Monday, December 22, 2008


When Jerry and I knew we would be returning to the US from Istanbul for good, we decided that we would like to have a two-month transition time in changing from the "east" to the "west." And frankly, we were looking to go to a place where English was spoken. Our choice would have been London, because we not only love the city itself but we also have relatives who live there. However, Englad at that time had a 6-month quarantine for animals being brought into the country, so because we were bringing our two Turkish-acquired cats home with us, that eliminated London. Our next choice was Amsterdam and a good choice it turned out to be. We rented a flat in a very modern building on one of the outlying canals and we had a great two months.

While it had been cold in Istanbul during the winters, it wasn't until we got to Amsterdam that we learned what cold really was. When we first went to Istanbul, we took California clothing. You know that for the most part, Southern Californians dress the same way in winter as in summer -- maybe we change from shorts to slacks but cotton tee shirts and tops stay the same year-round. So as the first winter in Istanbul approached, we could see that we would be woefully underdressed in our California clothing. I made a trip to England and bulked up my wardrobe. Jerry bought a "Palto" in Istanbul that cost an arm and a leg, and a Persian Lamb hat to finish off the outfit - and he was set. It got cold and snowy in Istanbul, but for sheer icy cold, Amsterdam had Istanbul beat by a longshot!

At the end of the first week we were there, all the canals froze over -- and imagine our delight when we took our morning walk and found this wonderful goose walking on the ice alongside our building. As we got a little further on, we found all the local Hans Brinkers skating along, just exactly looking like every image we have ever had of skaters on the canals.

We didn't let the cold weather stop us from doing anything. With two months to sightsee, we spent every moment making them count. We saw every museum Amsterdam has to offer, and that was plenty. Outside Amsterdam we went to a museum that featured Scherenschnitte, which is paper-cutting. I have never in my life seen anything as fantastic as I did in that museum. I still cannot imagine anyone wielding a pair of scissors in such intricate designs. I mean, can you visualize something like the Gettysburg address cut out of paper?

We also went to the Tulip market, saw the windmills, the Ann Frank house, and some of the other major cities as well. We stumbled upon a ceremony remembering the dock-workers strike that took place during the Second World War. It was very moving -- and of course since we were so young at the time it happened, we had heard nothing about it. The history of the Dutch people's care of the Jews during that war is not stressed nearly as much as I think it should be.

One of the things we did lots of while we were there was to walk up and down the streets of the town, looking at the most interesting architecture and the historical sites. By the end of our two-month stay, we were ready to tackle the "west" again, and we left Amsterdam with many good memories of our time there.

The picture below shows Jerry dressed up in his Palto and his Persian lamb hat, with a nice maroon mohair scarf that I knit for him tucked around his neck. He actually looks like someone out of a "spy" movie. It's his "incognito" look.

He brought home his warm clothing, but you can be sure that the hat languishes in his dresser drawer and the palto hangs limply in the closet. He can't bear to part with them, but unless we take a trip to Alaska to visit our daughter Bryn (which is very unlikely) neither will see the light of day again.

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