Thursday, August 31, 2023

Seeing a Once in a Lifetime Vermeer Exhibit


The Glass of Wine by Johannes Vermeer

The main reason I decided to visit Amsterdam was to see the historic Vermeer exhibit at the Rijksmuseum. With a ticket for 4:00 PM, I had a whole day to do some exploring. I headed back to the Museumplein to find a museum to visit.

My choice was the Modern Contemporary Museum (MOCO). MOCO explores works by artists who might be considered “non-traditional.” Street art, experimental art, pieces that might be ignored by more traditional museums. They house a wide variety of art in a relatively small space.

MOCO’s largest representation are pieces by Banksy, the edgy graffiti artist. His work always carries a not quite underlying political theme. 

Picasso by Banksy

Girl and Balloon by Banksy

Keep it Real - Monkey by Banksy

Angry Crows by Banksy

The Permanent collection also includes works by Warhol, Basquiat, Haring, The Kid and Yayoi Kusama, among others.

Flexible by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Untitled (Nuclear Television) by Kieth Haring

by Yayoi Kusama

by Yayoi Kusama

by Yayoi Kusama

I saw the Sun begin to Dim by The Kid

MOCO also had a special exhibit exploring NFTs. These are pieces of digital art that have no physical existence.


Hey by Beeple

For lunch, I stopped at Renzo’s Delicatessen, a couple of blocks from the park. They offer a wide variety of sandwiches along with hot and cold plates. You can buy food to take back to the park for a picnic, or sit down at one of the tables on their second floor or one of their outdoor tables to enjoy your lunch. After my meal, and spending some time in the park, enjoying a beautiful spring day, four o’clock finally approached and it was time to head for the Rijksmuseum. 

Johannes Vermeer (1632 - 1675) was a “classical” Dutch painter. He was active from 1653 until his death. His paintings offered a “slice of life”, exploring scenes of daily life among The Netherland’s merchant class. Vermeer is probably best known for “The Girl with a Pearl Earring”. In all, there are 37 works that have been attributed to him and this exhibit was special because the Rijksmuseum had brought together 28 of them, the largest collection ever put together for a single show.

Hetstraatje (Little Street)

View of Delft

 While Vermeer created a few street scenes, especially early in his career, he is best known for his works that take place in a single room, usually lit from the left. His subjects were usually women, either carrying out a specific task, or in conversation with a servant or a visitor.

The Milkmaid

Woman Writing a Letter with Her Maid

The Lacemaker

Detail of The Love Letter

One of Vermeer’s recurring elements was to have his subject doing something, but not looking at what they were busy with. He would present them in a moment of contemplation, looking out a window, off to side, or even directly at the viewer. 

The Glass of Wine

Mistress and Maid

Young Woman with a Lute

Girl Reading a letter by an Open Window

Vermeer was one of the first painters to use interior perspectives as naturally as he did. Some people have speculated that he used a camera obscura to help him capture his scenes. Whether he did no not, his painting are beautiful, and I am glad that I had a chance to see them.

Girl with a Pearl Neckless

Girl Interrupted at Her Music

Officer and Laughing Girl

Every once in a while a museum puts on a really special show. When that happens, try to take advantage of it and get there, even if you have to travel. It is worth the trip.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Windmills, Cheese and Clogs in The Nehterlands


Halfway through my one-week stay in Amsterdam, I decided to take a little road trip. I went to Viator, one of my favorite websites for finding tours when I am on vacation, and found a one-day bus tour of the area around Amsterdam. The tour promised windmills, cheese and clogs. So early in the morning (8:00 AM) I found myself near Central Station, boarding a bus with 40 or so half asleep people.


Our first stop was at Zaanse Schans -The Dutch Windmill Village. From 1964 through 1971, old buildings and windmills from the surrounding area were loaded on to trucks and relocated to the Zaanse Schans neighborhood Zaandam, about 20 km (12 miles) from Amsterdam. The buildings were turned into a historic park, where traditional skills and crafts are demonstrated, and souvenirs are sold.

The highlight of the park are the eight windmills that line the Zaan River. Fun note - You might have noticed that the town of Zaandam sits on the Zaan river. In fact it is at the site of a dam that was built across the river to control flooding, and allow for land reclamation. Every city or town in the Netherlands that ends in -dam is built at a similar spot; Amsterdam on the Amstel river, Edam on the E river, Rotterdam on the Rotte river, etc. Anyway, The Zaan river is now home to eight lovely windmills, which are open to the public to explore. These served several different roles historically, sawmills, oil mills and even a mustard mill.


Edam is a small town on the E (Ije) river. In 1230 CE a dam was built across the river at this spot. The presence of the dam required that goods being transported along the river had to be unloaded and shifted to a new boat. This allowed the town to levy a tax on all of the freight that passed through. 

Edam is best known for the cheese produced by local dairy farmers. From 1562 through1924 a weekly cheese market was held in town. Farmers would send their cheese by boat, to the town, where they would be unloaded and carried to the market on a cheese sledge. At the market, quality was judged and buyers and sellers would haggle, before coming upon a mutually accepted price. The merchants would then take the cheese, and store it for aging, until it reached the optimal taste.

Simonehoeve Cheese Making Kaserei

Our third stop was at one of the touristy places that can be found throughout this part of The Netherlands selling cheese and clogs. These shops can be really bad, so I was pleasantly surprised by Simonehoeve. The staff has their schtick down pat. It started with a talk given by a “farmers wife” about the process for making Edam cheese. She was very funny and informative. This was followed by a demonstration of modern clog making. The shop offered wide variety of clogs for sale, some very highly decorated, and in sizes from adult, to child, to key-chain size. There was also a great spread of cheeses to try in many flavors. My favorite was the truffle cheese.


After a very busy morning, it was time for lunch. We were taken to the waterfront of Volendam. Volendam sits on the shore of the Markermeer, a large fresh-water lake that was created as part of the Dutch land reclamation plan in the 1970s. A dam was built closing off the southern end of IJsselmeer, a large inlet of the North Sea. This left IJsselmeer as salt water, and allowed Markermeer to become fresh water. However, in the 1980s, it was decided that the cost of the land reclamation was too high, and so the lake was maintained as an ecological and recreational resource.

The dike in Volendam has been developed with many restaurants and tourist shops. I chose to eat at Lunchroom de Koe. Built in 1922, this restaurant is wood paneled, and, most importantly, serves an excellent chicken schnitzel, served with potatoes and salad.


Marken is a small fishing village on the Marker River. It is known for being one of the last bastions of traditional Dutch fishing culture. Its houses are built to survive the flooding that happened in the area, with brick/cement bases, and then wooden structures on top.

Finally, it was back to Amsterdam. Some of us opted for a canal boat tour, others took the ferry back to the center of the city. All of us had enjoyed our day in the country.