Krishnas & other "monks" in Vondelpark

Trip Start May 14, 2008
Trip End May 27, 2008

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

I started out the day with a trip to the Rijksmuseum (state museum) and viewed a huge collection of the Dutch masters, the most impressive being Rembrandt's Night Watchers. What a great place. I took the English guided tour and was glad I did. From there, I walked to Vondelpark, the largest park in Amsterdam. It was beautiful and HUGE. The entrance was a simple walkway with a few reminders to stay OUT of the way of people on bicycles, that no motorized vehicles are allowed in the park, and that sunbathing is encouraged, but nude bathing is prohibitted. People were lounged all over the place, sleeping in the sun, relaxing on a bench, riding bikes, walking. It went on forever. Some buddhist monks were begging along the way, recognizable in their saffron robes and bald heads. Next came the Krishnas, with their shabby bohemian bastardization of a sari with high top tennis shoes. Their long braids and percussion instruments dancing away in the sunlight. All of them, caucasian young men. One guy was dancing about handing out free (said tongue-in-cheek) paper cones of water, then pestering the recipient for money while the others beat their tamborines and frolicked around the unwitting drinker.

Then, I heard them before I saw them. It was unmistakable. It was so darn familiar...that song! That characteristic cackle... QUAKERS!!! My head jerked upward and there they were, flying through the air! A flash of green, a loud argument, another flash of green...The monk parrots played in the trees and chased each other around the park. I was elated as I walked out and toward the Van Gogh Museum. But wait, what is this? A PINK VESPA!!!! I was halted in my tracks. It was true. I was not hallucinating! It was a pink Vespa! A real one~! I took four pictures then called Brian immediately, telling him that someone else in the world has my taste!!!! Hee hee!

I made it to the Van Gogh Museum --which is much smaller-- and took the nickle tour of the place, stopping a a few Van Goghs that were familiar. I also learned that Van Gogh and Gauguin were friends, and I was treated to a nice sampling of Gauguin as well! Lucky me! I was disappointed, however, that the home of Van Gogh has so few of his paintings here! Almost all of the most famous were all out on loan, and "Night Stars" ( the one I have in my livingroom) is in New York. Ironic eh? Anyway, I remember seeing Starry Night at the Louvre 2 years ago. Would have been nice to see Night Stars, but I guess I will have to go HOME to see it. LOL. I did see his famous Irises, and one of the sunflower ones. There were several self-potraits and some copies of Dutch masters that he did to practice. All in all, I was disappointed.

Next, my day got very interesting. I got caught a nightmarish vortex on the tram! First, let me say that the trams in AMsterdam are not intuitive, and are an extremely difficult transport system to figure out. Even the official transport map is less than helpful and difficult to read. I found that a cheap courtesy map from the Hotel went further in my understanding of the tram than anything *official*. Nevertheless, I learned a painful lesson today... and that is: Just because you *think* you know what direction you need to go, doesnt mean the tram headed that way will actually take you there. I kept hopping on trams and in a few blocks, they would be heading the diametric opposite direction I needed to go! SO I would hop off that tram and get on the concurrent line, heading the opposite way. No luck. That tram, even though I seemingly came from that direction, would also head off on some wild-mouse path and I would again find myself going past the same street-corner again and again and again. I wasnt stoned. This bad trip was for real! After 45 minutes of musical trams, it finally dawned on me that all I had to do was sit on my dupa til I got to Centraal station. From there, I knew which tram to take back to the Nadia. Then I only had to jump one more tram to get safely back to the area I knew. OK, so you think it all went smoothly from here? When I finally got myself on the correct tram line, the daggone thing broke down and everyone had to vacate the tram. AAAAAAAGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!! I uttered an explative under my breath, gave up on the trams and walked where I needed to be.

