Wednesday, April 10, 2013


One of the things that really impressed me on this particular trip through seven Central and Western European countries was the importance and prevalence of large Jewish communities in Europe.  There are areas of Los Angeles where we sometimes see Orthodox Jews, but for the most part the Jewish community blends in like most other religious communities in the United States.  That may be true in Europe today as well, but it definitely was not true prior to World War II, and the Jewish Quarters we toured in almost every country we visited testify of that.

At one time Amsterdam was the center of the Jewish community in the Netherlands. However, 80% of Amsterdam's 80,000 Jews were killed during the Holocaust. Since coming home, I have learned that the first Jews deported from Amsterdam by the Nazis were sent to Austria's Mauthausen, the concentration camp we had visited with the Joneses earlier in this trip.  Later deportations were to the Polish camps of Auschwitz and Sobibor.

Today, there are 15,000 Jews in Amsterdam (about 1.8% of the population of the entire city), and they are respected and prominent members of the community. In fact, the mayor of Amsterdam from 2001 to 2010 was Jewish.

We visited the Jewish History Museum, which was actually established before World War II.  However, the Nazis destroyed or stole most of the collection.  The museum reopened in 1955 and slowly rebuilt its collection, which now includes 13,000 works of art, ceremonial objects, and historical objects (only 5% of which are on display at any given time).

Hmmm. Do you think this one dates back to Noah?

This painting is of the Torah scroll being rolled up to be returned to the Ark (1859):
The museum has a nice collection of Marc Chagall paintings.  Chagall (1887-1985) is probably the most prominent Jewish artist of the 20th century.  According to a plaque in the museum, "Chagall owes his widespread popularity to his nostalgic depictions of a Jewish world long gone, enchanting love scenes, lively circus performers and his exuberant use of color."

On the left, The Inspiration of the Artist (self-portrait). On the right, The Rabbi and Torah:

Man with a Whip
The museum also has a ritual bath, or mikveh, which is used for ceremonial cleansing, such for a married woman after her menstrual cycle or for men and women (separately, of course) before a wedding ceremony. A sign noted that "Proselytes, before they are accepted into the Jewish faith, also immerse themselves in a mikveh":

I'm not sure what this poster represents, but it seems to express some anti-Nazi sentiment:
We also visited Amsterdam's Biblical Museum, housed in side-by-side canal homes dating to 1662. I'm guessing the carpet is not original.

The interior contains some beautiful Bible-themed art and high-quality models of ancient Biblical sites.

Herod's Temple

Jerusalem in the year 70 AD

The Temple Mount
 A rather random artifact was this head of a mummy man from about 1330-1070 BC. The face was covered with black resin, which resulted in almost perfect preservation.  Just a bit creepy.

Finally, we strolled through the Biblical Garden behind the museum.  All the plants are either mentioned in the Bible or grow in Biblical lands.
These giant stone heads covered with moss were very . . . um . . . unique:

No post about any foreign city is ever complete without a few words about the food.
I'll forgive them for that apostrophe. I'm impressed they have hot dogs at all!
I don't know why we have a photo of this poffertjes stand but no picture of the actual product!
This is definitely a different way of getting your daily chocolate dose:
I'm guessing that the same people who use the above might also use the goodies below:

One of the "must eats" in Amsterdam, according to Rick Steves and many other sources, is an order of Dutch fries smothered with mayonnaise.  They are very good, but definitely not good for you. They can be doused in other sauces, such as curry or peanut sauce, but we went for the slightly sweet mayo, the most popular, most traditional version:

Chris, I found one dish that could give gelato a run for the money: Pannekoeken, plate-sized Dutch pancakes available with dozens of different fillings.  Did we eat some of these before you guys flew back to Montana?
We had them more than once during the day we were in Amsterdam after you left. 
The warm waffles, doused in powdered sugar and drizzled with chocolate, were also delicious:
Well, it's time to finish writing about this most amazing journey. All told, I think I've written forty-four posts. We toured the Czech Republic and Austria with Chris and Stan, added Julie and Alex to tour Hungary, then joined the remainder of my siblings, Angie and Pete, Doris and Reid, and Dave and Bonnie, in Switzerland. From there we traveled the Rhine River through Germany and France, ending in the Netherlands.

Bob and I have other adventures planned,and I'm sure there are more exciting trips ahead, but I don't think we will ever be able to top the feeling of being in Europe with all of my siblings and all of their spouses.

What a trip. What a family.  Mom would be so proud of us!

I'll end with just a few final pictures: Amsterdam's flower market:


  1. Per usual, you caught sights and insights that I did not see or completely forgot about. When of the reasons I love to travel with you. You add so much to my life.

  2. I love the Chagall pieces.
    I did not eat pannekoeken. Really? Comparable to gelato??? Clearly, I must return and you'll have to come with me to make sure I find it.

    1. Let's see--I have Monday free. How about you?

  3. I have enjoyed going on this journey visually as you and your family explored sights and sounds and food and gelato in Europe. What will you do for your encore? (Wait. I already know!)