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This past weekend, I rode my bike for the first time in more than two months, and sadly, neither my bike nor I were in the best shape after our short hiatus. My bike has a bit more rust now, the tires were rather spongy, and the chains were a little sluggish. And I was a bit winded and had a sore butt after my ride!

Despite this, it was great riding around Amsterdam again, and it made me realize that biking will be one of the things I really miss when we eventually leave this country. I love living in a city where the best way to get around is by bike—I don’t think you can truly understand the bike’s superiority in Amsterdam until you’ve been here, but I’ll try to explain it anyway.

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On Friday, I finally took a tour of the Portuguese Synagogue and the Jewish Historical Museum, which are located in the east of Amsterdam. I say ‘finally’ because I lived relatively close to them for more than four years and went by regularly without ever visiting. It was a very cold tour though, since it was a sunny but cold day in Amsterdam, and the synagogue has no electricity or heating.

Exterior of the Portuguese Synagogue

The Portuguese Synagogue is a beautiful long structure, built in the 1670s, with a wooden interior and many chandeliers to hold the approximately 1000 candles used to light the interior in the evening. It’s specifically a Portuguese synagogue, because it was built for the large Jewish population that immigrated to the Netherlands from Spain and Portugal during the Spanish Inquisition. Even the Spanish immigrants called themselves Portuguese Jews to avoid being identified with Spain, then at war with the Dutch.

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I shot this video earlier today of the Inauguration Day Carillon Concert at the Oude Kerk in Amsterdam. In honor of Barack Obama finally becoming president of the United States, local musician Gideon Bodden played a program by American composers on the Oude Kerk’s carillon including Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa and Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin.

This video features a portion of the song Someone to Watch Over Me, by Gershwin. Sorry if it’s a bit shaky – it was cool and windy out today!

© Kathy Keating and “Life in Amsterdam”, 2009.



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It’s been a really cold winter so far in the Netherlands, which I’ve actually enjoyed somewhat since it’s meant little rain and sunny skies. The Dutch have become particularly excited, because these few weeks of cold temperatures are freezing the canals and lakes across the country.

The Dutch love to ice skate—and not just casually around a rink—a surprising number of people speed skate. Every winter, I’ve seen skaters out on small rinks around the city and speed skaters at a large outdoor rink in the suburbs. And while they enjoy skating at these places, they really love to skate outside on the canals. Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to do it much in the past decade, since the winters in Western Europe have been relatively mild. But this winter is changing that trend.

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It’s been over a week since I posted last, and I’m sorry for that. Although I haven’t publicized this blog much, so I’d be surprised if anyone had been anxiously awaiting my next post!

It’s mid-December now, which is a pretty busy time for many people. My husband Jim and I are going to spend Christmas in Berlin this year, and I’ve been trying to do all the things and run all the errands I’m supposed to before we leave, plus work on my other website which was hacked into last week (for more on that, surf over to www.techkathy.com). (more…)

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