
Anne's diary has been read by people from all over the world, more than 25 million copies have been sold and in nearly 60 languages.
Think of how many people that is, all thinking, even if only fleetingly, of a young girl, a girl whose life ended far, far too soon, and of the millions of others lost, like her. What Anne managed to accomplish through her honesty, depth and wisdom far beyond her 15 years, under circumstances unbearable for such a sensitive and free spirit, is nothing short of inspiring. So I leave you with a few of her words:
How wonderful to think that no one need wait a moment, we can start now, start slowly changing the world! How lovely that everyone, great and small, can make their contribution toward introducing justice straightaway... And you can always, always give something, even if it is only kindness!
Whoever is happy will make others happy too.
It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can't build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death.
...look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.
- Annelies Marie Frank
12 June 1929 - early March 1945