Easter In Amsterdam
On Easter Sunday 2011, we spent four hours in the Keukenhof Gardens outside of Amsterdam in Holland. Seventy-seven landscaped acres, with hills, ponds, trees, paths, azaleas, rhododendrons – and hundreds of thousands of tulips, hyacinths, narcissus at their utter peak of bloom. Even with some thirty-five thousand other wanderers, it was one of those times when one’s jaw actually drops. The beauty was overwhelming.
That day was part of a river and canal tour of The Netherlands and Belgium. We’ve saved the civilized world for our later years – no more Antarctic treks. But the low countries brought us some excitement nevertheless. I’m not talking about the menace of the Amsterdam bicyclists; it didn’t take us long to look both ways at the bike lanes before stepping across a street. But Bruges, with its brick houses in all shades from cream to burgundy, which we watched from a small canal boat, took us back five centuries. Outside of Arnhem, we felt contrasting emotions. First, we thrilled to the rooms full of Van Gogh paintings in the Kroller-Muller Museum. A Dutch woman had collected as many of Vincent’s works as she could find, before and after his death; in one room hung at least thirty of his brilliant paintings. And then we went by bus to an entirely different museum: the Airborne Museum Hartenstein, in memory of the World War II battle chronicled in A Bridge Too Far. With sound and light and graphics, the curators brought the battle to life – and death.
The trip had many high points, including our first encounter with Old Genever gin. We visited the elegant room – portraits of scholars, and William of Orange – where Elizabeth’s nephew will defend his Ph.D dissertation at the University of Leiden. But we laugh, and puzzle a bit, over one encounter. At dinner in The Hague, we sat across from a Dutch woman dining by herself. We had pleasant conversation with her. And then, as we were leaving, she smiled at us and said, “Revelation! Nice Americans!” Had she never met any others?
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