Amsterdam: Museums, Flowers, Weed and the Red Light District
FUN FACT: Amsterdam is built entirely on poles. Because Amsterdam’s soil is composed of layers of fen and clay, all buildings are built on wooden poles that are fixed in the sandy layer that is 11 meters (36 feet) deep on average. (Source: http://www.awesomeamsterdam.com/articles/54/10-fun-facts-about-the-netherlands)
When we arrived in Amsterdam the airport was chaos. It took us 2 hours to get off the plane, get our bags and then get train tickets to go to the city center where we were staying. I have to say that I am surprised at how easy it is to get from one EU country to another as far as customs goes. When we arrived in Iceland, they barely checked our passports (less than a 5 second glance) before stamping it and letting us in. Then once we got to Amsterdam, since we were coming from another European country, they didn’t check our passports at all. Considering how strict American security is just flying from one state to another, this was kind of shocking to me.
Anyway, we got on the train we took it to Leidseplein, which is the area in the city that has live bands every night. We stayed at a little boutique hotel on one of the canals in that area. The location of our place was perfect, we could walk everywhere, to the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Vondelpark, to the flower markets, the Red Light district, and the funky bohemian section, De Pijp.
Our first adventure was to the flower market. This was one of my favorite places in Amsterdam. Walking block after block of shops selling fresh-cut flowers, potted flowers, dried flowers, and bulbs for hundreds of varieties of flowers, as well as seeds was a sight like nothing I have ever seen. One of the shops had dried flowers hanging from every square inch of space on the ceiling. It was simply stunning when the light was shining through the glass roof.
Then we went to lunch at a tradition Dutch restaurant and shared the Hotch Potch, a tradition Dutch dish, that consists of mashed potatoes with herbs and what I think was spinach and then a massive meatball the size of a softball, covered in gravy. It was definitely a rib sticking meal and I was very glad we shared it. Then we wandered the city. I never felt unsafe in Amsterdam. The police were consistently driving through the streets, sort of saying, “Hey, we are watching so don’t do something stupid”, and the people were quite friendly. I enjoyed how everyone rode bikes everywhere, there was literally a sea of bikes parked all over the city. I told Ronen that I would have to paint mine or bedazzle it or something just to be able to find it again.
When were in Iceland and in Amsterdam, we got very little sleep because we were so busy doing different activities and our flights were very early in the morning so I found myself drinking espresso’s and cappuccino’s four times a day. I truly enjoy the European café’s, sitting outside and people watching, especially in such a unique city like Amsterdam.
I definitely need to mention the Coffee Houses. The coffee houses have two menus, the drinking menu (coffee, juice, water, etc.) and the smoking menu (marijuana and hash). You don’t have to smoke when you visit a coffee house and even if you have never been around marijuana before, it’s definitely worth a stop in for a coffee and to sit inside and watch how it all works. I enjoyed people watching in the Coffee houses even more than at the cafes, some people were nervous and unsure, then there were the locals who knew exactly what they wanted, and other people who were so “happy” to be Amsterdam. The one we went to, The Dolphins, had an ocean theme so the walls were covered in fake corals.
Our first night in the city, we wandered into the Red Light District. It is important to mention that the locals think nothing of it, to them it is simply another industry, but to me, it was shocking. Seeing scantily clad women, in small rooms filled with red lights, opening their doors and trying to tempt men in for “visit” was jaw dropping. The Red Light District is also home to one the most hilarious museums I have ever visited, the History of Sex Museum. I died laughing in there. With all the paintings and photographs, you definitely need to go in with open mind and a light-hearted attitude if you want to enjoy yourself in there but its worth the four Euros to get in.
Besides the Sex Museum, we visited the more cultured museums in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh. The Rijksmuseum was impressive but I must admit that I don’t know that much about art to be able to stand in front of a Rembrandt and truly appreciate it for what it is, or pretend to interpret its meaning.
Because of that, I found myself enjoying the Van Gogh museum much more than the Rijksmuseum. The Van Gogh is organized into floors, each with paintings from different years of his life; the first floor is his beginning years, when he was first learning the methods of artists at that time period.
The second floor, houses his pieces from when he was first influenced by other types of art, such as Japanese style paintings, and began adding colors into his paintings.In the first painting below, you can see Van Gogh’s interpretation of Japanese letters in the orange portion of the painting. The other two photos are of a painting of cherry blossoms, the second one is a close up of the texture that his paintings posses.
On the third floor, you get a sense of his decline in mental stability. It houses the works from just prior to when he checked himself into the mental institution, when he was in the institution, and then his final works prior to his suicide. Seeing the final work of Van Gogh, still unfinished, is something I will never forget. The paintings below, you can see that his mental and emotional state is very different from the previous paintings. The one on the left has crows flying over a corn field, while the one on the right is the painting Van Gogh was working on when he committed suicide, the roots of the trees are unfinished.
I love that you can see his development as an artist over the years. Seeing the thick paint and brush strokes that provide texture to his works, makes the reprints in books and on canvases seem like joke.
After the Van Gogh, we got sandwiches from a café and ate in Vondelpark. It’s a pretty park filled with people barbecuing, drinking coffee, eating lunch, riding bike, and of course, smoking weed.
As I mentioned earlier, we were staying in the area with live music. On a recommendation by someone who worked at our Hotel, we went to one of the live music bars called, Meloe Melo, which is typically a blues bar. When we arrived we were told it would be a ska and reggae band that night and we were pretty excited about it. Unfortunately, it was not really ska or reggae, it was more of a punk/ska Dutch interpretation of it, but maybe we were spoiled while living in Hawaii and it wasn’t really that bad. It was a very local place; we were most definitely the ONLY tourists there. So even though the music wasn’t what we expected, it was still pretty good and we had a great time.
Our last night, we stayed outside of the city center in the funkiest hotel I have ever stayed in, The shower and bathroom were enclosed with class cylinders that had lights that changed colors in the ceiling. It felt very “Amsterdam”.
My final thoughts on Amsterdam are this, great Gouda, sex, flowers, and weed.