Fourteen Months Abroad – Zaandam, Netherlands and a Visit to the Rijks Museum

July 18.-We left the Hague at 2:46 this afternoon and arrived here at 4:30. We are again in Hotel Victoria and in a pleasant front room. Many lights are about us. Very soon after reaching here and storing our hand baggage in a wardrobe we started for Zaandam and its windmills. It is a journey of only fifteen minutes (six miles). There we saw Holland as we have imagined it. It is a genuine Dutch village, situated at the junction of the Zaan and the Y, largely made up of small, neat looking houses of one or two stories, with pretty gardens. Some of the small houses seem to stand almost in the water with piles underneath. Some are gay and bright with paint. From this quaintest and most primitive place we have seen, we saw an astonishing display of windmills, which extend five miles in a row along a canal ! These windmills (about four hundred in all), having a variety of shapes and colors, are partly used to drain the land in that vicinity. They are also used in manufacturing oil, cutting timber and grinding corn and in other ways. We could count eighty of these windmills from the station.

But the “crown and glory” of Zaandam is the hut occupied for eight days in 1697 by Peter the Great while, disguised as a workman, he studied the art of ship building in Zaandam and in Amsterdam. It was a much longer walk than we supposed from the station. Children with clumsy, rattling shoes on their feet followed us and we endeavored to learn from them the whereabouts of the hut, but they did not understand English and we unfortunately did not understand Dutch. At last we found the little old house. We saw only two rooms. In one room was an oil painting of Peter the Great as he looked while there. There were other paintings of himself and of his wife, the Empress Catherine. We saw the table that he used, his chairs, and the place where he slept.

We returned to Amsterdam by steam railway at eight this evening very, very tired. L. says, “We saw windmills to our hearts’ content this afternoon.”

July 19.-Our desire to visit Rijks Museum was gratified this morning. A street car from the Dam carried us to this large building which covers nearly three acres of ground. The handsomely decorated interior is full of treasures. To properly appreciate this Museum days must be spent there instead of hours. This we could not do. Our time was mostly occupied with the great paintings, of which Rembrandt’s are considered the most important. The many Dutch faces somewhat interested us, but those that I most enjoyed were paintings of animals, ocean scenes, winter scenes and landscapes. We would have been glad to linger there a long time but we were, I am sorry to say, too weary. It was a comfort, however, to see what we could, even hastily, and it is pleasant to look back upon. We met there Miss Fraser and Miss Shepherd, who were guests at our hotel in Florence while we were in that city. This afternoon we visited the Jewish Quarter. We left the street car and walked about on the streets that were alive with men, women and children. Some of these poor people were pitiable in-deed. They stared at us and soon a crowd was following us. Policemen watched them. They appeared to be living in the open air. Some were without occupation, others were selling things that were absolutely worthless. We were glad to get away.

About one-tenth of the population of Amsterdam consists of Jews, the Portuguese Jews largely outnumbering the German Jews. When the former were driven from their native country in the early part of the 17th century they fled to Amsterdam for safety. The German Jews also flocked to Amsterdam to escape persecution in their own country, regarding this city “as a second Jerusalem.”