Old Masters, Art Nouveau, and more Food

Walking in beautiful cities is rewarding – you never know what you are going to find!
We passed by the Tuschinski Theater on our way to the Jewish neighborhood.
Unlike other European countries, Jews in Holland were never confined to a ghetto. In other countries, you can always sense when you are in a former ghetto – it is always Medieval with narrow cobblestone streets.
The former Jewish area of Amsterdam in nondescript and modern, safe for the Portuguese synagogue built in the 1600’s. For a synagogue built that long ago, this one is highly unusual because of its size (huge) and grandeur (major). In other European countries Jews were allowed to build their synagogues on the condition that they would be small and look like regular houses. This one is humongous! The most remarkable thing is that it still has no electricity and for special occasions, it is lit by a thousand candles! It’s all wooden on the inside, the old floors loudly protest when you walk on them.
I don’t understand how it wasn’t burnt in the many fires Amsterdam endured and why the Nazis spared it.
But back to the theater. If you like Art Nouveau and Art Deco, this is the place for you. As over the top as Paris Opera, but in its own Deco way.
For ten euro, you get an audio tour of the theater and a cup of coffee or tea.
The theater decor is amazing (but only for the Art Deco/Nouveau lovers). The interior is dark and sensual. It feels like a bordello more than a movie theater. And this must be the most opulent movie theater in the world, with red velvet seats and an organ to accompany the silent movies once played here. The hallways are silent and empty – you are transformed to another era. You almost expect a girl in a flapper dress to appear at the end of the hallway!
And she might: that is her ghost or that of Mr. Tuschinski who is visiting from Auschwitz, where he was gassed in 1942, as was customary thing to do to the Jews at that time: rich or poor, total equality, no discrimination.
Then we headed for the Rijksmuseum. We were warned about long lines, especially in the afternoons, but we just walked to the counter and bought the tickets. The museum was almost empty.
I was a bit disappointed by the Rijks. Well, the few paintings by Vermeer, Hals, and Rembrandt were superb, of course: it wasn’t the quality but the quantity that was a let down.
While four Vermeers are a lot for a museum (he was a slowpoke painter and didn’t leave too many paintings behind), but I think even the Hermitage had more Rembrandts! I did expect a bigger collection in the biggest Dutch museum.
The rest of the museum was just ok. I am a big fan of the Metropolitan Museum of Art not because of the collection but because of the way art is displayed there. It’s light and uplifting, and all the art is placed just so, as if by the most talented interior designer.
Rijks is a typical old world museum, with art displayed on the walls. That’s all.
At night we went to a restaurant, Hotel de Goudfazan, which was so off the beaten track, that it didn’t even have an English menu! It occupies a warehouse on the water in an industrial zone of warehouses and auto repair shops. To get there, you can take a free ferry from Amsterdam’s Central Station.
The place was set up as a diner, but was made hip by the magic wands of Dutch designers. There was a cool vibe in the restaurant, the food was beautifully presented and tasted decently (we are in the Netherlands, not in France -you can’t expect much from the local cuisine after all). But at 31 euro for a three-course mea, you can’t go wrong.


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