Saturday, September 13, 2008

No Dutch, no problem!

So I hauled my carcass out of bed this morning at the ungodly hour of 9 am to get to school for my Saturday morning Dutch class. It was gross, and cold, and rainy, so I had a bit of a damp bike ride to school. I got there a little early, so I got a croissant from the canteen and chatted with some people from my class. At the appointed hour we head up to the room in which we've had our lessons for the past 2 weeks, but it's got another class going on in it! So we're standing around, and the teacher of the class in our room comes out and puts a sign on the door saying that the Nederlands class is on the 8th floor. So we all troop over to the elevators, and as we're waiting for the elevator our Dutch teacher Anneke calls Bernie's cell phone, and says that she's not even at school yet! She comes from out of town, and someone jumped in front of her train and so she was stopped and wouldn't be able to get in for about an hour. So we decided it was probably better if we just cancelled the lesson. But since we'd all gotten out of bed and trooped to school, a few of us decided to partake of some of the free coffee being offered to people there for the opening weekend festivities. Yesterday the Queen came and went to a concert and checked out the school, and today it was the architect or something. None of us were all that clear on who exactly these strange people at our school were, but they were giving out free coffee so we weren't about to complain. I then went off to practice for a couple hours, since I had brought my viola all the way to school and all. What was kind of annoying was that after the concert that was put on for these strange people was over, they started roaming the hallways - so we had lots of people walking by and peering in while we were practicing. Only a tad annoying. But they were having a lunch when I got downstairs so I scored a free sandwich before heading out.
By the time I was done practicing, it had stopped raining, so I decided to take advantage of the no rain and go for a leisurely bike ride in an area of the city I hadn't make it too yet - Jordaan. Jordaan was originally built as the packed quarters in which to house all the workers and artisans and canal builders. It has one of the highest population densities still in Amsterdam, since the houses were built quite small and packed together (see picture above). It of course has become more gentrified over the past decade or so, what with those darned yuppies moving in. But it's a nice little district of narrow streets, canals, and tiny houses. After Jordaan I just kept biking around, and eventually found my way over to the Stopera building. And, I found the Amstel river! The city was built around the Amstel river, with the IJ river on the northern border and providing the connection to the sea. But since the city has grown, and various canals and stuff were filled in for sanitation/traffic purposes, the Amstel no longer meets up with the IJ. But I found it today - though if I hadn't have known what I was looking for I might have just thought it was a really big canal. That's really the only difference. The Stopera is a combination Stadhuis and opera house - ie its the city hall plus an opera hall, all in one building. It caused quite a controversy when built, and it is actually quite an ugly building.
I then wandered around the market on the Waterlooplein, which is right behind the Stopera. There were some interesting things, and also some "interesting" things, but I did buy two pretty pashminas for 8 euros. And I think I might go back and get a cheap bike lock.....or two....... I then biked through Nieuwmarkt, and hit up the Oude Kerk. Little did I know that today was open monument day, when all these historical buildings were open to the public (including some like the Oude Kerk that always are, as well as others that usually aren't). The Oude Kerk is used these days mainly as a space for art exhibits, and so they had one of those in there. But because of the monument day celebrations, they had a free wine bar! So I grabbed a glass of wine and wandered around the church. The art exhibit was sort of meh. I feel very similarily about modern art as I do about modern music. Some of it is really cool, but most of it is quite craptacular. Just because you can dress a mannequin up like a hooker and put it in a sarcophocus, doesn't mean you should. But one cool thing was that I found the gravestone on the floor that belongs to Rembrandt's wife Saskia von Uylenburgh. I just says, in really big letters, "SASKIA", with the date of her death. I think that's great. Very pithy. I think I want my gravestone just to say "KATYA" in hugmungous letters. After the Oude Kerk I headed back home, but along the way I passed a house that was open for Monumentendag so I decided to stop and go in. Turns out is a super fancy house on Herengracht, in a part of town known as 'the Golden Bend'. Its basically the most prestigious stretch of real estate in Amsterdam - and it showed. The rooms were all fancy with chandeliers, and gold trim, and priceless paintings. The mansions date from the 1660s, and thanks to lobbying by the richies the gables are twice as wide as the standard, and the rear gardens deeper than normally allowed. This particular house was the only one along the row open today because it's up for sale. They're all still private residences (or offices, as some have been converted to house things like the Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds). But they apparently open one up every year on open monument day, but only then. I think the monument day open houses are supposed to go all weekend, so I might check out some other stuff tomorrow as well. We'll see. Tomorrow is the big "Music Wave" from the old building of the Conservatory to the new building. The idea is that a bunch of people meet at the old building, and some composer (student I assume) composed this "Music Wave" piece, and so we play it there, then we march through the city, stopping at various places along the way like the Liedsplein and the Dam to play the "Music Wave", and then we end up at the new building where they've put up a stage in the square in front. And then there's be some sort of concert or opening thing of some sort. Who knows. Hopefully it won't rain, but the sun shining right now bodes well for tomorrow.

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