Wednesday, June 09, 2010


I usually have trouble sleeping my second night of travels. The first night, I'm so exhausted I have no trouble, but last night, my brain was racing. After an hour of meditation I finally fell asleep, and didn't wake up until 9 am.

Annie was already getting breakfast ready. Andy left coffee for us and set up the toaster before he went to work, so we had melon and youghurt, while Annie had her rye pumperknickel baked nearly black.

We needed to return the bikes today, but it was raining and Cherie was still asleep so I wheeled the first one back in the rain. It wasn't raining too heavy and there were still children jumping rope in the square. All I could think was that in America, all their mothers would be screaming at them to get out of the rain, and how much healthier the parents were here. Then the skies opened up. I had an umbrella but was drenched by the time I got back for the other two bikes.

The rains lightened and Annie and started to walk, but then it nearly stopped so we quickly rode them to the bike place. Annie loves the bike culture here in Amsterdam, the children and the elderly, everyone bikes. Toddlers ride in a kind of wheelbarrow seat.

From there we headed to the Van Gogh museum. There were some amazing paintings, and Annie really liked the way his early work captures the Dutch light. We both thought the paintings at the Kroeller Mueller museum were better, though. Around 12:30 we got a text from Cherie about meeting us. We figured she would be late so we grabbed a quick bite in the museum cafe. By then we got a text that she didn't have any cash on her so could she take a taxi to us. We suggested meeting at the Central Station.

We found her by the canal cruises. She was hungry, but first we stopped so Annie could get some herring from a street vendor. Her mother had told her about them. We got a large Matjas herring with onions and sweet pickles. It was great. Then we went to a little cafe called Soup Kitchen, so Cherie could have some sweet potato soup.

By then it was 2:30 and they needed to be at the apartment by 4 to pack for our flight tonight to Berlin. Neither were in the mood for another museum, so I raced across town to the Hermitage. Along the way I stumbled through the red light district, the holocaust monument, and the city opera house. I finally found it.

The exhibit, from Matisee to Malevich was absolutely incredible. The opening room was dominated by Matisse's Harmony in Red. Absolutely intense and striking. They had terrific collections of fauves and cubists, like Derain and Picasso, and van Dongen. I really liked the latter's "Lady in a Black Hat," with her green shawl and intense eyes. But my absolute favorite were the Kandinskys, particularly the early fauvist, pre-abstract expressionist ones. Intense, sumptuous colors, that just seemed to pool and flow across the canvas. There was also an amazing self-portrait by Chaim Soutine. I looked at the dates of his life and saw that he died in 1943, so I assume he was killed in the Holocaust.

I only had a half an hour and then I raced back to the apartment. It's so humid now, so I'm dripping with sweat as I type this. Now to pack and take a taxi to Schipol for our flight to Berlin.

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