Monday, December 04, 2006
Membrance Monday - Amsterdam
The city is surprisingly small and navigable by foot without any problems. The famous canals were mostly just landmarks for me, but many people in Amsterdam use water taxis and even own boats.
The city is full of beautiful old churches. However, it's ironic that in a city full of churches AND where there is a national, sanctioned church that very few people actually go to church. My experience is that the average Dutch person is nominally Christian and was probably baptized as a child. After that, they may have gone to church a few times at Easter or Christmas and that's about it. It seems wrong that beautiful churches are empty and that public taxes (in an already tax-laden nation) are devoted to support a religion that very few support.
As a counterpoint, I also found it strangely ironic that while many of the nations of Europe have state supported religions, the European Union refused to include any reference to Christianity in their recently failed attempt at a EU constitution. I believe that there's no question that Christianity is a major influence, generally speaking, on the character of both Europeans and Americans. Yet, the EU refuses to acknowledge any aspect of the Christian-influenced history of western Europe.
Now - back to Amsterdam. There are some really beautiful things to see and do in Amsterdam. A very touching and emotional experience for me was a visit to the Anne Frank house. Another amazing experience was the Rijksmuseum. The Rijksmuseum is an incredibly beautiful building in its own right, but it's contents are even more incredible. This is the central repository of the works of the Dutch masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer.
I've always enjoyed art. But it's simply an amazing experience to stand an arms length from the actual painting itself that you've seen countless times in books, magazines, and post cards. Rembrandt and Vermeer are, of course, household names. Two of my favorite pieces were Vermeer's "Kitchen Maid" and "Woman Reading a Letter".
I'd love to go back some day. The good news, in that regard, is that Amsterdam is a high-tech town in one of Europe's most technologically advance countries. I'm sure that Microsoft will be doing more events there in the future. So I'm sure that I'll get the chance to go again.
I'll definitely be seeing the museums again!