The annual gathering of the Baptist World Alliance is being held this week in the town of Ede, in the Netherlands, about 45 miles inland from Amsterdam, where the first Baptist church was begun 400 years ago. We’ll hold a special anniversary service in Amsterdam on Thursday. In the meantime, the lodging and meals in Ede are more economical.

The best deal on airfare I could find brought me into Amsterdam’s Schipol airport on Sunday morning, with no scheduled meetings until Monday, so I got to spend a mentally foggy but nevertheless enjoyable day getting a taste of Amsterdam.

The city got its name because it started with a dam on the Amstel river in the 17th century, and it became one of Europe’s most important port cities. Canals were dug to drain some of the surrounding land, giving the old city its primary structure: it’s built around a series of semicircular canals, with a network of cross canals between them. The canals are lined with tall homes and businesses built one against the other, many of which began life as warehouses for the shipping industry.

It is a charming city, especially on a pleasant summer Sunday, when people are out and about, crusing along the canals with a picnic much as many folks back home like to take their boat out to the lake and ride around on the weekends.

Amsterdam is also home to the Rijksmuseum, which houses a very nice collection of early 17th century Dutch masters such as Rembrandt, and will be very nice if they ever finish remodeling. A few blocks away is the Van Gogh Museum, dedicated mainly to its namesake. I’m not a real art afficionado, but I enjoyed them both. I also paid a thoughtful visit to the Anne Frank house, famous from The Diary of Anne Frank, which describes how she and seven other Jewish people hid from the Germans for several years by living in a tiny secret apartment atop and on the backside of the canal-side warehouse where Otto Frank had worked. Sadly, they were betrayed and all but Otto Frank were murdered in concentration camps.

None of the museums allow photography, of course, so what you see here is some indication of the lines I had to stand in before entry (Rijksmuseum at top, Anne Frank House below). On a summer Sunday, at least, Amsterdam is all about standing in line.

I enjoyed the museums and a ride along the canals, but my favorite things about the day were the few minutes I took here and there to just sit along the canals to watch the boats go by and observe the interactions of people out doing what people do. Most of them ride bicycles: Amsterdam has made a concentrated effort to weed out cars from downtown, and while there are still a lot of cars, there are swarms of bicycles ridden by people of all ages, often wearing suits or dresses, and sometimes with a passenger on the back.

I had hoped to end the day with a good meal in an Indonesian restaurant (Indonesia was a Dutch colony for 300 years), and I was not disappointed. While looking around for the Oude Kirk (Old Church) after having managed to lose my map, I stumbled across the Bunga Mawar Eethuis (“eethuis” is “eating house”). Authentic dishes of krupuk, lumpia, and sateh ajam with vegetables left me happily filled and ready to retrieve my luggage and find the train to Ede.

The BWA meeting begins today with a skills conference for Baptist communicators. It’s sponsored by the Communications Committee, for which I’m acting as chair, in the absence of the real chairman. I’ll also be filling in for the chairwoman of the Resolutions Committee, which will be a larger task.

To learn more about worldwide Baptists and their meeting this week, keep checking in, and I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, enjoy this taste of Amsterdam.

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