Tuesday morning we got up bright and early and headed into Amsterdam, which was about a 45 minute train ride. our first stop was the Anne Frank house. seeing the house was an incredible experience. although the story of Anne Frank and the Holocaust is horrifically tragic, the museum experience leaves you with hope for the future and does a wonderful job focusing on the life of a young girl growing up. though the house was refurbished for recreations and photographs, it was again emptied out by order of Otto Frank, Anne's father, to remind visitors of how much the war stripped away from the people that lived through it. the video interviews with the Frank's helpers and Anne's former classmates were my favorite part, because they brought the Anne I knew from her diary into a 3-dimensional, living breathing context. they describe her as bossy, lively, spirited and even mean; as human as any of us. I highly recommend seeing the Anne Frank house at some point!
after Anne Frank house, we were starving for lunch and wandered around looking for a place to eat when we stumbled upon LUST. behind the double doors with a seductive pair of lips and the blood-red velvet curtains was a... diner? I had a great chicken club sandwich that had avocados (!!!!). it looked to be a trendy spot for 20-something girls to get lunch, so it was perfect for us.
next up on the agenda was the Van Gogh museum, which was across town from where we were for lunch. on the way, we passed various "coffeeshops," all clearly marked with Rastafarian flags and marijuana paraphernalia. it should also be noted that a "koffiehuis" means an actual coffee house that sells hot caffeinated beverages and light snacks and pastries. it's an interesting system that the Netherlands has going on and as a foreigner it was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that you could go up to a counter and purchase the drug as casually as you might buy flowers at the florist. then again, I live in California so maybe I should have been a little less culture-shocked.
anyway, we arrived at the Van Gogh museum only to find... no museum? turns out the Van Gogh Museum had been moved temporarily to the Hermitage while the VGM underwent some construction. but it wasn't all a loss! the famous i amsterdam sculpture park was right nearby and we went and spent a good portion of time doing a photoshoot on the letters.
naturally, me in the m
it's so hard to get all the letters in one frame! so close...
in any case, we hiked all the way over to the Hermitage to see the Van Gogh exhibit. it was great!! we saw his famous Sunflowers, The bedroom, Almond blossom, and The yellow house among a lot of his other works. it was a great exhibit too, arranged logically and clearly by theme. I wish I'd been more aggressive about taking pictures of his works, but the security guards were strolling through the exhibit so I was a little nervous.
in addition to hosting the Van Gogh works, the Hermitage also hosted an exhibition of Impressionist painting, which I LOVE! so I was really excited by this unexpected boon. I saw some really beautiful Pissarro, Monet, Cezanne, Gauguin, Renoir, Manet, and Degas, amongst others. art and art history lover's dream!!
I left the Hermitage a very happy girl, but little did I know I was only about to become even HAPPIER because we encountered a holiday carnival!! there were lots of rides and games, but my favorite part of any carnival is the food. we made a beeline for the first stand we saw: a poffertjes stand! poffertjes are a Dutch pancake-like treat (a little puffier and airier) that are traditionally served with a big pat of butter and plenty of powdered sugar, which is what I got. and we got them made fresh! words cannot describe how addictive and delicious they were, I wanted about five plates more. but alas I still had to fit into these jeans that I was going to wear for the rest of break... you could also get chocolate sauce, whipped cream and fruit jams on them, but I'm a sucker for powdered sugar on anything.
we also briefly debated doing some gravity-defying rides, but even the bravest of us decided against it after seeing a large vomit bin next to some of the rides. pass.
the thing I regret most about this day is not also trying some of their special French fries, called Vlaamse Frieten, which are basically just the perfect French fry with a big dollop of mayonnaise. I sort of hate mayo, but trust me you see enough people walking around eating it and you start to want it to. Dutch French fries are seriously yummy, I think I had French fries every single day of fall break... typical. in my defense I never do in Rome!
tired, full, and filled with festive cheer we got back on the train and headed back to Den Haag. for dinner, we had a Dutch dish called rijsttafel which is essentially rice with a ton of different toppings like vegetables and meat on a big plate. its origins are colonial, from the time that the Dutch traded in Indonesia. it's actually probably more appropriate to call it an Indonesian dish. it was so good!!
the next, day, we started off another day in Amsterdam with a canal tour! we didn't see much that was new since we'd walked EVERYWHERE the day before, but it was beautiful and so cool to see Amsterdam's sights from the water. I also didn't realize they had such an extensive canal system. the coolest part was the house boats! Amsterdam has house boats along the canals and you could see right up to their front doors, they were beautifully decorated. it made me want to live in a house boat on the canal... one day.
a Dutch East Indies trading ship!!!! I felt like I was in the 1700s!
hello blue skies
take me back?
after the canal tour we headed to the Rijkes Museum by way of the Red Light district, otherwise known as the street called De Wallen. I knew what to expect, but I was still shocked by what I saw. the exploitation and objectification of the women in the windows was pretty eye-opening. I stared in morbid curiosity, wanting but not able to look away. anyhow, onwards to the Rijkes.
the museum had a lot of works by Northern European 17th century artists, and I saw some great Vermeer and of course Rembrandt's Night Watch, which is so big! it's a lot larger than I thought it would be, and very beautiful.
Vermeer "The Milkmaid"
after a walk through the Rijkes Museum, we went to the famed Pancake Bakery. it's incredible!!! they had so many sweet and savory pancakes and I spent the longest time deciding if I wanted chocolate and powdered sugar or if I wanted bacon cheese and mushroom. I went with savory, such a good decision. the pancake was light and a little sweet and I ate the whole darn thing.
the Mona Lisa of pancakes: mysterious, soft, a masterpiece
we headed back to Den Haag for the night. we were so tired that we decided to use the spa amenities and order a big room service dinner, and we watched a lot of reality TV. it was a perfect, relaxing conclusion to our really busy and fun time in Amsterdam!
Amsterdam was a surprising city for me. I was surprised by how beautiful it was, how it combined modernity with a charming quaintness, how walkable it is, and actually how relatively small it is compared to really large cities like Rome or London. I was also surprised by how much I completely fell in love with it. The people were so nice and friendly, the city is simultaneously full of history and yet a modern cosmopolis, and the art!! oh, the art.
side note: stroopwaffels are my new favorite cookie ever, they're thin waffle cookies with a caramel syrup center. so good!
coming up next: London!