XXX: Amsterdam

 

Day One

Amsterdam as a place has often intrigued me, but it’s not one that has ever been super high on my list of places to go. However, The Van Gogh Museum had a strong enough pull to get me on a train from Paris. And I had Max to accompany me.

We arrived in Centraal Station well after dark, and with only a vague idea of where we were headed. Luckily, our hostel was close by, and the ferry across the river is free! So we made it to our lodging, and got all checked in. The hostel we stayed in was practically a club house. So we grabbed dinner at the bar/restaurant in the basement of the place, played some pool, made a general plan for the next day and then went to bed.

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This is my dorm bed at the hostel on the morning before I left.

Day Two

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View from the 30 second ferry ride

We got an early start the next day. We started with coffee, and then walked down the road to a bike shop. And then we joined the ranks of the true Amsterdam people. It was a beautiful, brisk morning as we sped through the cobblestone streets. The fast pace of traffic could be a little stressful, but ultimately it was a lovely ride through downtown. The light in the early morning was fantastic, and it made the rows of houses reflect in the canals. I have pictures of none of this because I was doing my best to A. keep up with Max and B. Not get hit by a car/steer into a canal/get in the way of better bikers. I think the hardest part of biking through Amsterdam, though, was knowing that I will never be as cool as the guy in all black, riding with his hands in his pockets, smoking.

amsterdam-bike-buddy

Anyway, we made it to the Rijksmuseum without a scape, if a little wind burned. The Rijksmuseum is incredible.  I definitely recommend it. Plus, their maps are very intuitive, which I really appreciate. Anyway, we started on the top floor, while it was somewhat empty, and worked our way down.

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Max, the first person to admire The Night Watch that day 

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Once of my favorite paintings 

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Appreciate the mastery of portraying light with me

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What perspective? 

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Same

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This painting portrays the struggle between the Catholic and Protestant churches

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A library to make Hermione giddy 

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Sorry some of these pictures are so blurry/grainy… 

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The Dutch were some of the most prolific traders, especially in the Far East. This is one of the imports they brought back 

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Very small sculptures of the men that were crucified with Jesus 

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Shield carved from an elk antler 

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A book of genealogy 

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This is from a series that portray the seven acts of mercy. Sorry for the glare. 

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Building the Tower of Babylon 

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A gift from one Nazi officer to another. Along the sides are the names of countries taken by The Third Reich 

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The concentration camp uniform and family photos of a Dutch Jew.

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Weird nook in the museum. PC: Max

Afterwards we walked past the I Amsterdam sign, and through a park, and ended up at the Van Gogh Museum.

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We nearly got killed by cyclists for this photo

Sadly, you’re not really allowed to take pictures in the Van Gogh Museum. However, that worked out ok, because my phone and camera had died. :/ I definitely recommend the Van Gogh Museum, as well. It’s thoughtfully laid out. The main exhibit is four stories, and you follow Van Gogh’s life, starting on the ground floor. The museum features many of his works (some of them double sided) includes some sketches and letters, and even has some of the pieces that inspired him throughout his career. While it focuses mainly on Van Gogh’s increasingly tumultuous life, but also includes bits on his technique, and an exhibit about his family life. I particularly liked this exhibit because it included a piece of history that is oft overlooked. Many people know that Van Gogh was not popular during his lifetime, and sold only one painting. Many people also know that Vincent’s brother Theo had basically all of his paintings. But, what few people know (or at least, I didn’t know) is that they both died very close together, and Theo’s wife, Jo, was largely responsible for promoting and popularizing Vincent’s work. #includewomeninthesequal The temporary exhibit at the Van Gogh Museum was one that focused on the Impressionist movement and how the principle players influenced each other. It was a fun exhibit, but more sparse than the main event.

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Afterwards we stopped briefly for coffee before heading back across the park. We got distracted on the way by a vendor, where we procured some hats for the cold, dark ride back and also as souvenirs. We stayed longer than we probably should have because we ended up talking to the guy about Scandinavia. We eventually made it back to our bikes and made our way back towards the center of Amsterdam and Rembrandtplein. Rembrandtplein is a plaza that features a statue of the great painter Rembrandt and also features what is essentially a 3D statue of the painting The Night Watch. It’s very cool, and it was very crowded. After visiting De Nachtwacht, we wandered around Amsterdam in search of food, but also just taking in what a beautiful city the capitol of the Netherlands is.

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Day Three

To follow up our very busy day, we planned another busy day! Near the hostel where we were staying was a sort of film museum/cultural center with the most ridiculous architecture I think I’ve ever seen. So after breakfast we started our day there. The featured exhibit was focused on the use of celluloid film. The whole experience was dark. To start, there was a room that had a camera running, leaving a mountain of film in the wake of its blank screen. Paired with the sinister music, the effect was unsettling, honestly. Next, was a huge atrium that had a tall video running that was originally made on film. It was a string of clips no more than a few seconds long. The scenes were mostly of nature, though some were of urban setting, and there were even a few abstract sections. It was billed as an exploration of the versatility and reality of film as a medium. To drive the point further, the film was in color, or had a color filter on it, or was in black and white, or was hand tinted. It was hypnotizing to watch, but the rapid changes changed my headache to a migraine in a hurry.

