Galleons and Dutch Masters

Trip Start Aug 18, 2011
Trip End Jul 02, 2012

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Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Sunday, September 11, 2011

The past two weeks have been riddled with setbacks and problems. As such, I haven't posted for a while, because I didn't want to post a depressing entry. I'll recap what all has happened, but want to note that a lot of days were spent studying or doing other mundane things.

Sunday, September 11 was a rather odd day for me, because I'm so far away during such an emotional anniversary in the US. I watched a lot of the ceremony in New York City that day. It was nice to see the US come together, after being so torn apart for the last decade.

Monday through Wednesday (9-12 to 9-14) were spent going to classes or studying.

With some great sunny weather, I spent the day on Thursday (9-15) taking pictures of the city. I went up to the Oosterdok (our harbor) and got to see a replica of a Dutch East India Company (VOC for short) Galleon. The VOC was the largest trader in Asia at its height in the 17th century and was the first company to issue stock.

Afterwards, I went to the southwest of the city center to check out an iconic spot, the intersection of the Princengracht (Prince's Canal) and Leidsegracht (Leidse Canal). I got some good pictures of the area, with the canal bridges, canals, and canal houses.

I had class that afternoon, and on the bike ride back with my roommate, we passed by a large procession of horse carriages. I'm not sure what it was for, but it was neat to see.

Friday (9-16) through the weekend were fraught with problems. Friday was our last day to drop classes, and I needed to drop an extra class I don't need. The program online told me I couldn't drop it, so I went to my Faculty to find out they were closed on Fridays. The Student Information Center didn't know what to do, but told me to go to another Faculty. The Faculty I went to said they couldn't help. My grades are very important to me, so the possibility of this messing up my transcript made me very frustrated, to say the least. Not being able to do anything else, I sent an email to the Faculty explaining the problem and decided to wait to see what would happen on Monday.

Saturday (9-16) was uneventful.

Sunday (9-17) was the day of the Dam to Dam Run. It's a 10 mile run from Amsterdam to Zaandam to the north. I was set to run a shorter 4 mile version in Zaandam that morning. I got up excited, because I'd been running all summer to get ready for the event. I set off for Amsterdam Centraal Station to catch the train to Zaandam. Google Maps told me It would take 55 minutes to get there. I left an hour and a half before the race to be sure I got there on time. The train was late. I ran 2 km from the train station in Zaandam to the start line to try to get there on time, but by the time I got there it was too late. I was really disappointed, but there's no use in dwelling on things I can't control. I will never rely on Google Maps for times again, though.

Monday (9-17) was a pretty bad day. I not going to sugarcoat it. I woke up with plans to go to talk to my Faculty about dropping my one class and to talk to the people at ING Bank about why I hadn't received my debit card in the mail yet. I got on my blackboard to see what reading I needed to do for my classes. I found out from blackboard that I was registered for a Werkcollege for one of my classes. I wasn't supposed to be registered for it based on the Course Registration List published by my faculty. It was already passed the date to drop classes, and the class has already done so much that I'd be too behind. I've only had a few emotional breakdowns in my life. This was one of them. I rode my bike to the Faculty nearly in tears, thinking that I was going to have a zero on my transcript form the Werkcollege and was going to have to take my EU Law class that I tried to drop on Friday. The wonderful woman at the Faculty told me that many students had the same problem on Friday dropping classes and the same for the Werkcollege. She said I would have to take a zero from the professors and the Faculty would delete the zeros from my transcript before they sent it back to the States. What a relief!

On my next errand to ING, I found out my address had been put in their system wrong, so my debit card was sent to 141 instead of 147. I guess the Dutch write their sevens with a line through them, so the seven I wrote was taken as a one even through the one and seven I wrote in my address looked completely different(?). This wasn't that big of a deal until I realized my Mom writes her numbers the same way and she had just put a package full of my winter clothes in the mail. I was faced with the prospect that all of my clothes could get lost. Now, after days of worrying, the package issue is resolved, thanks to my Mom calling the USPS. The debit card issue, however is not.

I've been to their office three times to try to get my debit card sent to me, to no avail. I won't go into details, because it doesn't really matter. They have told me to come back so many times, though, and the last time the man who waited on me was very rude, so needless to say, I don't care for ING Bank.

The rest of the week was uneventful until Friday (9-23) when I decided to check out the Rembrandt House Museum and the Hermitage Museum.

The Rembrandt House Museum was by far my favorite museum of those I've visited. It was truly powerful to be in the place where such a renowned artist lived and completed many of his works. My Humanities class last semester proved to have taught me well - I already new that Rembrandt had gone bankrupt towards the end of his life and lost his home. That said, Rembrandt's furnishings were auctioned off by his creditors, but many of the original paintings, etchings, and replicas of the furniture and decorations were restored thanks to a detailed list written at the time of the auctioning. Because he was such a well paid artist, he had a very nice home, as you can see from my pictures. In the kitchen, I was shocked to see the maids bed was in a box about 5 feet by 5 feet. The Dutch are very tall people, so I imagine it was very uncomfortable for the maid.

I was able to see two demonstrations, one of how etchings were done and the other of how paints were mixed at the time. The demonstrations were my favorite parts of the museum. Of the rooms, my favorite was where Rembrandt kept all of his favorite things. It was full of statues, a stuffed crocodile, armadillo, huge seashells the size of my forearm and books full of some of his favorite etches. It was such a neat hodgepodge of interesting things.

Afterwards I went to the Hermitage Museum. It's the largest dependency of the Hermitage Museum based in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It's housed in a former retirement home that was built in 1682, called the Amstelhof. Unfortunately, pictures were prohibited in the museum. It was also under renovations, so only one exhibit was open. It had works by Flemish painters such as Rubens, Van Dyck, and Jordaens. Many were portraits of kings and queens from England and Spain, portraits of noble people and some landscapes and still lifes. Most dated from the 17th century, during the time of the Dutch Golden Age.

One thing I've learned this week twice, from my Amsterdam in the Golden Age class and the museum, is that Antwerp in Flanders was originally the most important port in Europe in the first part of the 17th century. Amsterdam eclipsed it in trade after the Low Countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands) went to war with the Spanish king, who ruled the region at the time. After the Dutch Revolt, Belgium failed to gain independence and remained under Spanish rule, while the Dutch gained independence and formed their own republic. Antwerp was sacked during the war, and it's economy collapsed. Amsterdam took over the role as largest shipping center and became the leading financial center of Europe during the Golden Age. Thinking that Amsterdam was more important than London at that time is really crazy to me. If history had played out differently, maybe the US would have become a Dutch Colony and we would be speaking Dutch. It's bizarre to think about.

The Hermitage was very neat to see, though. My favorite painting was Concert of Birds by Frans Snyders (number 24 on the link).

Tomorrow I'm going to a national park to the southeast called Hoge Veluwe and then to the Kröller Müller Museum, a modern art museum. It's supposed to be a nice day, so it will be perfect for the park. It'll be the farthest I've traveled out of Amsterdam yet, so I'm really excited!

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