Bible Museum, The Hermitage and a Blast from my Past

Yesterday I visited the Bible Museum here in Amsterdam and was treated to really unique art experience. There was an exhibit of paintings by artists who are developmentally disabled. It was obvious they’d received some instruction and exposure to sacred masterworks. I recognized some of the compositions as copies of other artists’ canvases, but executed in a much different manner. Still, there was a fresh energy in the work and some very telling expressions on the faces in portraits. Since my church has a ministry dedicated to special needs children and their families, I was impressed with the results of this program and wondered if something similiar might be done in Boston.

A large part of the museum was dedicated to a scale model of Jerusalem, a city that both unites and divides the three great monotheistic faiths—Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There is a lovely garden behind the museum, a peaceful spot to contemplate the Holy Land, a part of the world that isn’t very peaceful.

Then I hoofed it over to The Hermitage, which is the Dutch annex of the famous Russian art museum. The traveling exhibit from St. Petersburg is focused on Alexander the Great. The ancient general was a favorite of Catherine the Great (possibly because they shared a last name? LOL). She even named her firstborn for him and the final canvas in the collection is of the little Russian prince dressed in imitation of Alexander the Great, complete with a little sword and breastplate. (No pressure there!) Catherine also collected antiquities from all the regions Alexander conquered, from Greece to India and all points in between.

Because it was raining, I had a late lunch at the museum, hoping the sky would stop weeping. I had a praise-worthy spinach and goat cheese quiche and something called “rocket salad” (which looked suspiciously like dandelion greens!) The rain never did let up and I slogged back to my hotel, dodging puddles and trying to hug the buildings so I didn’t get splashed as cars passed.

Then last night, we went for supper with a couple of my DH’s co-workers and it was still raining. We ducked into a bar, hoping they served simple pub fare along with several different brews. Instead, I was greeted by a pungent, sweet odor—one I hadn’t smelled since my college days. Sure enough, several guys in a booth were rolling joints, bold as brass. Marijuana is legal here in Holland, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I was. We headed back out into the rain (I’m not a good candidate for drug use. I have control issues. I like to be in control of me!) Eventually, we found a nice restaurant where my DH could get a cheeseburger and fries (which are served with mayonnaise here instead of ketchup) and I got a Dutch steak (topped with a spicy sauce) and salad (actual lettuce this time).

Today, my DH and I visited a couple of wonderful museums (yes, art lovers. That big blow up on the building is from a Vermeer! I’ve now had the honor of viewing 3 of the only 34 extant canvases from this Dutch master.) Tomorrow, we’ll head for Utrecht where we’ll meet up with Nynke (if you follow this blog, you’ll recognize her as a frequent commenter).

Then on Sunday, we’ll fly home and I’ll catch you up on Monday before some of my blog guests start visiting for the rest of the Moving Party.

Here’s the question to get us started talking:

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve encountered while traveling? If not while traveling, how about sharing something that surprised you in a book?

9 thoughts on “Bible Museum, The Hermitage and a Blast from my Past

  1. Nynke says:

    Wow, what a story, Pat. Glad to see you#39;re back, by the way – I missed you!

  2. librarypat says:

    Many (very many) years ago, I visited Bali. I really had no expectations, but the place was a pleasant surprise. It is really a different world. Time sort of stops. You are suspended in a culture that is fully centered on their religious beliefs and practices. Virtually everyone makes floral offerings for the ancestors and gods every day and place them at shrines. The little shrines are everywhere. In yards, along roads, all over town. The pace of life was relaxed, but evil spirits intruded. They believe in curses and their being passed down through a family. Usually one person every generation will be the one who is plagued. I witnessed a young teen possessed by a demon, quot;evil spiritquot;, one evening. The room I had at the hostel where I was staying opened on the courtyard of a family compound. I watched them making their flower offerings every morning. One evening, I came in hearing a girl screaming. They had her tied to a pallet in the court yard and were watching over her. She started screaming late in the afternoon. The details are a bit fuzzy, but they believe evil spirits devour the day and at midnight the door slams on them and the good spirits take over until later the next day. They had no clocks or watches, but i sat in my room watching and she stopped screaming exactly at midnight. They released her and she went inside. She was out the next morning making flower offerings as usual, after screaming constantly for over 6 hours. It was very unnerving. br /I had connected with some of the locals and was able to witness and participate in daily life not on the tourist circuit. I attended a shadow puppet show in a village (no electricity) and a tooth filing ceremony (something teen girls have done). Ouch! While there, I also witnessed a religious ceremony where 2 or 3 young men walked on hot coals.br /br /This was all nearly 40 years ago after finishing my tour in the Peace Corps. Western culture was intruding and the tourist traffic picking up. I am sure much of this has changed. It is really too bad. Each culture has so much to offer and it is a shame to see everything homogenized to a western standard.

  3. Jane L says:

    Oh What a wonderful trip! I am so glad you could share it with us. My husband and I find the most unusual and beautiful churches! every time we travel, we stumble across some amazing churches.

  4. Alfke says:

    Yes, we did have fun! :)br /br /My most surprising find was when I was walking through a museum in Rome and suddenly, in a far-off forgotten corner of a hallway, I found a statue of a Germanic girl. br /I had seen it last when I was really young in a small educational children#39;s book about the Germanic tribes and had absolutely no recollection of it until I came across it there :)

  5. Nynke says:

    Marcy, thanks for saying hi! Mia didn#39;t get round to greeting me for you, but this is more direct, anyway ;). Pictures were taken and we had fun!br /br /I had a hard time thinking of the most surprising thing I encountered traveling, but I think it probably was the breakfast my host family offered me when I arrived in Kiev, Ukraine for a highschool exchange program. Breakfast with pickled peppers and mushrooms, caviar, fish and optional pasta… I couldn#39;t eat it, but it was certainly very impressive!

  6. Jane says:

    Refhater mentioned McDonald#39;s and I#39;ve also noticed that the menus are quite different. They have a McTeri Burger(teriyaki) and in Hong Kong instead of apple pie they have red bean and green pies.

  7. Chelsea B. says:

    The most suprising thing I#39;ve encountered while traveling is bridges! Good gosh the bridges! There are some truly frightening one#39;s LOL :-)

  8. Refhater says:

    The most surprising thing I#39;ve encountered while traveling was McDonalds and Taco Bell in Moscow, Russia. Totally different than what we have here in the States. One McDonalds was 3 stories tall and had a replica of Big Ben in the middle of it. Ironically, the food there was better than what they serve here.

  9. Marcy W says:

    I#39;m sure enjoying #39;riding on your shoulder#39; through Amsterdam — thanks much. Please greet Nynke for me, and see if you can get a picture of her … better yet, you two together?!! :-)

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