Our final morning. We left early, straight after breakfast, for Amsterdam. I’d been eating bread and cheese every day – when in Holland… Two slices of bread and cheese with caraway seeds, a glass of orange juice, a cup of black coffee. I took a few sachets of sprinkles, to astonish my grandchildren with what’s put on bread for breakfast over there, but didn’t use them myself – I hadn’t been impressed with them even as a child.
We went straight to the Rijksmuseum, where entry was a lot more straightforward than at the Van Gogh six days earlier. But then it’s a much larger place with more staff. The museum has not long been reopened after its major revamp – apparently, Rembrandt’s Night Watch is the only painting that has been rehung in its original position, everything else has been moved. Broadly, each floor, or half of it, has been given to a different period and there is furniture and other artefacts along with the paintings. And what paintings! My goodness, for a small country, the Netherlands has an astonishing number of masterpieces, as well as some of the most deservedly famous painters. You’d think that Rembrandt (particularly famed as an early proponent of selfies, of course) would be enough for the self-respect of any country, but not this one. The Gallery of Honour, as they call it, is in the rooms leading towards the Night Watch and contains some of the most famous paintings, including works by Vermeer, Steen and Hals, though I don’t want to start simply making lists and my photos are not going to match the ones on the galleries’ own websites or elsewhere on the web.
There were very jolly things in the side rooms, of course. In the room displaying Delft, I was amused to see a teenage girl playing a game on her phone, bored already and it was only 10.30 or so. Antique glass appeals to me a lot and there were displays of that, along with explanations of some of the drinking games that were popular at the time. One room had amazing models of ships. The Dutch were very keen on dollshouses, substantial models with intricately-made furnishings, obviously never meant to be any child’s plaything. Down in the basement, there were clothes dating from around 1800 and, in a nearby cabinet, wool shawls. I happened to meet one of our party there and she was thrilled to recognise the colour of one of the three on display as Norwich Red – she has studied the subject and knows her stuff, she said it was certainly made as well as dyed in Norwich. The area of Norwich called the Maddermarket (a church is still called St Johns Maddermarket and our society holds its lectures at the Maddermarket Theatre) was called after the red dye of the madder plant. Here’s a link if you’re interested in the history of dyeing in Norwich (yes, a lot of churches, they were concerned about dying too).
In the next room to the textiles, I was very happy to discover a display of magic lantern slides, which I love. I wouldn’t try to begin to talk about favourites among the things I saw over the week, it doesn’t seem relevant really. The whole experience was great, though we did cram more in than we could truly appreciate. I’ll have to go back and see some of it again.
After a couple of hours, I went to find some lunch. It was only noon, but I was beating the rush. I had fresh pea soup with smoked haddock which was interesting – I’ll not put the two of them together again, though both were good separately. And I had Dutch apple pie and coffee. Every gastronomic cliché, why not? I still had an hour or so afterwards, so had a quick recap of some favourites and pottered round the shop for a bit – it’s manageable to see the whole place in one go, as it isn’t to see our National Gallery for example, but I’d done enough.
And then back to the splendidly organised airport, which ours could learn from (though Norwich is already perfect just as it is) and the quick flight home, where we landed ten minutes before we’d taken off.