After a month in Amsterdam, Mila’s broken arm has healed enough that we are giving the Eurovelo 15 Cycle Route another shot. We’re taking the train to Lindau, about 100km from where she broke her arm in Chur, to give it another go. Our visas expire and we have a flight out of Europe on Sept. 27th, so we will have to cover more kilometers per day than we originally planned. We also have a new bicycle trailer to help carry our load. We’ll be traveling for some months after our bicycle trip, so we are carrying more stuff that one might normally carry on a bicycle tour like this.
This post is backdated. I’m actually writing and posting this from Basel on our 8th day back on the road. Trying to catch up on blog posts now that we have power and internet.
We spent yesterday at Rembrandt’s house.
Yes, that Rembrandt.
The Rembrandt House Museum (Museum het Rembranthuis) is the house in which Rembrandt lived and worked from 1639-1658. Many of the rooms of the house are furnished and decorated in the way that they were when he lived there more than 350 years ago. The walls are hung with his paintings and etchings and those of his teacher and students. There is a very nice audio tour that leads you through the house and provides all sorts of interesting facts and details about Rembrandt’s life and artwork. For kids, there was a “discovery trail” workbook, where they were asked to answer questions and find interesting facts, kind of like a scavenger hunt. Best of all, there were some really fantastic demonstrations and even a printmaking workshop, where we got to do our own drypoint etching and make a print, working in the same room where Rembrandt’s students studied and worked almost 400 year ago!
Paint making materials
First we saw how canvasses, boards, and even copper plates were prepared for painting. Then we saw how the oil paints were made with linseed oil and natural pigments. Paints were made in very small quantities, as needed, and extra paint was stored in pig’s bladders (ewww!).
Then it was on to the printmaking room (the actual room in Rembrandt’s house where he printed!) for a semi-private lesson on etching, dry point, and printmaking. We learned about the specific, innovative techniques Rembrandt used. His use of drypoint and etching in the same piece was unique and innovative. He was truly a master.
A hands-on lesson on drypoint, etching, and printmaking. Tools for etching and inking the printing plate are on the workbench.
The inked plate goes onto the press.
Lifting the print off the plate.
The plate that was used in the demonstration above is a reproduction of one of Rembrandt’s pieces – Zeus and Antiope (1659). This copy was hand etched by one of the best living engravers in The Netherlands (he did the engraving for Dutch currency before they switched to the Euro). He’s done a number of reproductions of Rembrandt’s work for the museum. As you might imagine, it is detailed, difficult, painstaking work. Working with a microscope, it took him as long as a year to complete a single piece!
So, standing in the very room where Rembrandt did his printing, not only did we get to learn about the process, we actually got to feel the engraving on the plate, see the plate inked and prepped, plate positioned on the press, paper placed on the plate, wetted, and run through the press.
When the print came off the press, the printmaker gave it to Jette.
How cool is that?!
Our very own print of Jupiter and Antiope.
It is not an original Rembrandt, but it’s about as close as you can get. Wow.
After the printing demonstration, it was our turn to do it ourselves. We headed upstairs to the Pupil’ Studio (the room where Rembrandt’s students worked) for a printing workshop. Each day, 8 people have the opportunity to participate in this workshop and create their own prints in the Pupil’s Studio. It was certainly our lucky day.
Guided by the museum instructor, we created our own drypoint etchings in a plastic plate, inked and prepared the plates and created our prints. It was awesome!
Beginning work on our own etchings.
Jette standing in front of the press.
Jette inking her plate.
Jette working on her plate.
Mila wiping the excess ink off her plate.
Jette working the details.
Mila and Jette on press.
Two arms and a leg get the job done.
The moment of truth nears…
Mila’s moment of truth.
Jette carefully positions her paper on the plate.
Jette’s print. It is a flower inside a heart, surrounded by roses. It is a design that just popped into her head.
Mila’s print. She was struck by the line work in Rembrandt’s etchings. This is her experiment with layers of cross hatching.
Waco’s print. This is my attempt at a copy of a single figure from a Rembrandt etching. After I inked the plate, rather than wipe all of the excess ink off, I removed it selectively, leaving some areas darker than others for compositional purposes.
What a great experience. Het Rembrandthuis is awesome!
Mila is healing quickly and we are planning to get back on our bikes to tackle the Rhine at the end of the month. We have train tickets to Bregenz, Austria which is just past Chur – where Mila broke her arm.
We will then make another attempt at cycling to the mouth of the Rhine at the North Sea. The catch is that we will have to do it much more quickly than we originally planned. The original idea was to make it a slow and leisurely ride with not too many kilometers (miles) per day, and the time to stop and enjoy the interesting places that we might find along the way. Regrettably the EU will only allow us to stay 90 days out of any 180 days. This means that we have to be out of the EU (actually the Schengen Countries) by the 28th of September. That gives us about one month to git ‘er done.
To help address the issues of way-too-much-stuff and overloaded bikes, we’ve bought a trailer.
