He had left Holland as though it were an unfinished book that he was too young to appreciate. It had been his second Dutch experience, and it's probable that the personal circumstances and professional constraints of the time, had contributed towards what later on appeared to him to have been a less positive period in some ways than he would have liked.
His first experience there was even worse. But then he was an addled minded young duck lost in a tangle of chickweed in the interminable maze of canals in Amsterdam. Although supposedly he might have felt freer to paddle around in what now seems to have been a hazy, foolish and irresponsible dream.
So the final day of departure was like turning the last page of another complicated, glossed over chapter. In fact he considered it so 'final' that he also left his Dutch grammar books, dictionaries, novels and exercise books behind as though they too belonged to an irredeemable past.
Recently however, long afterwards, It came about that there was an excellent pretext to go to Holland again. An important celebration and immediate family reunion, naturally in very good company, and with very kind friends.
Just a few days, but this was all that was needed to break the old spell.
Amsterdam seemed bigger than before, even more cosmopolitan, and everyone appeared to look more interesting and intelligent.
He saw the Rembrandt's in the Rijksmuseum again. The small, sensitive self-portrait carried out when Rembrandt was only twenty two years old. Such a daring play of light and shadow that makes it even more of a timeless masterpiece. It was next to the portrait of his mother, or rather the amazing portrayal of her high-lit right hand, gently and humbly placed upon the large, open bible. Incredible detail, subtlety and finesse to which no reproduction could ever succeed in doing justice, because of the fine relief of the paint itself.
And then there is the similarity of Amsterdam, of Holland's history with that of Venice, for example. Although due to the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, the decline of Venice began as early as the 15th century, both republics gained their great wealth and international reputation from their maritime power and trade monopolies. The Golden Age of Amsterdam began in the mid 16th century and lasted throughout the 17th century when it became the wealthiest city in the world. The other, obvious similitude of the republics regards the construction of dikes, the retrievement of land, the creation and maintenance of canal systems, and rigourous water level control.
Revisiting, even briefly, this diadem corner of Europe is particularly satisfying for the rare Europeans who have, hopefully at last, become mature enough, less myopic and more open minded to fully appreciate all that Europe has to offer. And this so clearly reflected in the vast, individual history of its nations, their inimitable art (including culinary of course) and architecture.
Thus free of whatever self-inflicted restrictions, one is now willing and able to return to Holland in the not too distant future. Not to try to dig out old, unread chapters, but just to be there once more to see, smile, and appreciate everything and everyone, all the more so, and for very good reason.
Text and images © Mirino (PW). (Rembrandt's mother courtesy of Google). September, 2010