Monday, July 20, 2015

Up bright and early from a sound night’s sleep.  My friend and I headed to the nearby Vondelpark and had a great run.  It’s the first outside run since I broke my toe in December.  This park is lovely and was full of people running, biking and exercising in different ways.  In the evening when I returned to the park it was filled with people picnicking and unwinding from their day and of course, the ubiquitous bikers.

Our marketing group enjoyed a very informative walking tour of Amsterdam; a man-made city that was an international trade center by the time the 14th century arrived.  The determined Dutch people reclaimed land from the sea and built this amazing city from scratch. 

Our group visited many neighborhoods in this population-dense city.  Every street was bustling, but in the midst of all this activity our guide took us through a peaceful haven, Begijnhof, that was home to religious community of women who dedicated themselves to serving God by helping others. The female residents of this community lived a nun-like life out of vocation rather than restriction and could choose to leave the community at any time.  The last of them passed away in the early 1970’s. Today Begijnhof respects its history and offers subsidized housing within its walls to single women over 30 years old  – the waiting list is long.

Entrance to Begijnhof

Statue of a Beguine

One of the most interesting stops on our tour today was in front of where Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie, VOC, "United East India Company" once thrived.  Established in the early 17th century this company was the first to sell shares and to protect its investments by distributing the risk across investors. The VOC was in dire financial shape because of internal corruption and it wasn’t until Napoleon’s forces invaded Amsterdam that it was discovered and the VOC ended its successful run in bankruptcy.

Original Site of the United East India Company
The last stop on our tour was near the Anne Frank House where our guide reminded us of Miss Frank’s tragic story and of how Amsterdam’s citizens rallied around their Jewish neighbors in an unsuccessful attempt to fend off Nazi occupation.  

The three hours we spent touring Amsterdam emphasized the city’s tolerance for all people and ways of life as long as they remain within the simple rules of not causing injury to others, not harming the greater society and being discrete.