I’m off to Amsterdam for the 25th time to teach my course. And for anyone who has visited a city this many times knows, it gets more difficult each time to think of new and interesting things to do. While there are many things to do in Amsterdam, it became necessary several years ago to venture outside the city to find new and exciting experiences. On my last trip to Amsterdam, my wife accompanied me and we ended up having quite an adventure to Hogue Veluwe Park. Her post on Mindfulmagpie vividly describes how our innocent outing turned into one that left me with serious concerns about even getting back to the city in time to teach my class. But prior to that trip, I took a side trip to Hoorn in search of a building.
This story began several years ago when my oldest son gave me a print of a building in Hoorn, Netherlands for my birthday. It was an unusually shaped building, round on one side, constructed of several materials and topped with a clock tower. Based on the attire of two gentlemen in front of the building, it appeared to have been photographed sometime in the early 1900s.
He knew I traveled to Holland frequently and thought I would appreciate the print of this building he found at an art sale in San Francisco. He was right; I loved it for its historical significance and its uniqueness. Then on Father’s Day, I received a second print of the same building taken from the opposite side.
We could tell that the prints had once been in an illustrated book but there was no way for us to figure out how old the prints were or from what book they were taken. I was happy to hang the two pictures together in our dining room as a reminder of the country I visited so frequently.
The next spring, I was again headed to Amsterdam. As our side trip for this visit, my wife planned a ride on an antique train from Hoorn to Zuiderzee and then a ferryboat ride back to Hoorn. I wondered as we neared Hoorn if that building was still standing and if I would see it. I knew the building was near a body of water; maybe this was the right one. On our boat ride back to Hoorn to take the train to Amsterdam, I got excited when I thought I saw the building as we entered the harbor. Upon disembarking, we made our way over to the building. I took a number of photographs from several different views to be sure if it was the same building that I would have the right modern view to compare to the historical view in the prints. Unfortunately, when I returned home and compared my photos to the prints, it was obvious that the two buildings did not match. I told my son I had thought I had found it but was mistaken.
Several years later, my son was exploring on Google Earth when he came across what appeared to be the building. When he zoomed in and switched to the street view, sure enough, he could tell it was our building. He sent me an e-mail message that he had found the location of the building and it was still standing. It was an electrifying moment when I pulled up the site myself. I held up my computer screen next to the print hanging on the wall and confirmed it. Now that I knew it was still standing, I had to go see it to make a personal connection with the prints from so many years ago. I imagined it would be like seeing the actual flower vase Van Gogh had painted sitting next to his painting several hundred years old—a thrill I had experienced on a previous visit to Amsterdam.
To be continued…