Friday, July 1, 2016

Amsterdam Cools Us Off

Amsterdam Here We Are!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Up at dawn to say good bye to Prague and to head to the airport for the one and a half hour flight over to Amsterdam which we think will be about 20 degrees cooler than the very hot weather we have had in the Balkans and Prague.  

As we arrived in Amsterdam, the sun parted as the weather warmed a bit. Our hotel was not ready so we jumped a tram and headed toward the train station to  do a city tour by boat. As we were recently here we were looking for things we have not done and found that the Rijksmuseum has a special Rembrandt exhibit. 

In 1632 Rembrandt painted the standing full body portrait of Marten Soolmans and his wife Oopjen Coppit (the only full bodied portraits he ever painted). These two paintings have never been shown together. The last time they were seen even separately was in 1956. In October the paintings will be removed for restoration.

We stood in line for over an hour winding with a mass crowd to have the opportunity see the two paintings. Marvelous.

The rain came in buckets, the sliding windows of the boat did not work. We kept our tickets and plan to redo without getting wet. Amsterdam continues to be a rowdy busy place full of youth and folly. The bicycle lanes caused us often to jump out of the way, the motorbikes and bicycles have their own lanes and pay no attention to walkers...they just bob around them...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

City Tour by bus with narration in three languages.  We enjoyed seeing the countryside, though the guide said we were still in the 'city.'  Of course we saw a windmill and heard again how the entire place is reclaimed from the sea.

More of the Historical Past of Prague

A day to remind us that unless we remember history we are doomed to repeat it.

We visited the historic Jewish quarter of Prague.  Miraculously, it is preserved despite the horrors of war's destruction. Hitler intended the Jewish quarter to be a "museum of an extinct people."

We visited several synagogues, a ceremonial hall, and the Jewish cemetery.

 Several of the synagogues are museums.  The most notable is the Pinska Synagogue.  On each wall, in upper and lower levels, are inscribed the names of each person from the Prague 'ghetto' and nearby areas who were deported and later exterminated in one of the many concentration camps.  This exhibit stops your heart -- rows and rows and columns and columns of names and dates.  Just that -- nothing more and nothing less.

One of the synagogue/museums shows the art work of the children.  A wondrous woman, Friedl Dicker-Brandeis, applied her art skills to work with the children in the Terezin/Theresienstadt ghetto/camp.  She encouraged them to draw memories of the better times and also to represent the horror of their daily life.  Read more here.

We saw silver Torah adornments, silk Torah covers and panels, silver alms trays and chalices.  We learned more about how the cemetery began -- in mid 1300's -- and buried its citizens (with the help of the Burial Society) until the mid 1700's.

We climbed the stairs to the women's landing on three sides of the rectangle worship space with the Torah and 'altar' facing east.  THe Spanish synagogue was the most elaborate, with each square inch covered with elaborate painted patterns and a magnificent dome.

We left humbled, saddened, sober, aware -- appreciating life and sunshine and the prospect of our own free walk to a free and filling lunch.