Another amazing day in Amsterdam today! Sima had to go her salon. She was booked all day. I decided that today was the day I would go to the Van Gogh Museum. I figured it would be a nice thing to do on my own. Part of me wanted to just stay on the boat. After falling off the bus yesterday and then not really knowing my way around I was a bit apprehensive about venturing out on my own. I got my cameras together and headed out. I braved getting on another Stop/Go bus. This time I managed to not fall getting off. The ride in itself was an adventure. The streets are very narrow. A car barely fits down them and here we are in this mini bus tearing down the one-way street on one side of the canal. (The Stop/Go goes both ways, so-to-speak, on this narrow one-way street and then back on the other side.) We got to one of the little bridges and they were doing some kind of construction. So, the driver backed down the street and took a detour. It was unbelievable. First, that he backed up half a block but also that he was able to do it without killing any pedestrians or taking out any of the parked cars on the canal was genius.
I got off the bus and rather than catch a tram to go the next 6 blocks I decided to walk it. The area where the Rijks Museum is located is absolutely beautiful. They are doing a lot of construction on the museum. I understand there is a lot not on display during the renovations. Some people I have spoken to say they like the smaller displays. It makes it easy to get through and they have the best out. I walked a couple of extra blocks and went to the Van Gogh Museum. That was an extraordinary experience. The artwork, his madness and his story are so compelling. I spent hours reading all there was to read and listening to the descriptions of the artwork on the headset. He was truly mad. I wonder how he would have been in these times with the advent of medications to ease that kind of mania. I wonder if his work would have suffered had he gotten the kind of help available today.
Rather than catch a tram I walked back. It was definitely a long walk. It was also fascinating. I love seeing all the differences and similarities from home. I walked by a fast food restaurant that was like an old Automat. I remember there was a great episode of “That Girl” where Marlo Thomas’ character, Ann Marie, goes to the Automat and doesn’t have money for food so she gets a bowl of hot water and puts ketchup in it to make soup. Well, here they are filled with Dutch fast food. They have sandwiches and little friend croquettes filled with veal ragout and other equally, distasteful for me but not for them, goodies.
I am also amazed that more people don’t get hit by trams here. Of course, I don’t know the statistics but I haven’t seen anyone get hit by one. The trams just go down the middle of the streets here. There are no barricades. There isn’t even a curb or a raised bump in the road to tell you that there could be danger ahead. The other night I saw someone standing on the tracks in the middle of the road as the tram pulled right up behind them. Finally, the person turned and jumped out of the way. It doesn’t help that they are quiet either.
I love to people watch. No matter where I go in the world I love to watch people. It doesn’t have to be anywhere special. I love to see what people are buying at the grocery store. I love to watch people and how they interact with people. I am just completely fascinated and curious about people. Being here has been and continues to be a delicious study in a completely different way of life. Certainly, we are all human. However, the lifestyle here is so different.
There are hardly any cars on the roads here. Of course, I haven’t been on any highways. So many of the streets where I have been are narrow and the ones I have seen that aren’t that narrow share the road with the trams. The main form of transportation seems to be walking which is followed closely with biking. Imagine, if you will, an intersection. The streets are cobble stones or brick. On two sides of the intersection is where two small cobble stone bridges over the canals meet. Then you have two flat one way streets. I don’t know that my words will do justice to this. I will see if I can get a picture that will better describe this perspective. If you are following this, imagine a car coming over one of the bridges, a couple of bicyclists coming the from a different direction and then a handful of pedestrians. When they all meet at the intersection there is no stop sign posted. There is no yield sign posted. Who do you think has the right of way? You are probably wrong. The pedestrian had better stop because neither the bike nor the car will slow down. Quite frankly, in that instance, which I have witnessed numerous times in the couple of days I have been here, the pedestrian stops and the car and the person on the bike slow and some how maneuver around each other without fully stopping and barely skipping a beat.
The other thing I find ingenious are the children seats on bikes. In the States, I am used to seeing big plastic “safety” seats on the back of bicycles so riders can take their children on afternoon outings. Here it is a matter of necessity. The seats for the children on the back and on the front are just little seats with metal arms. No belt. No helmet. I have seen some people riding with two children; one on the back and one on the front by the handle bars. Earlier this morning, I saw a woman with a toddler on the back of the bike and she was carrying an infant strapped in front of her. I am sure the Dutch don’t have a greater amount of child fatalities than we do just letting our kids walk places. It is just appears to be a gentler and freer way of life.