Dutch trains don’t allow trailers, but this one is designed with that in mind. The wheels and the tow bar pop off and the trailer instantly becomes a big duffel bag. With some luck we can get it onto the trains.
As with everything there are tradeoffs, but hopefully the benefits of getting a bunch of junk off our bikes and onto the trailer will outweigh the costs. The pros and cons of trailers are endlessly debated and there are stalwarts in both camps. I won’t rehash them here, but if you are interested, here is one guy’s detailed analysis and a quick Google search will reveal about a million more.
Most importantly, having the trailer will allow us to shift a bunch of our load off of Mila’s bike for less stress on her arm and improved bike handling and safety. It will also shift much of the load on my bike from the frame to the trailer, which will also greatly improve the handling of my bike. I just hope the rear triangle of the frame is strong enough to handle the loaded trailer! That risk comes along with my stubbornness/madness of wanting to do the trip with the simplest “regular” bikes and not a bunch of specialized touring gear. That would be too easy, LOL!
Yesterday we visited the new Micropia museum that is part of the Amsterdam Artis Zoo (Joshua and Dominic, we were thinking of you!). In a word, it was awesome. Easily one of the best science exhibits we’ve ever experienced.
The promo video above is kind of fun, but it doesn’t really give a sense of how great the exhibit actually is. The presentation is fantastic. Nothing is dumbed down, and yet everything is accessible. The exhibits are hands-on and truly compelling. There is so much information presented, and somehow they manage to put it all in context on a number of different levels.
When you enter the exhibit you are greeted by a large “tree of life” graphic which shows the genetic relationship between all of the known forms of life on earth.
The Tree of Life at the entrance.
Did you know that 2/3 of life is invisible?! That’s right. Of all the known living organisms, two-thirds of them are microscopic bacteria or archaea, invisible to the naked eye. We humans are massively out numbered!
The first of dozens of hands-on exhibits is a station where you operate a microscope to study blue-green algae.
Jette operating the microscope and looking at algae.
In addition to the binocular viewer that Jette is using in the photo, there is a live video feed on a video touch screen next to the microscope so others can see it too. The touch screen also tells an interactive, animated “story” in Dutch and English. It talks about how the microbe functions, how it interacts with its environment, its place in the food chain, its importance to human life, and how human activity affects the organism, and by extension, other species and the whole ecosystem. It does a beautiful job of putting it all in context and helping us understand how all the pieces of life fit together.
In just a few minutes at this first station, we learned: how the Earth’s oxygen rich atmosphere formed and microbes role in it, the ocean-to-land food chain that algae power, why and how algae blooms happen, and the implications across the food chain. And more…
Did you know that it was oxygen producing microbes that first put the oxygen that we breathe into Earth’s atmosphere?
POP QUIZ - About what percentage of the oxygen that we breathe is produced by microbes in the ocean and what percentage is produced by plants?
About half of the oxygen in our atmosphere is produced by microbes in the ocean! The other half is produced by plants.
I could go on and on about the exhibits and all the cool stuff we learned, but I can’t present it in nearly as fun and compelling a way as Micropia does, so I’ll just share some photos:
The first set of exhibits
One of the great explanatory animations.
My evil concoction is ready. The world is mine. MINE!
Getting scanned for microbes
Awesome exhibit of leaf-cutter ants. Note that there are various containers and platforms floating in water, but connected by rope. The ants can cross the ropes but not the water, and so are contained. It is not behind glass, you can touch and even pick up the ants if you like. They do bite, at least according to the sign, but the choice is yours.
Do they really bite?
Keep on truckin’
The Kiss-O-Meter rated us “prudish” but still gave us quite a bit of detail on spit-swapping and the various microbial fun that goes along with it.
Yummy in your tummy.
Stool samples from a variety of animals and real human intestines.
Looking at microbial growth on fruit jam. Jim and Peggy – does this remind you of breakfast in the Thar Desert?!
Inspecting bacteria growth on toothbrushes.
Jette’s favorite exhibit/microbe was the Waterbear. Tough as nails, but oh so cute and cuddly (at least when magnified 4,000X and made to look like a comfy leather sofa)
Have you hugged your waterbear today?
Here’s what Jette wrote in her journal:
Today we rode our bikes to the Micropia museum. If I was going to show my friends my favorite part of the museum then I would show them the waterbear and the ants. Waterbears can survive in extreme heat and extreme cold as well as in between. They survive by being able to shrivel up in hot or cold but still be alive and when they blow away and get to moisture then they unshrivel. They can live for up to 100 years!
Here’s more info about waterbears:
Each station or exhibit in the museum has a stamp. Stamp your card and at the end of the exhibit, you can put your card on a scanner which allows you to review it all on a huge two-story video screen and touch screen table.
Review on a two-story monitor.
Micropia at Amsterdam Artis Zoo.
Thumbs up for microbiology!
Oh, and while we didn’t go into the zoo itself, we did get to visit with a pig eating salad…
Saying “hallo” to a pig eating salad.