Turn on the Lights

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

Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Thursday, November 24, 2011

The past two weeks I've gotten to do some pretty fun things in Amsterdam. In between classes and homework, I got to check out the Nieuwe Kerk (where the Dutch royal family gets married), the Maritime Museum, and I got to see Turn on the Lights at Dam Square (a festival put on by the Bijenkorf - our Macy's). 

The Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) was huge! It dates back to 1408, so it's really not that new, but it was at the time it was built. The Oude Kerk (Old Church) was too small to accommodate the growing population, so the Nieuwe Kerk was built in the heart of Amsterdam on Dam Square. 

Though it was founded as a Catholic church, it was converted (i.e. all the paintings on the walls painted white and most of the decoration removed) after the Reformed Church took over following the Dutch Revolt, which gave the Dutch Republic freedom from Spain. The war was fought mostly because the Dutch didn't like foreign rule and partially because the protestants wanted to gain more power over the Catholic Church. The Dutch won and the Reformed Church became the public church. The irony of the Reformed Church occupying this position in the country was that it was only supported by a minority of the population in its beginning because many remained loyal to Catholicism. See, I actually have learned something from my Amsterdam in the Golden Age class!

From the outside the church looks a bit dreary, so I was surprised by how nice it was inside. The choir screen was beautiful. It was all brass and dates back to the Dutch Golden Age. Michiel de Ruyter, a Dutch Admiral who won a major naval battle with England in 1667, is buried here and there's a large stone memorial for him. 

The pulpit completely mesmerized me. It was so intricately carved, I couldn't believe it. It astonishes me that it's possible for someone to do that with wood. There were panels that had 3D depictions that actually made me dizzy to look at because they looked like real rooms going into the pulpit even though they were just carved on the surface. I took lots of pictures of it, because I thought it was so cool. 

There was a section of two columns where the white paint (put up by the Reformed Church) was removed and you could see some of the old Catholic art, which was really neat. I also go to see two organs, a smaller one from the early 17th century and a large one from 1655. 

I also checked out the Maritime Museum and it's replica of a Dutch East India Company (abbreviated VOC from the Dutch name) galleon. The museum was recently renovated, and I was very impressed with the exhibits. It was the best museum I've been to in terms of the quality of exhibits. I unfortunately didn't have time to go through the whole museum, because I went before it closed and I spent too much time exploring the ship, but what I saw was really neat. I learned some history behind Dutch sea trade and whaling. 

The galleon was a cool experience - I've never been on a ship from this time period. I've only been on large US destroyers and of course small everyday boats. The inside was made to look how it did at the time (1749), so it had barrels, crates with VOC stamped on them, and cannons. I was shocked at how low the ceilings were inside, but I guess they had to maximize room. I imagine the sailers who didn't die on voyages had pretty bad back problems. 

My Thanksgiving wasn't quite as festive as back in the US. I actually had to give a class presentation on EU Development Aid that day, which was a bummer. Afterwards, I got to go to the Turn on the Lights festival at Dam Square which made the day better. The Bijenkorf, a department store, puts it on to celebrate turning on it's Christmas lights. There was a 45 minute performance, with people on stilts dancing to epic music, dinosaurs walking around, a lady on a hamster wheel, wheeling around the square, and a girl singing from a hot air balloon-type of contraption. Here's a YoutTube video of the performance. It was really fun but also slightly scary/exciting. The people on stilts dancing and the dinosaurs would walk towards you and you'd have to scurry out of their way. It was neat to be immersed in the performance like that. There was one point where the dinosaurs all turned and came at us together that made me feel like I was in Jurassic Park. After the show there was a countdown and they turned on he big LED Christmas lights at the Bijenkorf with some fireworks. I thought they put on a great show.

Afterwards, I ended my Thanksgiving the right way, with family, though with 21st century flavor. I Skyped with my Mom and then got to Skype with my brother and my Dad's side of the family before they all ate. It wasn't quite the same as being there, but it really made my day getting to talk to my family. I miss everyone so much!

I have some free time over the next two weeks, so I should have some blogs up soon about travels outside of Amsterdam. I'm thinking about checking out the Hague this weekend and Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland next weekend. Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving!

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Jane Staplin on

So glad you are getting to see and do things that the "natives" like doing.
Do hope you get to go to Scotland and if you can go see some of the castles...they are amazing. We also like doing some of the smaller towns. But be careful, I almost fell in Loche Lomand when I was taking a picture. Keep the blogs coming...love them.

Love you,
Aunt Jane

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