Thursday, August 20, 2015

Day 8: The Sail

When we first arrived in Amsterdam, everyone we met said, "You're just in time for The Sail! You've got to see The Sail!" The Sail is an event that gathers multi-masted sailing ships from around the world to Amsterdam Harbor. What makes it a spectacle is that a multitude of other types of water craft parade around the harbor while they are there.

It was easy enough to get there. We just caught the tram a half-block from our hotel, and it went straight to the train station.

Central Station

We followed the crowd streaming right through the station to the walkway that went along the piers. We had to walk about a mile—a great hoard of us together—to get to the section where the tall ships were lined up. We stopped frequently to observe the other boats milling around the bay. The sky was blue and the temperature was warm with a mild breeze.

Crowd streaming toward the Tall Ships

Other boats of all types parading around the harbor.

The Sail was an exciting subject for photography.

Captain Dan between shots.

It was very impressive to see the long line of Tall Ships tied up along the quay. People would stop to study each one to see how it was fitted out. Some could be boarded, but the wait was long.

Of course, their sails were all furled.

Some of the mast-heads were interesting.

Buzzard mast-head

The fellow climbing the mast in the photo below was breaking the rules. A security person soon shouted him down.

Royal lion mast-head

Hundreds of thousands of residents and tourists came out for the event. The crowd was orderly and calm. The sight of all the boats coming and going was rather hypnotic.

When we had had enough of the constant milling of boats and visitors, we started thinking about getting a late lunch. We quickly hopped a tram at a nearby stop and got off at the Stedelijk Museum. We had lunch outdoors at the museum's new café. Captain Dan looked over the museum atrium and decided we didn't really need to tour the museum.

Amsterdam's big art museums—the Van Gogh, the Stedelijk, and the Rijksmuseum—are grouped around a park known as the Museumplein. A big reflecting pool is in the middle, and in the middle of that was a sculpture by KAWS, an artist we had first seen on the parkway near our hotel on the day of our arrival. Again, the figures seem dismayed; or perhaps they are just interested in what they see in the pool.

Sculpture by KAWS in the reflecting pool in front of the Rijksmuseum

In the garden of the Rijksmuseum was a small exhibit of sculpture by Joan (pronounced Juan, a man's name) Miró. Miró did two types of sculptures. One was bronze figures that look vaguely like people or animals, but abstracted in a somewhat comical manner. His imagery has to do with dream states, when the imagination confounds objects. He wanted to be contrary because he saw traditional art as a way of promoting a status quo that was demeaning to human worth.

Joan Miró, 1893-1983
Lunar Bird, 1966

Joan Miró, 1893-1983
Personnage, 1970

His other type of sculpture combines objects he finds in the world in a way that suggests a certain figure. These might be compared with stand-up comedy, like one-liners. In the next piece, the comedian could be saying, "The essence of a woman is a head that rakes in everything and an empty box that holds anything. The essence of a bird is a round blob that hovers near the woman." Women and birds were his most common subjects.

Joan Miró, 1893-1983
Woman and Bird, 1967
For this piece, he combined an ironing board, a tortoise shell, a toilet seat, a straw hat, and a stone, topped by a sliver of moon that he made himself. This is like a game. How can I arrange this particular set of junk to look humanoid? Then to be quaint, he adds a surreal title.

Joan Miró, 1893-1983
The Caress of a Bird, 1967

Giant trees create a pleasant atmosphere in the garden of the Rijksmuseum.

We continued walking through the historical part of Amsterdam, enjoying the picturesque architecture along the canals.

When we got to the tram stop for the ride back to our hotel, a huge crowd was waiting. Rather than stand around impatiently, we quickly found a pub where we could get a beer. There were no tables available outside, so we barged in on a couple who had two empty stools at their table. They were very friendly and accommodating. When we told them we were coming from The Sail they bragged that they had seen it the previous day when the tall ships arrived in full sail (we were sleeping off our jet lag) with lots of pomp and ceremony. The company that employed the man had a connection with another company located in the harbor, so they had a clear view of the Tall Ships parading by. What an experience that must have been.