In the next room were three cameras projecting reels of film. There was no reel footage, but the film had been exposed to varying levels of light which caused ghostly footage of color schemes. One was purple and green and resembled the northern lights. The largest room had many films going all at once, like the previous one, but these were not abstract films. (At least, not in the sense that the others were, I suppose). No two films were a like. They were short, long, in color, in black and white, slowed down, sped up, some appeared to be perfectly looped, and with others it was clear where they ended and then started again. They were also projected at different heights and sizes. One of a woman in a trance took up a whole wall. To watch a peacock in flight, you had to crane your neck slightly because it was so far up the wall, and small. A man walking with a cigarette was right about at my knees. My personal favorites were one of a macaw parrot in flight, in slow motion, and one of a leopard print coat in a washing machine that had no beginning or end. Another thing I liked about this room: there were walls erected throughout it, and those walls were (I think, it was dark) Black canvas mounted on 2x4s and sandbagged—temporary set pieces. I thought it was a clever touch.

*Above are some Polaroids that I took that captured the light of Amsterdam*

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PC: Max Joss

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Back out in the sunshine, we made our way to the far side of the main canals to the Rembrandt House Museum. We got distracted by many things along the way, though. We took pictures of another I Amsterdam sign, examined guerilla knitting, got lost, ended up at a street market, perused said street market, stopped for coffee, walked past the Rembrandt House, hit a dead end and went back, finally made it to the museum.

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tins at the street market 

My memories of this attraction are a little hazy, so bear with me. Part of the building next door has been converted into reception and a gift shop. Once you’ve been granted entry, you have to go down into a basement area and leave your coats and bags (I was not able to convince the gentleman that my knapsack was a poor man’s purse). Then, into the house proper. First, was the kitchen. It’s a large, spacious room that features a checkered floor, a massive fireplace, and a boxed in bed for the maid.

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Next was the main hall. It is a bright room, with a checkered floor, many paintings, and a high ceiling. Off of the main entry way, is a sitting room that is rather spare in comparison to the next room. It was a small, apparently bedroom, who’s main attraction was four small paintings that depict four of the five senses. There is presumed to be a fifth, which is currently missing.  There was a room that had all of his printing materials, but it was blocked off so we couldn’t take a closer look.

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I nearly died on every set of these stairs 

My favorite place in the House, however, was definitely Rembrandt’s studio and his supply room across the hall. The supply room resembled a closet in many ways, it was mostly empty with shelves around the walls and windows. What made it a great room was that it was filled with all manner of curiosities. There were sculptures, bones, books, stuffed creatures, shells and corals, weaponry, even a collection of pinned butterflies. Rembrandt’s studio is fantastic. It was not a huge room, but on the scale of the old Dutch houses, it was fairly large. I has wood floors, and much of the room has wood paneling.

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On either side of the room, though, were twin iron stoves that were surrounded by delft tiles. His studio faces north-east, which is apparently because it gets the best light. And with a whole wall full of windows, lots of light gets in, bathing the whole room in sunshine. The room was not especially furnished; it had an easel, some shelves, and a table. On the table were all the materials for making paints: oils, pigments, and various tools. It was enchanting.

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One more set of nauseatingly steep and winding stairs later, we were on the top floor. Here, there was only one room, and it was partially divided into cubicles. Each had shelves, an easel, and some reference materials. Apparently, these spaces were for Rembrandt’s apprentices to practice in relative solitude.

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rembrant-house-student-studio

On the opposite side of the room, there was a window that looked down into the courtyard three stories below. On the way back down to the reception area, there was an exhibit on printmaking and a window that looked out to the rooms in Rembrandt’s house that we had just explored. However, if you tried to peek at the neighbors’ windows, the glass would turn foggy. I don’t know how they did it, but this glass was either opaque or crystal clear depending on who you’re trying to spy on.

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Back in the basement, we sat in on a documentary about Rembrandt that focused on how temperamental he was and how different his art was from what was popular at the time. After about 20 minutes of that, we retraced our steps towards Centraal.

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The light is Amsterdam is phenomenal and I will never get tired of it 

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Sorry if some of my readers find this offensive, but Amsterdam is liberal city and I thought this was funny

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Near Centraal, we found a boat tour of Amsterdam that seemed promising. It definitely was. We learned a lot about Amsterdam and its history and got some amazing pictures of the city at night. Probably my favorite thing I learned was that the three Xs on Amsterdam’s crest are meant to represent the three things that have threatened the city of Amsterdam: flood, fire, and disease.

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Plus, we saw the DHL barge again.

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After our tour, and picking up Max’s luggage, we grabbed dinner at a tiny place that we passed on our way to and from downtown every day. If you find yourself across the river from Centraal station, DePount is a nice spot. After dinner, the flying Scotsman had to catch a train to catch a train, so he got on a boat. And I went to bed.

Day Four

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For my last day in Amsterdam, I didn’t cover as much ground. In fact, I spent most of my day walking around the area within a few blocks of Centraal station.

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Touristy food photos 

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It was quite relaxing. Once it started to get dark, I headed back to the hostel to grab some dinner and pack up all my things for the journey the next day. I’m not sure which chore that night was less fun, packing all my belongings into two bags, or fending off an aggressive Aussie that insisted Iceland had no history. *eye roll*

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Amsterdam road repair

By the way, The Sex Museum is overrated. And Amsterdam wasn’t that cold. 🙂

 

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2 responses to “XXX: Amsterdam

  1. Thank you, Paloma! I just revisited this post and am ridiculously excited about the day we will get to spend in Amsterdam.

    Like

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