I returned to Westermaarket ( my area ) and went to the Anne Frank House. No wonder I could not find it on my own. I dont know what is going on there, but the whole front of the house is covered with scaffolding and wrapped in construction canvasses, so nothing is viewable from the front. Nothing. The house itself is totally engulfed in a modern building and only the front (the part curently covered with canvas) is remotely recognizable from the outside. I was standing right in front of it and never knew it. I politely asked two women where the Anne Frank House was and they initially stared at me like I had three eyes, then burst out laughing and apologizing. You see, I was less than three feet from the door of the house and never knew it. That is how hidden it is. Anyway, the women were not so cruel as to leave my cheeks burning unabashed, and they absolved me by saying how many tourists ask the same question in the exact same spot I stood. Wellllll, that told ME something!

You enter through a corner alcove which looks like any office building, pay the fee and then start the tour. I never got a feel for the layout of the house because its been terribly distorted by the *business* of making it a museum. However, I will say that after seeing how they lived, I have to give Otto Frank a lot of credit for preparing the annex in which they hid, and having been the kind of boss that would command life-threatening loyalty of his non-jewish enployees. Without Meip and Bep, Otto's secretaries, they would have parished immediately. I also wondered why I could not find a single relic, or postcard depicting Anne Frank anywhere else in Amsterdam, and then I found out that the entire Anne Frank House is a privately owned enterprise, still to this day following the directions Otto Frank left. Everything is copywrited and no one can use Anne Franks image without permission. Otto Frank desired that all furniture remain out of the house forever, because the nazi's took it. I would rather have seen it furnished according to the descriptions provided by Otto Frank, Meip and Bep. It was way too difficult to imagine how they were situated until I saw a fully integrated miniature of the house and annex. It was nothing as I had imagined. I thought all 8 of them were huddled in one or two rooms, but that was not true at all! It was two to a room on three different levels! Still, I think the museum has been turned into a poor depiction, difficult for the average person to grasp. Its almost tragic, the way it could be (the home as it was on the canal) and the way it actually was...a tarnished jewel.

It was 8:45 pm when I emerged and decided I was starving. I passed the Homo Memorial with its three pink marble triangles and bouquets of flowers. Interesting concept and location, right around the corner from the Frank House. A nod to tolerance of all people, I suppose. I walked a wee bit to photograph the beautiful Nadia Hotel (Osam, the owner has spoiled me to death!) and I ran into a young Austrian (Vienna) woman who was also photographing the Nadia. I pointed out my balcony to her and we began chatting away. It all culminated with her writing down the best way for me to get from Vienna to Prague, what busline to take and how much the ticket will cost. Since I am on my way to Vienna this September, her help was much appreciated. By 9:45 my only hope for a meal was the Koh-I-Noor again. The thought was a bit scary since it took such revenge earlier this week, but it was that or raid the vending machine back at the hotel. I took my chances with Koh-I-Noor. The waiter remembered me and asked if I wanted the same meal I had two days before. How the heck did he remember?! Wow! I thought he was jerking my chain so I asked him what I had and he repeated my whole meal verbatem. OK now I was impressed! I ordered something else and then began chatting it up with this guy. He was full of information and questions, and we had a great converstation. He asked me my planned route and then intiuitively knew that I was on Lufthansa airlines. He said that Lufthansa was a good choice, and to avoid Easy-Jet and RYANAIR! I laughed and relayed my RYANAIR story. He rolled his eyes and laughed. Apparently, more seasoned travellers avois the cattle-cars (Ryanair and EasyJet) for the more sophisitcated, larger airlines. I ate til bursting again, having only had breakfast and a chocolate bar that Osam gave me free from the vending machine. Back to the Nadia, I huffed and puffed my way up the devil's stairs to find Osam, smiling and waving. He said, "You have been gone almost 12 hours, my friend. Please take a bottle of water and tell me about your day." We talked about all the stops I made and then we bagan to discuss the history and engineering of Amsterdam, herself. Osam was a textbook fo knowledge, which he shared enthusiatically. He told me of the sub-sea-level areas and what used to be the sea. He told me of the engineering marvels of the Dutch, that ONESCA is considering adding the canals of Amsterdam as the 8th wonder of the world (compairing the engineering to the Great Wall and the Pyramids.) I could have talked all night with Osam. He catches me offguard with his generousity and helpfulness. I keep thinking there is something ulterior going on...can the Dutch really be this kind?
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