I am afraid when describing this last trip, I spend more time explaining how we all arrived in Amsterdam than what happened while traveling. It is a rare and unique moment when four college friends can end up in the same city. Even rarer when there is not an alumni event bolstering participation, or a wedding or another cause for celebration. Instead, it was due to the pure joy of traveling and companionship that the four of us made our way to Amsterdam.
We rented an AIR BandB flat for our stay (These are apartments that for the days someone wants to travel the owners are not using.) Generally speaking, they come fully furnished and give you a chance to feel like a native, with a kitchen and “permanent” place to reside. We chose a two-bedroom modern flat near the museum district, not a surprising location with two art history buffs in the group. Picture two large bedrooms, an open kitchen and living room that led out to a balcony overlooking the neighborhood. All of this was ours for the span of five days.
It was not a trip about how much could we see and do, but rather how best could we accomplish the few things we each wanted to see and truly enjoy one another’s company. It was about quality not quantity. Although my specialty is not taking photos of people, as seen through the many backsides of my family members, many of my photos from Amsterdam are of my friends, recording the true main attractions of my visit.
Here is a photo of Ali and Lexie at our first lunch in the city alongside, the Lexie, Ali and Nati in front of the door to our flat.
On our first full day we ventured off to visit the Stedelijk Museum. It is home to the city’s collection of Modern and Contemporary art. Outside the Museum is a sculpture by Richard Serra, along similar lines of what can be found in the Guggenheim Bilbao (Link to the previous discussion of Serra Here.) I enjoyed the collection, especially interacting with and exploring the depths of the different displays. As a group we all loved the work of Touch and Tweet! This exhibition created by Helicar & Lewis and Daan Roosegaarde focuses on individual touch and art’s response to that touch. There is a hall filled with little glow sticks that chirp and illuminate as your run your hands over them, as well as, a video screen that plays back a distorted version of your presence allowing you to watch glimpses of your past self. Natasha has some phenomenal photos from this part of the exhibit. Here are the rest of the pieces that captured my eye:
Upon stepping out of the Museum we were greet by the URL markt, or rather a some form of a music festival. There were many different food trucks offering different gourmet delicacies. I had curry pork skewers with pickled cumber slices. We all also got the famous french fries with curry and mayonnaise sauce. It’s the creaminess of the mayonnaise, mixed with the sweetness of the curry that makes these fries irresistible. In America, everyone balks at adding mayonnaise to food. If you are health conscience in the slightest, you would never add globs of mayonnaise to your food. It’s something you just do not do. In Europe, my relationship with mayo has changed radically. It is no longer the fattening food to be used sparingly and sparsely, but rather the desired condiment for french fries. It is no longer evil, and my waistline is no larger for its consumption.
As the photos highlight it was incredibly cold and so we stopped for at a coffee shop (real coffee!) to try and warm ourselves up! We then decided our best plan was to head home through Vondel Park and cook ourselves a home cooked meal. Something you do not regularly get while traveling, and sometimes you do not want, but after long travels, at some point that just sounds like the best thing in the world.
That night in honor of Lexie’s birthday, that night we went on a pub crawl through Amsterdam. For a Sunday night, there was a large turnout of people on our tour. To put it mildly, we cut a rug.
The following day was her actual birthday. During the day we visited the Anne Frank house. Not necessarily the most uplifting place to go on your birthday, but given the way our schedule worked, it was the place we ended up. The last photo of this series shows the door to her father’s warehouse on the left hand side. It is incredible to think that Miep Gies, one of the women who worked as a secretary and helped supply and hide the family for two years was roughly our age. This fact puts a whole new perspective on the effects and valiant decisions that individuals throughout the world made during the war. I can only imagine how difficult that task must have been, and can only hope that in a similar circumstance I would have her courage.
After visiting the house we ventured to a Pancake House for lunch. Since everyone was having milkshakes, Ali and I decided to follow the trend. I do not think that I have had a milkshake since I left the states! It was the perfect complement to my ham omelet.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around the city, later meeting up with Natasha who had traveled to Haarlem to visit an old friend. Amsterdam is known for its Indonesian Cuisine and so we decided to go out for a big birthday dinner to Blauw, one of the restaurants near our house. Little did we know, it had just been written up in the NY Times as the Best Indonesian restaurant in all of Holland. It is difficult to describe our meal, which consisted of one order of the fish and vegetable combination, one order of the meat combination, followed by an order of lamb curry and lime soy chicken. We ordered the food and then quickly went back to our conversation, not realizing what was to come. The first waiter brought out and entire tray full of little dishes which lined over half of the table. Then a second waiter came and did the same. We thought this was it, but then two more large entrees arrived at our table. At first we were slightly concerned that our eyes had been bigger than our stomachs, but little by little we finished the whole meal in front of us. It was too good of food to let go to waste!!
The following morning we made our way to the Rijksmuesum. When I previously visited it was under construction and only displayed a few key works of the collection. Now with construction complete, you can visit the whole museum. It is a rather incredible space as many of the photos will demonstrate. I was particularily captivated by watching throngs of people interacting with the works of art. How as a public do we see art? Is it through an inspection of the painting, or the name? Through the words of the audio guide or our inner voice telling us its merit? What do we remember, facts and dates or images and colors? There obviously is no one answer, each person has a unique experience with the work. But when I am in a space filled with so many people looking at art, these are the questions that come to mind.
There were a few fascinating pieces displayed, such as the chess set of Charles V. Not only are there fantastical creatures such as the rook, but contemporary soldiers’ make up the pawns and the black king is thought to be a portrait of the monarch. The perfect mix of fantasy and reality. I also rather loved the Dutch rendition of the Spanish Conquest of the New World set in a european landscape.
While touring the collections we ran into our sophomore year proctor, who was speaking at a medical conference. He was playing hooky for the afternoon to take his wife and daughter to the museum. Another reminder of how small the world is!
A note about this last photo above us: it is a drinking flask that is made to look like a book. Quite possibly one of the best inventions!!
Culturally inspired we headed towards the Vondel Park, stopping to pick up some of the delicious french fries I previously described. This is an amazing park with a jungle gym for adults, more like a ropes course, and an equally cool space themed slide for children, and those are just the attractions we happened to stumble upon. We basked in nature’s glory, particularly displayed in a magnificent sunset. After our rendezvous in the park, we headed back to the flat and cooked ourselves dinner and hung out on the porch.
On our final day together we visited the Jordaan District, where you can find local shops intermixed with art galleries. Unfortunately all of the galleries were opening for the fall that Saturday and so we were closed setting up their displays. That being said, we were able to see a part of Amsterdam that we would not have normally visited and had a lovely morning. Afterwards we parted ways. Natasha headed back to London from where she would catch a flight back to the US and Ali, Lexie and I headed to Paris, continuing our travels throughout Europe.