Friday, June 27, 2014

Another four museum day: Friday 27th. 12,187 steps

The Chief of Operations drew up his plan for the day, and so after breakfast (coffee, bacon, refried potatoes and tomato) we set out. It was raining a bit, so we dithered about what coats to take. The new Irish Mackintosh? No, just the windcheaters. It was only a little rain, and the days are still warm. Our first museum was
1. The Hermitage. This is an outpost of the St. Petersburg Hermitage, in an enormous building on the Amstel. We didn't really know what to expect, but we enjoyed what we got. It was a sumptuous exhibition of the Silk Road, with artefacts found by several Russian archaeological expeditions. The display was really sensational, reminding us both of the exhibition on Alexander the Great we saw recently, and the Hidden Treasures of Afghanistan exhibition even more recently. There were beautiful wall paintings, silken clothes, glassware, silver and gold. All beautifully displayed. There was a bit of high tech with videos here and there, but not nearly the tech of some of the other museums we have seen.
The Hermitage had far and away the best shop of all so far. I note the proliferation of grown-up colouring books. There were scarves and cushion covers and cards and wrapping paper and pencils and calendars and notebooks and vases and jewellery and ceramics and kitchen gizmos. Michael couldn't resist a carrot sharpener. Yes, you read right. It looks like a great big pencil sharpener and it is designed to produce vegetable shavings.
Not far away was
2. Hortus Botanicus. The botanical gardens. An oasis in the city, these are said to be the oldest botanical gardens in the world. It was lovely to wander around and see plants familiar and unfamiliar. There was a Wollemi Pine. A huge Chinese Scholar tree. A redwood, the biggest ginkgo I have ever seen. A lovely butterfly house, and a huge greenhouse with both tropical and desert plants. This was a rare place - the plant names and descriptions were almost entirely in Latin and Dutch with hardly any English at all. Each day I wonder whether I can be bothered carrying my big heavy camera and today was a day I didn't. There are times when I am very happy with that decision and times when I wish I had it, but the iPhone takes serviceable snaps. And it takes great selfies, so here are some of those.
It was about lunchtime when we finished our circuit, so we opted to sit in the café and had some lunch. Julie will be pleased to note that I finished with a hot chocolate but didn't quite expect the cream turban!
And Michael didn't expect the thunder and rain:
After lunch we set out for what we thought would be a smallish museum,

3. The museum of Dutch Resistance. Among the other things we are not going to do is Anne Frank's house. Too sad. This was even sadder, and as we both agreed, morally exhausting. Story after story of experiences in the war, both in Holland and in Dutch East Indies. Question after question about whether it was better to collaborate, to accept events, or whether to resist. And how to resist effectively. Room after room of tragedy and violence, of lives torn apart. Most wrenching were the stories about Camp Vught and the deportation of the children. Look it up if you have the heart. We were utterly overwhelmed by it all. It is so real, seeing pictures of those times in streets we are walking today. There was an audio tour where you point your device at points on the displays and a wealth of information was poured out.
I wasn't sure I had the stamina for another museum but the Chief had the plan, and we kept to it. We reached the last museum for the day at 4pm. This was
4. Tropenmuseum. Wow. Enormous. Comprehensive. Fun. Lots of buttons to push and gizmos to try. This museum deals with Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Egypt and the Middle East, everywhere the Dutch traded. It is an absolute gem, well worth a visit. When we arrived at 4.00 we were warned by the very genial desk man that one hour would not be enough. He was right. We may have to go back tomorrow morning, as we only managed one floor out of the four. Loads of gizmos and fun interactive stuff. I love pattern, and there was a great screen which allowed you to create your own. Totally addictive. This is one of my triangular effort. See the highlighted triangle in the lower right? That's where you do your drawing and the system does the rest. I want an app that does this!
The interior of the Tropenmuseum
Weary of the museum shuffle after the doors closed at 5.00 we vowed to return in the morning. Chief of Operations is already Woking on The Plan.
On the way home we bought some supplies - apples, blueberries, chocolate, Dutch wafer biscuits. I suggested we stop in to one of the alluring cake shops in our street and Michael agreed with alacrity. He had cheesecake, I had apple pie and a cup of tea.
Later we walked down to the Suriname restaurant and got a takeaway. Our bones are creaking!

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