Since you all seemed to like my post about my trip to Prague a lot, I decided to do a similar one about my trip to Amsterdam!
Amsterdam. The Dutch capital, city of bicycles and a thousand bridges. Apparently also the city the protagonists from “The Fault in Our Stars” visited. I never read that book or watched the movie but I found a huge ton of John Green quotes when I was searching for quotes about Amsterdam.
I arrived on Thursday, stayed there until Monday and then left to travel on to a tiny village on an island to get a little closer to the sea and relax a bit after the pretty stressful days in Amsterdam.
Since it’s August and many students in Europe have their summer holidays right now, there were a lot of tourists. Many streets were really full, especially the ones where you could find popular stores like River Island, Forever 21 and Monki but when you left the area around the Amsterdam Centraal train station, which is an incredibly beautiful building, there were less people.
Always present though were Bicycles.
Most residents of Amsterdam go by bike and you could rent bikes everywhere so there were a lot of tourists riding their rented two wheeled vehicles around. It’s quite intimidating at first because with all the pedestrians it’s quite difficult to overlook everything and the reckless cyclists with their ever ringing bells made it all even more complicated. But at some point you get used to the constant fear of being run over and you just roll along.
A thing you realize immediately after entering the city is the really unique and beautiful architecture. Many houses were built in the height instead of the broad, have a beautifully decorated roof and oftentimes a hook at the top of the house. The reason for the height, narrowness and the hook is simply that the amount of tax money people had to pay in the past, depended on the width of their house so everybody tried to build their house as slim as possible. The result was that of course, everything inside the house, including the doors and staircases were really tiny and it was difficult to get furniture in and out the doors when they moved house or wanted to refurnish the bathroom or something. It was way easier to use the windows since they were actually wider than the door oftentimes. To lift the furniture up, the hook was used. Basically they pull a rope through it and then hoist it all up. People still do this actually and this is a thing the Dutch do all over the country, not just in Amsterdam.
The decorations you can see on the roof above the hook refers to the family name or the profession of the family who were the original owner of the house.
Another “oddity” of the city is that when you wander around aimlessly and just look at everything and the other people is that you can find streets that smell so strongly of weed, it’s almost amazing. When I got there I was so excited about the city and the trip to the Van Gogh museum we did in the evening that I forgot the fact that Marijuana is legal in the Netherlands. So when I first read the word “Coffeeshop” from afar I was like “Nice. Coffee. Maybe there are some muffins, too. Damn, I’d love a muffin right now.” It wasn’t until I stood in front of it, read the “Nix 18” signs and the smell of Weed gently caressed my nostrils that I realized that this was not a Coffeeshop but a Coffeeshop. But seeing Coffeeshops at many corners becomes just as normal as the homicidal cyclists. (#NotAllCyclists though. Most of them seemed uninterested in murdering innocent German girls)
My favourite part about my Amsterdam trip was definitely the Van Gogh Museum. I know it sounds weird, but I heard so much about him at school, I read so much about him on the internet, in books, I saw so many prints of his paintings, it almost felt like I was going to see an old friend. Like, you enter the building and you just go “Hey Vincent, what have you been up to?” when you see the first hall that was filled with his self portraits. Looking into his eyes and seeing his brushstrokes just feels like you really get in touch with him even more than before. I think, seeing his paintings lets you get closer to him than the information about his life, friends and relatives in the upper floor.
I am almost ashamed I bought a t-shirt with one of his portraits on it in the souvenir shop after I was done. Luckily, I’m just ALMOST ashamed.
I also felt like a huge art nerd at some point because I explained a lot about his works, his technique and his life to my travel-mates and at some point a German family just followed me and my friends around and listened to everything I had to say about him.
Amsterdam also has something to offer for the lovers of contemporary art among you. The “De Appel” museum hosts interesting exhibitions where some lesser known artists get to show their work, too. The admission is pretty cheap. You pay a lower price (4,50€) until you reach the age of 19 which meant that I felt like a non-adult for the first time since December 2014. It was a nice feeling. Thank you, De Appel. Children below the age of 13 are free, I think.
Walking through the exhibition there didn’t take a lot of time but the cause for this was basically that the main artist who showcased his sculptures there, Michael E. Smith, decided to show his works in nearly empty rooms. Picture a rather big exhibition hall and then in the middle or at the side of the room a pretty small scultpure. Most not even knee-height. This caused a pretty eerie atmosphere since many of the objects gave you this feeling of “What the Hell” and many are even unsettling to look at. It was weird-as-fuck-contemporary art with a touch of “Dude, what are trying to tell me with that bread slicer on rails” (No shit, there really was a slicer on rails). It was fabulous.
Now, I know, this is not everybody’s kind of art and all my friends didn’t like it at all, which caused me to rant about how people deal with contemporary art, but in my opinion, it really is worth a trip because sometimes you just have to see weird shit. (I mean “Weird shit” in the most positive way.)
If you go there, take a look at the guest book after you finished walking through.
This one page from the guestbook in the gallery sums everything up you need to know about De Appel.
You will be torn between this is crap & this is art all the time. (and there are things of which I personally think definitely are pretentious and yes, maybe even shit, but still art)
I do not agree with this “Italian Architect” though because I think that telling artists that what they do is not “art” is a little harsh since you would have to define what art is in the first place and then you’d have to take a look into the future to see which art actually had an impact on following generations of artists to judge if it was “good” or “bad” art. I also think that using “I’m an Architect from Italy” as some sort of validation of an argument (because let’s be real, that’s the only reason why that dude wrote that) is pretty weak. You see, I could rant again about contemporary art and how people deal with it but that would be too much.
You can get online tickets to most of the popular museums. Get them. They allow you to skip the queues and those queues can be very, very, VERY long. Waiting times up to an hour or two are common, even if you get there late in the evening or rather early.
Again, LEAVE THE CENTER. There are less tourists, so it’s nice to walk through emptier streets instead of the crowded ones. You can also find amazing and unique stores. Secondhand stores, a toy store where absolutely everything moves in some way and little planes fly through the shop, they’re not where the tourists are. If you want to find the giant chain stores, then you go where the other tourists are.
Take a boat tour through the little canals of Amsterdam. Yes. This one is very touristy but worth it. We did it right at the beginning of our trip so we immediately got some sort of overview of many interesting sight seeing points and saw the city from a different perspective.
Last but not least: Book a hostel. I’m a fan of hostels. Not only are they way cheaper but, damn, the people you meet. They’re worth every single painful climb onto the upper half of the bunkbed.