Today is our last full day in Amsterdam – tomorrow we will just have time for a quick walk then head to the airport to move on to the UK. Which means it is time to get in one or two more museums!
After a killer brunch at Dignita where I had the “Fluffy American style pancakes topped with almonds, decadent date ‘salted caramel ‘ mascarpone, brulèed banana, crumbled hokey pokey & pure maple syrup” it was time to walk off some of the calories with an hour hike to the National Maritime Museum (Het Scheepvaart Museum).
The museum is situated on a large canal that leads into the Ij river, and it also close to the NEMO Science Museum, which we did not visit, but which has a very interesting building design.
Located in the former Admiralty building, the museum consists of galleries on several levels on three sides of the courtyard, as well as some outdoor exhibits, most notably the East Indiaman ship Amsterdam seen in the above photo. The galleries have something for everyone from very young children’s interactive exhibits to galleries about life aboard ships, maps and atlases, maritime art, stories about those affected by massive social and economic changes during the Dutch Golden Age, and so on.
The Dutch were the some of the premiere map makers from the 15th century. At a time when there was no Google Maps nor could you just pop in to a library to consult an atlas or globe, this was proprietary and profitable information. The museum houses some extremely old, rare items. The late 15th century atlas above is opened to a “world map” that is notable for its lack of the Americas, which would show up in new atlases shortly afterwards.
Maritime trade, especially in spices and slaves is what enabled such a tiny country to become rich and powerful. The Dutch eventually organized their sea going operations into the Dutch East India Company, which mostly went to India and Asia trading in spices, ceramics, and other goods, and the Dutch West India Company, which mostly plied trade between Africa and the Caribbean, plying humans and sugar as just commodities.
The decorative parts from a number of old ships were on display, including some detailed woodwork. The prominence of chesty women, some in a state of dress that one would imagine was not commonly seen in polite company, was a little puzzling. I suppose this might partly be erotic entertainment for sailors confined to ships for months at a time, but how they might view such pieces installed on the ship’s bow is a mystery. The bust below was anatomically distorted enough that it made me think of two torpedoes in the process of being launched, but that technology wouldn’t emerge for a couple of centuries.
Our last museum in Amsterdam on this leg of the trip was Our Lord in the Attic Museum (Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer Op Solder). The Netherlands has been under the rule of the Catholic Spanish, but eventually became Protestant. In the late 16th century, under King William I, Prince of Orange (not to be confused with King William of Orange / King William the III, who was also King William the III of England) the Dutch became a Protestant state. Catholic churches were seized, divested of their contents devoted to Catholic rites, and turned into Dutch Reformed Churches. However, the Netherlands was a pretty tolerant state and realized that they benefited from the labor of non Protestants, such as Catholics and Jews. They were free to practice their religion, so long as they did it covertly.
A wealthy German trader bought three adjacent houses and setup a church on the top floors in 1663. There were quite a number of similar “house churches” at the time through Amsterdam where Catholics would pray. From the street there is no indication that the houses are anything other than normal Amsterdam canal front properties, but churchgoers would ascend the stairs past the home owner’s private spaces to reach a pretty remarkable compact church in the attic where they prayed. The priest lived on site in an apartment below the church.
Eventually the restrictions were relaxed and in the 19th Century, a large new Catholic Church, St. Nicholas was opened nearby, making Our Lord in the Attic redundant.
After leaving the museum we met up for coffee with Jacob, a former 4th grade student of my wife from Austin, who is now a PhD candidate at the Free University in Amsterdam and one of my son’s closest childhood friends. It was great to see him doing so well.
The restaurant had a couple of mice that kept darting out from the floorboards, clearly looking for scraps of food. Nobody seemed to pay them a blind bit of difference. I’m not sure if the staff are happy that they have less to sweep up at the end of the day, or if this is just so common no one turns an eye. Apparently though many restaurants and cafes have house cats. I think we might have just discovered why!
After getting back to the area by our hotel, we decided to go for Ethiopian food, which is a good choice for us given dietary restrictions. Normally we are lucky to fine one or two Ethiopian restaurants in a city, but there were about a half dozen of them in this area and we settled on dinner at Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant based off their Google reviews. The food was fine, but perhaps not quite as varied as we are used to.
Tomorrow we will have a quite day, just needing to get to the airport and fly on to Bristol and then head over to Cardiff to meet up with my family.