I haven’t a clue who these people are. They looked so happy, I thought I’d take a picture.
I wanted to visit the Rembrandt House Museum on the Jodenbreestraat where the painter lived and worked between 1639 and 1656, but somehow never made it to that side of town. Instead I visited the Museum Van Loon for a peek indoors at the home of an Amsterdam patrician family. This 17th-century canal mansion, one of the most splendid in town, has retained the atmosphere of an extremely grand family home. In 1602 Willem Van Loon was co-founder of the Dutch East Indian Company. As I wandered from room to room staring at the family portraits on the walls, I wondered what had become of the Van Loon family. Where are the family members today, if any?
Many of Amsterdam’s canal houses were built during the height of the 17th-century Dutch Golden Age. In 2010, the canal district was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Contrary to the tightly-shuttered windows in France, many of the tall windows here are unshuttered and uncurtained. This means that at night you can walk past and see people going about their business inside, completely unperturbed that passersby like myself might be looking in. And guess what they were doing? Exactly what everyone else does! Sitting on a couch reading a newspaper. Watching TV. Typing in front of a computer. Preparing dinner.
As mentioned earlier, winter nights fall swiftly at 4:30 pm in Holland and you suddenly find yourself plunged into darkness. The city is dimly-lit by old-fashioned streetlamps. In fact, most rooms and interiors are dimly-lit too. I think this fondness for dim interiors is a Flemish particularity that I noticed in Antwerp, Belgium last year. It’s at this moment, if you’re walking around outside, that you should pay extra attention when crossing the streets because energetic cyclists will bear down on you. Other than that, I felt perfectly safe walking around this area in the dark (other areas, near the train station, might be less safe.) I’ve always loved walking at night. Especially on crisp, clear, cold nights.