Monday, February 05, 2018


While Amsterdam is another city built on an ancient system of canals, it could hardly be more different than Venice.

The spatial aspects of both cities are unique in spite that each is flat to the sea. The Dutch, coming from the land, built yet more land. Venice... perching precariously on pilings anchoring only a few small unstable prehistoric islands, squatting in the shallows of a lagoon...

Protected by all those walls we walked in Croatia... Venice arched inwardly upward, hoarding the spoils of world trade well before any Dutch expansion.

The periods during which each reached maturity have much to do with their differences. Older by many centuries, Venice plyed the classic shipping trade routes inside the warmer enclosure of the Mediterranean, connecting Europe to the mid-east, the Indian sub-continent, & ultimately China. Its smaller size amassed some sense of the mysterious enclosure characterizing an “Oriental” quality. 

The Dutch, building later, in the chill of the North Sea, discovered the distances of the larger world by circumnavigation
 outside the antique model of the world...
miniature inside the cincture of Gibraltar. 
That Mediterranean hothouse-classique
launched quintessential herbal seeds... 
plus rich cultural spores into the global garden.
... the city's slogan is...
i   A M S T E R D A M
The canals here are wider than Venice & were originally even wider yet... facilitating the floating movement of people & goods around a bustling trading city by float. Now the waterways are more for recreation, having been mostly filled-in to create space for the comfortable streets of wheels... more bicycles than cars.... more than the population!

Wide sidewalks on either side allow pedestrians to stroll abreast 
while dancing with cyclists walking their rides home. 

I find both cities imminently walkable. 
We’ve been two nights walking the older central part... 
a visual delight!

We are staying with our friend Joost 
in his 1930’s row house just inside the “ring” of canals... 
 Steep stairs are ubiquitous. 
This space has been keenly attended 
in the remodel he's making mostly himself!
His location is served by the city's efficient system of rail trams. 
There is plenty of auto traffic, but all is rather subservient to the obvious first choice to ride bicycles… evidenced by the fact that there are more bikes than citizens!

Specific, well separated lanes are dedicated to bicycles & one must honor that or be threatened & cursed for being in their way! The cross-walks become sometimes complicated to get to the center islands where one waits to board the trams. Electronic tickets, touched at sensors upon both entering & leaving the car, calculate the fare for the distance being deducted from the balance. Oh! that we could learn such easy good sense in more of our cities in the States! 
We spent time in the Rijksmuseum on Sunday… busy with the throngs wanting to see the revered paintings of the Dutch Masters, which I too was happy to experience, of course. I enjoyed seeing the icons of my art history courses in the real. While there were crowds, if I lingered, there were also rare moments...
This is a stately old building, bridging over the main street which runs through & under its facade into a vaulted foyer echoing with Vivaldi.
Musical ensembles play outside modern entrances up into the museum... or down into the new depths enlarging antique spaces to accommodate essential modern facilities... I like this improvement's mixing of clean functional lines with the original Gothic Victorian.
 Juxtaposition abounds...
At sister Alice's insistence we headed toward the Van Gogh museum, a short stroll through a lively urban park... This contemporary building surprised me by becoming an almost religious experience… I realized how little I actually knew about him. He is no longer simply impressionistic curiosity as I resonate better with his quest toward color. My long-lost painter groked his gooey pigments in a wistful way.

To be able to see almost the entire oeuvre of an artist who accomplished so much in only a decade chides my career, which began [& still dreams] in paint while getting side-tracked by the fantasy of jewelry before the whimsey of bells.

I could yet again drown us in photographic memories
proving only inadequacy
 I Am-sterdam!