Tripping over bicycles!
The Crisis 2016 wargames show was held last Saturday in Antwerp, Belgium. As usual, the Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy team was there with a stand to speak to members of the public and answer their questions (and sell subs and mags!). This year, my girlfriend Emma and I decided to go to the continent early and spend a few days in Amsterdam. There’s plenty to see in the capital of the Netherlands - and yes, we went for the culture and the history, not the shadier parts of the city. Strange smelling ‘Coffee Houses’ hold no interest for us, nor do some of the most colourful districts. We have nearly been run over by trams and have tripped over parked bicycles - the city is full of them!
The top rated attraction (according to Tripadvisor) is the Rijksmuseum. This had to be one of our first stops. I originally visited here in 2003, but the place had changed dramatically and for the better. It has recently reopened after a long refurbishing. However, the museum now only concentrates on Dutch history (16th Century to the present) - I’m sure I saw Assyrian reliefs back in 2003 but never mind… there’s still plenty here to see.
I love museums. They hold a gold mine of interesting information and can also give clues to parts of history that have been forgotten or are hardly heard of. For example, contemporary portraits can be an excellent source of the colours and fabrics that people wore, or to the heraldry.
Stuck deciding what colour to paint your 16th Century peasants? Look no further than a picture painted at the time… The picture below by Pieter Aertsen in 1552 shows typical dress. It may be deliberately colourful for the canvas but nevertheless, it is a useful guide.
The Night Watch is a ‘must see’ of the museum. It is a group portrait of a company of arquebusier militia painted by Rembrandt van Rijn, painted in 1642, at the end of the eighty years war. The uniform details in it are amazing and inspiring.
Hidden histories particularly fascinate me, as they make me want to delve deeper and read more around the subject. Tucked away in most museums you can find all sorts of mementoes to a forgotten past (which I will cover in future blogs). For example, who’s ever heard of the Java War (1825-30) or the Aceh War (1873-1904)? I certainly hadn’t. These were major campaigns judging by the large number of casualties in these. That’s two for Colonial gamers.
So next time you visit a place, consider visiting the local museum - you will probably learn something and might find inspiration for a new project.