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Monday, 20 August 2018

A short trip to The Netherlands for music, art and dolls

At the end of July we took our younger daughter to her coach for a long road and ferry ride then drove on to catch another ferry across the channel as the coach followed a little more slowly. She was on a 5 day Music Centre tour to The Netherlands with 50 other young musicians and we (along with a few other parents) had decided to have a short break there too so we could support two of their concerts and have a little holiday on our own without the responsibility of children!

We didn't take any dolls with us however I took some Sasha knitting which I did in the car journeys. During our trip we discovered several doll treasures in various locations and of course pipe organs too.

We stayed in a town about 30 minutes drive from Amsterdam.  The next morning we drove to Amsterdam, parked and went exploring.  It was so hot that being outdoors in the streets was uncomfortable so we were soon in the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam's oldest building, where there was, at the time of our visit, a fascinating art installation by Giorgio Andreotta Calò - all the windows had been covered with red cellophane casting a dark room red light on the interior - it made the larger, beautiful pipe organ (restoration nearly complete) plus the hanging models of ships and chandeliers look very different from what they would normally look like in daylight. Apparently at night the interior of the church is lit so the windows shine red to the surrounding streets.  The Oude Kerk is in the heart of the red light district of the city.

Outside the entrance to Amsterdam's Oude Kerk
Red window and ship model hanging from the ceiling

The other model ship hanging from the ceiling of the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam

Chandelier in Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, in the strange red light

The main organ in Oude Kerk, Amsterdam, nearly complete (some pipes in the lower case still needed to be put back in position)

DollMum in Oude Kerk, Amsterdam
Nearby we went to another church, this time Our Lord in the Attic - one of the hidden Catholic churches built in the top half of 3 houses after the country became Protestant.  There was a huge model of the entire building at the start of the museum showing all the rooms and the large wheel used for winching goods into the storage rooms of the house (a typical feature of many houses in Amsterdam which flank the numerous canals).

The museum was fascinating and the little church very beautiful (on 3 levels in the upper part of the building).
Admiring the scale model of Our Lord in the Attic

Scale model of Our Lord in the Attic

The hoisting wheel in the model of Our Lord in the Attic

The hidden Catholic Church of Our Lord in the Attic, on three levels - balconies for congregation right up to the roof
View of the altar from the top balcony

The small pipe organ in Our Lord in the Attic

View of Amsterdam from a window of Our Lord in the Attic

Then we had a concert to attend so we walked in the baking heat to the Nemo Science museum where the concert was due to be held on the roof terrace. In the event, it was too hot and sunny to be safe for 50 young musicians to be outside for an hour with no shade (especially with their instruments) so the concert was held in the roof top restaurant, though they sang their last song outside.

The following day we avoided the young musicians completely because their concert was at a care home.  So we went to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam because I was keen to see some of the famous works of art which I had studied years ago in Art History classes at school and in an Open University course. I revelled in seeing some of Vermeer's works up close (they are truly incredible) as well as some of Rembrandt's wonderful paintings.  In the gallery next to the Night Watch painting is a magnificent model of a ship, it reminded me of the fictional Dawn Treader (Narnia).

Model of the William Rex, a 17th century Dutch warship

Model of the William Rex
A few galleries along on the same floor we spent ages looking at the other treasures I had specifically wanted to see - the two incredible dolls houses owned by the wives of rich merchants of Amsterdam.  The dolls house of Petronella Oortmann inspired author Jessie Burton to write 'The Miniaturist'.

As explained by a label on the wall near the two houses, dolls houses were not playthings for children in the 17th century, they were a way of showing off the wealth and prosperity of some Dutch families.

"During the late 17th century and early 18th, spectacular dolls' houses were created in the Netherlands, especially in Amsterdam.  These were not children's toys, but display pieces, furnished for and by wealthy ladies who lavished enormous amounts of time, money and attention on them.  These houses present a picture of a well-ordered and prosperous Dutch household.  The focus lies on the world of women and directs attention to life behind the scenes, in attics, cellars and kitchens.  A regular feature is a lying-in chamber, complete with mother and newborn baby.  All dolls houses and objects in these dolls' houses are made to scale and highly detailed.  As a result, they provide a wealth of information about the furnishing and use of Dutch houses in this period. In this miniature world, much has survived that has long since vanished from our own."
Label about Dolls houses at the Rijksmuseum

Painting by Jacob Appel of the dolls house of Petronella Oortmann, the famous baby house which inspired a novel
As in the painting the actual house is on its own magnificent stand and has a glass screen to protect its precious contents from the curious general public.  There are steps and a platform to enable good viewing of the upper rooms.

Petronella Oortmann's dolls house, with the handrail of the steps in front

Petronella Oortmann's dolls house: Bedroom

Petronella Oortmann's dolls house: red room

Petronella Oortmann's dolls house: palour

Petronella Oortmann's dolls house: narrow kitchen

Petronella Oortmann's dolls house: hallway

Petronella Oortmann's dolls house: coal and wood storage

Petronella Oortmann's dolls house: laundry room with miniature irons, laundry press and ceiling filled with clothes drying rack. There is some wonderful fine basketware in this room.

