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Amsterdam’s Tuschinski Theatre

5 Aug

When I went to college in the Fargo-Moorhead area, I had the luck of being not too far from the Fargo Theatre.  It’s a beautiful Art Deco movie house in downtown Fargo.  I think that I saw “Shine” there twice.  I learned that seeing a beautiful movie in a beautiful theater is good for the soul.  Heck, sometimes seeing a dud in gorgeous surroundings is good for the soul.

When we head to Amsterdam next year, I’m hoping to catch a flick in the Tuschinski Theater.  It’s a unique combination of Art Deco, Gothic, Art Nouveau, Jugendstil, Amsterdam School and Oriental influences.  Or you could call it Hodgepodge because that’s kind of what the pictures look like.  Super elaborate and pretty hodgepodge. 

This is what makes for a great movie experience, I promise. Vibrating chairs are never going to top this.

The theatre was built by and named for Abraham Icek Tuschinski.  He had come from Poland on his way to America.  When stalled in Rotterdam, the self-taught Jewish tailor would eventually open four movie houses there to present the new wonder of moving pictures.  He would move to Amsterdam in 1917 with two brothers-in-law to build the Tuschinski Theater.

The theater was built, according to Tuschinski, with “the best people, the best ideas and the best of materials”.  When it opened in 1921, the theater was outfitted with a very early form of air conditioning.  Giant blocks of ice were put into the ventiliation shafts to cool the paying customers.  Speaking of cool (like that segue?), in 1940 a Wurlitzer was installed in the theatre and a 16 piece orchestra would soon follow.  After WWII performers such as Maurice Chevalier, Judy Garland, Edith Piaf, Dionne Warwick, Dizzy Gillespie, and Fats Domino would play there.  On a sad note, Tuschinski and most of his family wouldn’t live to see this golden age for the theater.  He would die at Auschwitz in 1942.  In fact, during the Nazi occupation of Amsterdam the theatre was renamed “Tivoli”, which didn’t sound as Jewish to fascist ears.

But the future is bright for the Tuschinski.  It underwent restoration in 1984 when the giant wool carpets were replaced.  As with the original carpets they were created in Morroco.  Only this time when they were moved to Amsterdam they were flown on one KLM plane, due to the size.  KLM would fit the bill for this honor, paying around $100,000.  Then from 1998-2002 a major restoration took place.  A mural was discovered and restored.  Seating was changed to allow 740 people to sit in the main theater, some in love seats and private boxes.

I’m personally hoping that we are able to get a love seat and share some wine during our movie.  The pictures of the interior are dynamite.  This link has a bunch of pictures of the exterior and interior of the theatre but you may wish to ignore the cheesecake at the bottom of the page, just sayin’.

The Mister likes to see a movie when on vacation.  I’ve only done it once.  We saw “A Night at the Museum” in Puerto Rico.  The main thing I remember about that experience was knowing enough Spanish to order a Coke but not enough to understand that I was now eligible for a free refill.  That’s when it’s handy to have a sense of humor and Spanglish.  “No comprende, still my friend-ay” was the best I could come up with and with my refill I got a genuine smile.  Stellar.

Circle Me, Aalbert

25 Jul

Yesterday, after much to do here in Minnesota, Bert Blyleven was finally inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.  After 22 years in the majors and a popular 15 year run as a color commentator Minnesota Twins, his place in baseball has been officially recognized by the peeps in Cooperstown.  I’ve yet to be circled by Bert and I haven’t yet tried his signature burger at Wendy’s but I have researched him.  When reading about Bert I found good reason to include him in a travel blog about Europe and this time I’m not even going to have to get creative with my rationalizations.  Bert is Dutch.

In fact, he’s the first Dutch person to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.  He was known as the Frying Dutchman by some of his team mates because he’d set fire to their shoe laces.  A fire extinguisher in the dugout read “in case of Blyleven, pull”. 

