I tried to talk John into taking the train to the windmill museum located 22 miles out of Amsterdam, but he knows how I am in museums so he was hesitant to go out of the city when we needed to be onboard by 3:30. Our original plan for the day was to walk to the Hermitage and see this summer’s exhibit, so that is what we did – the windmill museum can wait until next time we are here. Probably a good thing because it takes half an hour to walk to the museum, then the time to view the exhibit (with a museum junkie in tow) and half an hour to walk back.
The Hermitage in Amsterdam is linked to the famous Hermitage in St. Petersburg and every year Russia sends a new collection for display in Amsterdam for the summer. We chanced upon the museum when we were in Amsterdam several years ago – the collection that year was Tsar Nicholas’ Court. Two years ago we saw The Dutch Masters (St. Petersburg Hermitage has a large collection of art work by Rembrandt, Reubens, Van Dyke, etc. as the Tsarina’s daughter lived in Amsterdam and sent paintings to her mother in St. Petersburg). This year’s collection was called “Napoleon, Josephine and Alexander.”
Tsar Alexander I and Napoleon became good friends and signed a treaty to support each other in war and for Russia to join the French trade embargo against Britain. This treaty was very costly to Russia – especially the trade embargo and eventually collapsed. Napoleon’s Grand Armee invaded Russia with disastrous results. He entered the country with 600,000 troops and 175,000 horses. The Russians drew the French deeper and deeper into the country, sacrificing thousands in the process. As the French moved forward the Russians burned all the crops, all the buildings and destroyed anything the French army could possibly use. Eventually winter set in and the French needed supplies to camp until spring. There was no place to shelter and no food for man nor animal. Thousands died of cold, of drowning in the frigid waters and of starvation. By the time Napoleon crossed the border back into French territory there were 30,000 men and several thousand horses remaining. The beginning of the end for “The Little Emperor.”
There are no photos allowed inside so we left our cameras at the coat check. The Hermitage does an exceptional job displaying and describing their exhibits and I love to go there. The displays included paintings, sculptures, lances and swords, some furniture, jewelry and trinkets like snuff boxes, uniforms and other items of clothing, etc. etc. Really great stuff!!
We actually saw two different exhibits this year, the Napoleon one from Russia and a portrait exhibit of leaders of the Dutch Guilds who took care of all trade and the security in the city during The Golden Age of the late 17th century. These paintings are unique in the world and are rarely seen due to their enormous size. It was permissible to take photos without flash in the portrait gallery but we didn’t have our cameras. I took one quick photo with my phone; which isn’t very good but will give an idea of how big these paintings are. Only the wealthy could afford to have their portraits taken so these works clearly show the leaders of commerce and trade.
Two of our favorite crew: Dharma and Aurora
While we were eating dinner we sailed the long channel out of Amsterdam. We went to the cabin, got our cameras and went onto the bow deck to watch the sail through the lock taking us out to sea again. The captain had announced that he expected to be in the lock at 7 pm and at 6:59 were tied inside waiting for the gate to open to lower the water level back to the sea. (Amsterdam sits 18’ below sea level.) Tomorrow we are in Belgium, the port city of Zeebrugge (Zee-rouge with a B sound at the beginning) and are taking my most-wanted tour of this trip – “Ypres, In Flanders Fields.”