Petronella Oortmann's dolls house: Sitting room

Petronella Oortmann's dolls house: front kitchen with baby chair and cabinet of the best china

Petronella Oortmann's dolls house: close up of the padded baby chair which has toys to keep baby amused

Petronella Oortmann's dolls house: the empty birdcage - perhaps this inspired part of the novel
Peering into Petronella Oortmann's dolls house

The second baby house also belonged to a person called Petronella, this time a very wealthy woman called Petronella Dunois. It boasted some incredibly fine, beautifully crafted silverware.

Dolls house of Petronella Dunois

Dolls house of Petronella Dunois: bedroom

Dolls house of Petronella Dunois: pantry

Dolls house of Petronella Dunois: steps to storage, laundry room

Dolls house of Petronella Dunois: laundry room

Dolls house of Petronella Dunois: kitchen

Dolls house of Petronella Dunois: dining room

Dolls house of Petronella Dunois: parlour

Dolls house of Petronella Dunois: nursery

Dolls house of Petronella Dunois: ceilings
Petronella Dunois

In a gallery downstairs we discovered a huge exhibit dedicated to the maritime history of The Netherlands.
Model ships in the Rijksmuseum

More model ships in the Rijksmuseum

A miniature ships galley (kitchen) in the Rijksmuseum

Yet more model ships in the Rijksmuseum

Outside the Rijksmuseum it was still blazing hot, so we didn't pause long before returning to our car.

At the entrance of the Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum garden
We drove to the fishing village of Voldendam on the shores of Ijsselmeer, just north of Amsterdam, as my husband had visited it more than 40 years before and we knew the Music Centre tour children had visited it earlier that day before their concert.  This meant driving underneath the Nemo Science Museum and the Amstel river canal. It was still very hot as we explored Volendam, saw clog making and cheese making shops as well as plenty of souvenir shops selling clogs of many sizes (though none which would fit any of our dolls). Some shop windows displayed dolls in traditional Dutch costume.

Approaching the tunnel underneath the Nemo Science Museum

Boats in Volendam harbour

Dolls in traditional Dutch costume for sale in a shop window, Volendam

A mini exhibition of dolls in a shop window, Volendam

A doll dressed as a herring seller in the shop window, Volendam

More dolls in traditional Dutch costume in a shop window, Volendam
Saturday was cooler, we drove to Delft knowing there was the chance of some rain showers.  We met our Dutch friends and explored the town together, including antique markets lining some of the canal streets.  Just after we had parked we encountered a Dutch Street organ playing in the street on its cart.  Our daughter saw it during that day as well, though in a different street (they are only meant to stay in one place for a short period of time before moving onto the next position).

Dutch Street organ in Delft

The canal barge restaurant where we had morning tea and coffee before a rain storm drove us inside

Antique market beside Oude Kerk, Delft (the church where the Music Centre concert was held)

A Delft canal street
After having lunch in a small café under shelter because of the rain, we went to the Oude Kerk to hear the Music Centre concert. The children's music sounded lovely in the acoustic of the lofty church and our daughter was pleased to see our Dutch friends again (we were last together during our trip to Waldkirch in June 2017). As we explored the church after the concert, I was happy to continue my Art history tour of The Netherlands as Johannes Vermeer, whose paintings I had so much admired the previous day in the Rijksmuseum, did much of his work in Delft and is buried in the Oude Kerk.
The main organ in Oude Kerk, Delft
The grave of Johannes Vermeer, Oude Kerk Delft
Our tickets for the Oude Kerk and concert also gave us entry to the Nieuwe Kerk on the market square and our friends were keen to see inside there too, as it is where many of the Dutch Royal family are buried. There was a large model showing the layout of the underfloor tomb (though I didn't photograph it). The organ was being played in rehearsal when we explored the Nieuwe Kerk.

The main pipe organ in the Nieuwe Kerk, Delft

Painted wooden ceiling in Nieuwe Kerk Delft

The tomb of William of Orange (First of the Dutch Royal family to be buried in the Nieuwe Kerk)

The tower and carillion bells of Nieuwe Kerk, Delft
We had savoury Dutch pancakes in Market Square before visiting the same shop where 10 years before I had bought Delftware Christmas tree decorations at the end of our long caravan tour around Europe.

Delftware souvenir shops on the Market Square in Delft

View of the Oude Kerk Delft tower and our barge restaurant in the evening light, as we said goodbye to our Dutch friends
In Delft I found a few gifts for the dolls back at home: in the Nieuwe Kerk shop I found miniature tulips in Delft planters and in the shop on the market square I found the plastic duck and the miniature Delftware duck (which is a Christmas tree decoration.  My daughter bought miniature clogs when in Volendam.

The day after our trip to Delft we drove home through The Netherlands, Belgium, France and England, arriving back about 2 hours before the Music Centre children returned in their coach. 

Back at home Nicholas James and Miranda changed out of their winter clothes (!) and examined our gifts we had brought from The Netherlands.

Nicholas James and Miranda with the Delft ducks, clogs and tulips from Delft (not Amsterdam)

Delft duck (plastic), miniature Delftware clogs and duck

Tulips in their Delftware planters, perfect for the dolls
It was a lovely short holiday in The Netherlands.