Though born in the Netherlands, Blyleven’s family moved to Canada when he was two and then California when he was five.  I found this tidbit in the Star Tribune about Bert’s last name. “In Holland, it’s ‘Bly-LA-ven,’ ” he said. “Which means, ‘Happy life.'”.  The spelling was originally Blijlaven but Canadian officials changed it at the border.  They didn’t touch his first two names though, Rik Aalbert.  Bert changed those all by himself and I’m willing to be he still thinks it’s a happy life.

Apparently, despite all the great baseball players not from the States, there aren’t that many foreign-born players in the Hall of Fame… yet.  Bert is joined by Roberto Alomar (Puerto Rico), Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico), Juan Marichal (Dominican Republic), Luis Aparicio (Venezuela), Rod Carew (Panama), Ferguson Jenkins (Canada), Orlando Cepeda (Puerto Rico) and Tony Perez (Cuba).  And if you’re wondering, Puerto Rico is a territory of the US but they participate as a foreign country in the Olympics and the World Baseball Classic, so we’re counting ’em.  And speaking of the World Baseball Classic…

Bert continued work in baseball by coaching the World Baseball Classic team from the Netherlands in 2009.  This was only the second of two tournaments since the classic started with the first being in 2006 and the third scheduled for 2013.  I’m guessing that’s because 2012 would put it right alongside the Olympics in London.  Anyhoo, Blyleven’s contribution to the Dutch team brought them from a non starter to a real contender.  Though they didn’t beat the Japanese they gave the Dominican team a run for their Dominican peso.

And that’s all that I have to say about that.  Congrats, Bert!

Stroopwafels!

2 Jul

The recommendation is to put a stroopwafel on top of a hot beverage. The steam cooks the syrup and keeps your drink warm. Isn't learning delicious?

Every once in awhile I like to ask the  Mister a question such as “what are you excited to see on our trip?”, “would you rather go to Halstatt or Berchtesgaden?” or “are you awake?”.  The one I think I’ve asked the most often is “what are you looking forward to eating while we’re there?”  His answer has always been “these waffle cookies that they sell in packs.  I’m going to buy every single one I see.” 

I was worried.  Would he bother to try gellato or sacher torte with these waffle things on the market?  And what the heck were they anyway.  Turns out they were, as you can guess from my title, stroopwafels (stroop-vah-fells).  It’s a Dutch cookie that is often sold in packets of ten.  Apparently the Mister is not alone in his craving for these delicacies as there is a society set up for addicts called the Association of Stroopwafel Addicts.  While I see the need to have a support group they don’t seem to be encouraging any kind of treatment or outreach.  Actually they look like they are making the problem much worse by hinting that all it takes is one and that they are yummy.

They certainly sound tasty.  The cookie is made of a waffle about the size of a compact disc.  It’s then cut in half while warm and spread with a syrup and then the halves are reunited.  You can buy them in the pack, as I mentioned, but you can also find stands that sell them.  If they are potentially habit-forming when they are few days old then imagine what they are like fresh!

There are an incredible amount of videos on YouTube about these little guys.  My favorite is this one because you get to hear Dutch being spoken and sung while the stroopwafel makes it’s way into the world.  It’s kind of hard to hear Dutch when in the Netherlands because everyone speaks English.  And French and German and sometimes Spanish and Chinese.  Students are no expected to learn English in school along with French / German and one elective language.  How do they have time to invent stroopwafels? 

Back in 1784, a baker in the Dutch town of Gouda made the first stroopwafel by combining waffle crumbs and syrup.  There are now many shops in Gouda selling stroopwafels.  There are also many places to get these cookies via the interwebs.  Let’s hope that the Mister doesn’t read that or I’m sure we’ll never make it to Europe.  Why bother when you can get stroopwafels at home AND watch baseball?

Rembrandt (1936)

23 Jun

Sometimes it’s just fun to watch a movie. That’s lucky because the amount of accurate information I could gather from a Korda film is about the same as the amount of nutrition I can get from a chicken McNugget. But that’s not the point, is it? And I seem to gain some kind of enjoyment out of both scenarios though I certainly feel less nauseous after watching this movie.

