Amsterdarn

Before I begin, let me just say that by putting “darn” in the title, I am in no way bad-mouthing my trip this weekend, I had an absolutely splendid time! I just thought I’d be one centimeter more creative than the obvious title pun. I really do hope my headings are overall enjoyable, I try to catch your eye with my great wit and apparent modesty.

We did so much in Amsterdam. I am going to try to cover as much as I can without being dull! Here we go. After a three-hour bus ride we arrived in the museum center of Amsterdam. After dropping off out bags, we headed straight to the Scheepvaart Museum, otherwise known as the maritime museum. This is a very cool museum, one that I would recommend if you’re bringing kids along. There are, of course, depictions of seascapes and tempests galore, but that is not all the museum has to offer. You can go inside a life-sized replica of a ship that went down near England during a trade route for the Dutch East Indies Company. You can walk around a room adorned with various constellations. Then you should look at all the historical atlases and afterwards climb into the belly of a giant whale statue. If you want more, you can play an interactive trade navigation game and then look at a plethora of ship mast-heads and navigational equipment. I even saw a jar with a squid that had been taken out of the belly of a whale. Needless to say, it’s pretty difficult to get bored, there is in fact something for everyone.

Next! The Van Gogh Museum. Oh my goodness, this is possibly the coolest museum I have EVER been to. You walk in, check your coat, go through the doors and BAM, there’s a bar, a stage, and a live band playing. You look up to see winding stairs leading to the displays, all surrounding this middle performance area. As you go around looking at Van Gogh’s work (he painted over 450 pieces) you hear the music, feel the ambience, and are surrounded by super hip people. I got a compliment on my pants. My day was made. It really is just an art museum but its layout makes it so much more. Of course, the harsh and loud strokes of Mr Van Gogh upon the walls didn’t hurt the atmosphere either. My friends and I decided that this was an ideal place to be taken for a date. I know I’d be impressed, and the place is open until 1030pm!

Moving on to the next day, we went to the Rijksmuseum. Now. It’s perfectly lovely, especially if you have a thing for Rembrandt. But. It is terribly organized, the lines (note the plural) are endless, and it is so crowded. In reality, our teacher spoiled us by taking us to see Van Gogh first, nothing could really compare to that. If I was a bigger fan of Rembrandt it may have been more bearable but unfortunately he doesn’t speak to me much. I concede that his use of light and dark is exquisite and masterful, but his overall style is lacking for me. I did enjoy seeing Vermeer’s “Milkmaid”, along with a display of giant doll-houses, but I will probably not go there again. Also, don’t bring your children.

After that we went on a boat tour of the city. I forgot to mention it rained almost the whole weekend. Key point right there. Any chance to be somewhat indoors was a blessing, this boat tour included. We got to see the sights from the water and learn about the history. I personally love boat tours so I was very excited we actually took part in one; we didn’t do this in our previous trips even though Brugge and Antwerp both have rivers.

Our next point of interest was the Church of Our Lord in the Attic. This was a hidden (illegal) church in Amsterdam, created as a place for Catholics to worship once Protestantism became the front running religion of the state. The church is in the attic of a regular house, and it has three floors of seats and pews right up there. There is a hidden confessional, a hidden pulpit, an organ and even a painting over the altar which changes with the seasons. It has everything a regular Catholic Church would, but in miniscule. Overall, a cute and unique place to visit. On the topic of churches, the place we went out that night was called Paradiso. It is an old renovated church that now functions as a nightclub. Sacrilegious? Maybe. My friends and I assume something was done to officially change the venue’s status.

The final day was catered to me because we did all the Jewish things! First, we went to the Anne Frank House, which was as informative and poignant as one might expect. Having been to the holocaust museum in DC three times, the one in New York once, and the one in Jerusalem once as well, I’ve had a more than fair share of the ordeal. Consequently, I very much appreciated the fact that the Anne Frank House focused more on her personal story than the overall history. You were able to go step by step through her time in the annex, and get a more personal feel of what transpired all over Europe during this time. Powerful.

Following this we went to visit a Portuguese synagogue, with an adjacent museum. There is a Jewish area in Amsterdam because the Jews had decent autonomy to do as they pleased back in the day. The synagogue was very lovely. Our guide was not. The lady yelled at our teacher for being late, then proceeded to tell us she thought about Judaism only when she’s at work. She was EXTREMELY condescending: basically exactly what you don’t want for a tour guide. Luckily for my friend Trina, I honestly knew more about Judaism than this lady, and I gave her my own version of the tour. According to her, I was more captivating. I should have been the guide. Really, the group would’ve enjoyed it tenfold more. Ah well. Maybe I’ll teach it all to our teacher and she won’t need a terrible excuse for a guide next time!

Our trip ended with the Stedelijk Museum which holds a large collection of modern art. While I would (in theory) enjoy this, most of the pieces I saw went over my head. I still don’t really relate to a canvas that is simply orange with texture. Or a wooden box with a light inside it. Or a giant saw bent at three angles. Modern art is meant to evoke thought and feeling, which I guess it did. We did see some cool extra pieces by Van Gogh and Mondrian: I guess I have to stick to early modern art for me to like it. I love me my Matisse and Picasso.

The trip was a success, I would say. We did so many things so we definitely got a good feel of the city. We weren’t given quite enough free time but it’s alright, I am certainly going to be back. I think Amsterdam warrants more than 3 days to see it all so if you’re planning a trip, give it at least 5! Now that I’ve visited the Venice of the North, I am tickled pink to see the real thing again next weekend. See you then!

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2 thoughts on “Amsterdarn

  1. The best article from you! So interesting and informative. Go, Becky, go!

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