last week we went to the hague to take care of our visas. essentially, that required us to take a three hour train, then sit in a waiting room for 40 minutes, then go upstairs to a little room, and then three minutes later walk out with our passports newly stamped and approved. and then a three hour ride back. that was our "errand" for the day. pretty silly.
on the plus side, we did get to see the entire country and notice the land become even lower, even flatter, and ever more populous. and to boot, we even got to go to a museum before we came home!
we chose to go to the mauritshuis http://www.mauritshuis.nl/index.aspx?siteid=54, right next to the queen's digs in the center of the city, and view a rembrandt exhibit. rembrandt van rijn was a dutchman who was born 400 years ago, so to celebrate the anniversary of his birth, the mauritshuis has created a special exhibit in his honor. they have displayed, all in one magnificent room, every single painting by the artist that is in their collection!
usually when i see a rembrandt, i'm in a museum that perhaps only has one or maybe two rembrandts in their collection. and i'm also usually only in a museum on a weekend or during the height of the tourist season. so when i see one of his paintings, i'm usually trying to get a decent look at it in a crowd of pushy people -- which is so exhausting and claustrophobic to me that i usually give up and go view a lesser known artist in a quiet corner somewhere.
but here... HERE. here is a room full of probably 20, maybe even 30 rembrandts. and it's september. and it's a wednesday afternoon. there was virtually no one there. just me, adam, and the guards. and the master painter.
viewing a rembrandt, up close and personal like that, was probably one of the more inspiring moments i've had in my life. the way he uses light to capture intensity, the way his muddy shadows make you feel tense, not knowing what's in the background. the detail he puts into his own self portraits, really trying to own his own mortality. it's really remarkable, and an experience that i'll never forget.
but wait! that's not all! we also got to view three vermeers, perhaps the best known artist of the dutch masters. he's the one that painted "the girl with the pearl earring" and also "view of delft." it was really something else when i was looking at "view of delft" and heard on my audio guide that vincent van gogh wrote to his brother about the same painting, and found it to be one of the best paintings he had ever seen. van gogh and i saw the same painting 100 years apart! isn't that awesome?! http://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/v/vermeer/02c/13view.html
the other attached pictures you see are around the old church or the big church or whatever it was. we were there right around lunchtime, and so chose to eat at the cafe that you see here, under the broad branches of a sycamore tree.
the cafe was actually built into the side of the church and was probably used as a residence by a priest once upon a time. pretty neat.
on friday we're going to amsterdam to run another passport-related errand. fortunately it's only TWO hours by train, instead of the three that it took to get to the hague. keep checking in and i'll be sure to write a story about that upcoming trip, too.