Rembrandt is a film about the Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn (Rijn rhymes with pine). Though famous and spendy in today’s art world, he’d die pretty much penniless. I also knew that his first wife died and he lived with a woman in his later years. There ends what I know about Rembrandt besides his kick ass self portraits. So I’m probably not a good judge of what is accurate but the internet always picks up where film leaves off.

Sources say that director Alexander Korda did a wonderful job of accurately portraying Holland at this time. Charles Laughton was also very good. I concur. Though I will admit that I found myself double-checking his bio to see if he had played the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz though I knew better. In case you’re wondering, he so totally didn’t.

What I liked best about this movie was seeing the Bride of Frankenstein’s Elsa Lanchester playing opposite her husband (Laughton). Granted theirs was a lavender marriage and Laughton was as gay as a picnic basket. Still there is something fun about seeing real couples together in a movie. Except for Gigli, I guess. I can’t bring myself to watch.

Besides wishing tha some more thought had been put into the application of Laughton’s facial hair, I have no qualms about suggesting this movie to others. If for no other reason than hearing the painting the Night Watch called dark. In our time we know that it was just dirty. Which reminds me… Maybe it’s time for a McNugget.

Sorry, I was totally done. I promise. But when I was looking for a link to the Night Watchman I got a little saddened by how badly Google wanted to show me tee

Ride This Way

29 Apr

I really dig me some Queen. And lately, with the possibility of spring it’s hard not to think of the song “Bicycle Races”. I’m pretty sure that the lyrics don’t have that much to do with biking, otherwise why would Freddie Mercury take time away from praising his 10 speed to tell us that he doesn’t like “Star Wars”? Still, when he sings “I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike. I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride it where I like,” he makes a whole boat load of sense.

Bike parking at Amsterdam's Centraal Station. Yes, really.

You could also make the claim, and I think I’m gonna!, that this song perfectly fits the Netherlands. Not only does Holland love their two-wheelers, they are a festive home to some of the best gay pride parties in the world. (You know, cause Freddie was gay?) The country is known for being tolerant of different religions, ethnicities, sexual preferences and some mighty enthusiastic pot smokers. “Tolerant” is not a great word because it brings to mind a person suffering through something. Like, I tolerate the bad music played at the gym. That doesn’t infer that I respect it or that I understand that it might be different from music that I like but I still believe that it has a right to happily coexist with Aretha Franklin. No, it tells you that I grin and bear the “nnt, nnt, nnt, nnt” because that’s part of my going to the gym. But that isn’t really what I came to blog about today. I want to talk about bikes.

The Dutch are crazy pants about their bikes. That makes a lot of sense as their country is at sea level and the more cars there are in the world the more likely that they will be under sea level. Most of their land is also pretty flat. When they reclaimed the land from the sea (or did their best to keep what they had from being mermaid territory) they didn’t add a bunch of hills to it. Dutch bike lanes also rival those in the States because they exist between parked cars and the sidewalk. The risk of being thrown off your bike by a driver opening a car door is eliminated this way. Some bike lanes are not anywhere near streets. And some streets have been made pedestrian and bike only paths. The Dutch even have streetlights just for bikers.

With all this ease of use patterned into their lives, it’s not a surprise that 65% of people in Holland ride their bikes three or more times a week. The average person owns two bikes. And they are rewarded when getting across the city takes an hour in a car and only 30 minutes in a bike. Parking prices can be as much as $8 an hour and every year there are few spaces available. Some canals were paved over in the ‘70s to allow for more car traffic but that kind of thinking is over now.

As a visitor to Amsterdam, using any of the public transit systems gets you where you need to go with little hassle and little cost. Still, if you want to live like a temporary local á la Rick Steves, then it might be good to rent a bike. Major train stations have easy check out and there’s parking for your bike everywhere. From what I read, the bikes you rent aren’t going to win beauty contests but this is due to the risk of theft. Full time city workers fish the thieves’ rejected bikes out of the canals, so even if your bike isn’t a looker it’s still a great idea to follow the instructions that your rental company gives you about locking up. It sounds like you can expect not one, but two locks to accompany your rental. That’s a little inconvenience for some of the safest biking this planet has to offer and a chance to sing Queen in your head… like I need an excuse.