Welcome to chapter 4 in a series of posts about my week-long trip through Germany and the Netherlands! If you missed the first posts, check them out by clicking on the links below. Otherwise, read on!
4. The Day of Inspiring People
The rest of our journey was spend in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Amsterdam was certainly a character-filled city. With canals running every which way, bikers doing the same, and “coffee shops” on every corner making no effort to hide what they’re actually selling, Amsterdam had an air of chaos that I hadn’t yet experienced in my European travels (For those of you who don’t know, coffee shops are where it it legal to sell and consume marijuana in Amsterdam. If you actually want to sit down for a cup of coffee, go to a cafe. And if you want coffee to-go good luck–remember, you’re in Europe now.)
To me, Amsterdam felt a little like Copenhagen cut loose. For example, they’re both extremely bike-focused cities, but Amsterdam seemed to do this at the expense of pedestrian friendliness. I’ve gotten used to the bikes in Copenhagen, but here it felt like learning how to ride again (pardon the pun). I definitely almost got hit on multiple occasions. And while jaywalking is somewhat frowned upon in Copenhagen (many people will wait for that little green man until the day they die), the streets in Amsterdam almost forced you to jay. Every time I crossed the street it felt like playing Frogger: get across the bike lane, then one car lane, then the above-ground tram lane, then do it all again on the other side of the street. I honestly don’t know how people enjoying Amsterdam’s, shall we say, cultural freedoms survive.
One thing Amsterdam may be less well known for are its museums. It is full of them, with over 50, and they range in subject from art to Anne Frank to bags and purses (?). As I’ve mentioned before, I have a slight obsession with museums (if I could, I’d go to a museum of museums), so one free afternoon a couple friends and I made stops at several.
Inspiring enough for you, Rembrandt?
First, we went to the Rembrandt House. As it sounds like, this museum guides you through the artist Rembrandt’s old house, and then ends with a gallery displaying a rare collection of his etchings. My favorite room was the one that housed his collection of “objects d’art” aka objects that inspired him. This was an odd menagerie of busts of random people, shells, preserved animals or animal parts, etc. With so many different things it was definitely my kind of room.
Making canary yellow paint!
Throughout the museum we also got to see demonstrations of some of Rembrandt’s art processes, such as how he made his pigments or did his etchings. These demonstrations definitely made the museum that much better, so if you are visiting I would highly recommend sticking around for them.
After a quick pancake dinner, we found ourselves at a very different hosue: Anne Frank’s. Even though this visit could have easily been depressing–and don’t get me wrong, it had it’s very sad moments–for me it was surprisingly more inspiring than the house of a master artist. Like Rembrandt, Anne Frank too had her collection of inspiring things: postcards and magazines showing her dreams, inspirations, and aspirations pasted on the wall of her tiny room. Anne wanted so much for her life and, despite her bleak situation, dreamed huge and worked furiously towards her dreams. Seeing her attitude towards life was both a sobering reminder and an inspiration for me to get absolutely everything I can out of life because I have so much freedom and opportunity. Although I hadn’t thought about Anne Frank since middle school, I’m so glad we went and am now itching to read the diary again. Another highly recommended museum.
Finally, we ended our day by going to a Brazilian Jazz concert at the big concert venue in Amsterdam, Concertgebouw. The concert featured a famous Belgian harmonica player (who knew?!) along with some of his Brazilian friends. Toots was hilarious–this guy couldn’t even walk on stage on his own he was so old, but as soon as he put that harmonica to his mouth he was jammin’. It was a great concert, and I only wish I could have gotten up and danced!
Our remaining days in Amsterdam were largely spent doing academic things and dealing with very sudden downpours (the weather was even more schizophrenic than in Copenhagen), but I did manage to hit up one more museum before I left: Van Gough. No photos were allowed inside, but if you’re into art it’s another great stop in Amsterdam!
Finally, we were headed back to Copenhagen where an interesting “welcome home” was awaiting me…