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The Rijksmuseum, to be exact. The Rijkmuseum (officially 'Rijksmuseum Amsterdam') is the most important museum in The Netherlands. I could tell you all so much about it, all from the Dutch Wikipedia page, but that would take too long, both to write and to read. The museum mostly displays paintings, largely from the era known as The Golden Age, when The Netherlands was a world power and the United East Indies Company controlled the trade. The Dutch were never a true great military power in the sense of France or Prussia - except for the Dutch fleet - but it turns out there is a lot of value in economic power. Back then money poured into the country. If I recall correctly, we invented the first stock exchange, and the first bubble and crash, when a new thing was imported from Turkey: tulip bulbs! Everyone wanted these, mostly to sell them to an even higher bidder. Entire fortunes were lost when it transpired that a single bulb was not, in fact, worth the value of an entire house in Amsterdam. Seriously!

There were a lot of rich people, and rich people bought a lot of art, and had a lot of art made, especially of themselves. In that era also lived one Rembrand Harmenszoon van Rijn, who painted a picture here and there. What all this has left us with today is a vast, vast collection of art. But not just art: the Rijkmuseum shows objects too, such as a canon, an enormous scale model of a war ship (a few centuries old), or the seal of a great British warship, captured by the Dutch. We had lots of wars with the British back in the day. One we won by sailing our fleet into the harbour near London and, trashing their war ships and taking their flagship. The British were eager for peace after that one, and an agreement was brokered where we got the South American Suriname in exchange for our American colony New Amsterdam. The British renamed it to New York. Christy learned at school that the Dutch are among other things both reserved and direct, and that our country is founded on trade. Sound familiar? ;)

Anyway, that's a bit of a tangent. The point is, the Rijksmuseum has lots of stuff to see. Unfortunately, most of it is packed in a safe as the building has been undergoing a renovation for the past ten years. All that is available is a small area of the monumental building - once built more or less around Rembrand's most famous piece, De Nachtwacht (The Nightwatch) - crammed with art and some historical objects. The next set date for the grand reopening is in 2013. Let's hope they actually make this deadline this time. I'd like to see the rest of their one million piece collection.

The Rijks Museum in Amsterdam is pretty big, and has been in construction for a very long time. According to Arno, the contractors they hired kept putting things off as internal flux happened and they eventually went out of business. The museum has just been able to reopen a wing that has been under construction, and apparantly things are back on track and they're back to getting the rest fixed up.

Arno and I had tried to go to the Rijksmuseum once before, when I was visiting a couple years back, but due to some poor navigational choices (not my fault, and that sign was already bent!) and excessive amounts of attention spent at the Anne Frank Huis, by the time we got to the museum, it was 15 mins before closing. We had poor timing. But, as it turns out now, I got to go at a better time construction-wise and could also use the trip as a project to write about for my Dutch portfolio.

The above portraits, in case you don't know them, are based on one of Rembrandt van Rijn's self portraits and "Lady with a Pearl Earring" by Johannes Vermeer, who was one of Rembrandt's apprentices.

The other big thing--THE really big thing, in fact--about the museum is that it houses Rembrandt's "The Night Watch." Arno fully expected me to be awed by it. I clung to the attitude of, "eh, it's a painting." It was also in the last you pass through in the place... so I'd come across a LOT of other art before reaching it.... No. It's not just a painting. It's a FREAKING HUGE painting. Restored, it's very bright, and the name given to it no longer fits it, as thereis a clear ray of sunshine in the foreground. Anyway, yeah, it's fairly impressive!

As an aside, some nutbar came in with a knife, trying to destroy the painting in recent years. It has since been restored, and put back on display (obviously), but now there's always someone there on watch duty (irony...), and the easily-overstepped guard rail is placed a bit further back so that, with a few measures of Dutch optimism, nothing else will befall the masterpiece.

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