I AM-sterdam

Sleeping last night was everything I had ever hoped for. It was dark, quiet, clean… I came in around midnight when several other people were already in bed, and it was slightly challenging to get ready in the dark. Fortunately I had the foresight to set my pajamas out in advance, and I managed fine by the light of my iPad.

In the morning, someone didn’t wake up to their alarm and it went on for ages. The guy in the bed next to mine whispered, “what IS that?” to which I responded sleepily, “not mine… an alarm clock!” The man in the far bed finally roused himself to turn it off, and all things considered it was an amazingly awesome night’s sleep.

My art history teacher in Brighton once made the comment, in relation to some other point, “women don’t wander around cities alone.” I laughed then, but I’m realizing more and more how true that statement is.

For example, hostels usually offer three kinds of rooms: all female, all male, or mixed. Mixed is cheapest, so that’s what I go for. But whenever this happens, I’m almost always the only girl in the room. Hostels are usually used by SOlo travellers, because with friends it can be cheaper just to get a real hotel.

The other thing about traveling alone that I love is all of the people you meet. When you’re traveling with someone, you don’t usually make connections with anyone else because you’re focused on each other. But again, I never seem to meet any women. There just never seem to be any. If there are, then they’re in a huge group of girlfriends and not really interested to talking to anyone new.

That said, I’m not meeting anyone at all in Amsterdam yet. The Dutch may be famously nice, but I haven’t experienced any of it for myself.

I ate breakfast at the hostel in the morning. It was a good spread! And it just saves time in the morning, which was early for me because I wanted to get to the Anne Frank museum by the time it opened. It’s not supposed to be a long journey from where I’m staying, but luck wasn’t in my favor. I missed my tram (I blame slow walkers blocking my exit from the train station) and had to wait forever for the next one. I arrived at 9:10, ten minutes after the opening time, and the line was already around the block.

It only took about 30 minutes to get through the line. It felt like forever though, because I was being forced to listen to the incessant, mind-numbing chatter of some young American girls in line behind me. I understand why people think Americans are stupid. These girls were dumb as rocks. Way to make us all look bad.

It was cold, too, early in the morning and in th shade. Once I got into the house, though, it was easy to put it all behind me. After all, what had Anne suffered through?

It was a very cool experience and very emotional. No photography allowed, of course. The annex is larger than I had expected, but for 8 people to spend every moment of their lives there it was appalling. There were well-placed videos of interviews with people who had known Anne. The rooms were emptied after the families were discovered and deporte, and Otto Frank had requested that they remain empty. There was a furnished scale model and photos to give an impression of what it would have been like.

There were all the originals of all of Anne’s diary on display. That was crazy.

Then, at the end, there were two interesting little surprises. There was an interactive bit that played short films about modern social justice issues, and then polld you (the museum visitor) to see what you opinion was. It was interesting, but the phrasing of the questions was very biased and I couldn’t agree with all of them.

After this, I walked to Dam Square. I’m wasn’t really sure what’s there to see (and I’m still not) but I guess it’s famous or something. It has a monument and an unused palace you can’t go inside. Nothing really special.

My plans for the rest of the day were to see the Rijks Museum and the Van Gogh museum. Fortunately, they’re located right next to each other. I planned to hit Van Gogh first since it closed an hour earlier, but there was a sight hiccup. It had been moved to the opposite side of town, and no one had updated the maps.

Also, I think I got the Van Gogh museum confused with the Rembrandt museum. I thought the Van Gogh museum was his house as he lived and worked in it during his lifetime. It’s not. It’s just a big ugly modern building.

I wasn’t planning to see the Rembrandt museum since it doesn’t even really have much of his works. It has drawings and etchings (still pretty fabulous) but no paintings. The paintings are in the Rijks museum. However, now that I’ve realized Van Gogh isn’t a house, I’m more tempted. I really want to see the inside of one of these crazy narrow houses! And artist studios are always neat.

But as for today, I just headed over to the Rijks museum. Outside was the I AMsterdam sign. I had heard about it (while eavesdropping on the horrible American girls that morning) but wasn’t planning to go out of my way to see it. It was pretty cool. People were climbing all over it to get pictures taken. It’s a hard place to find someone to take your picture though, because everyone is engaged with taking their own. Eventually though I found a couple that wanted a photo together, so I took their picture and they took mine. Check!

On to the Rijks museum. The line to get in the building was so long, and barely moved at all. The family behind me was from Arizona, but they didn’t talk much. I had a little conversation with the dad when his wife and son wandered off. After 45 minutes of standing in the freezing cold, we were finally in the building.

Much like the Lourve in Paris, you’re waiting in line to get in just to wait in another line… For tickets. But unlike Paris, this second line wasn’t shortand quick. No, it was just as long as the first. The only plus side is that you’re warm and you have wifi. Still, I was pretty irritated at that point.

Then, they don’t even have the courtesy to offer a student discount. Not even to art students. The audacity! There are not many places that could make Paris look cheap and friendly, but Amsterdam has rised to the challenge mightily.

That being said, I learned a few things from a Dutch lady while in the ticket line that earns them a little slack. The museum opened in Amsterdam ages ago, but it has been closed for renovations for the past 10 years. It reopened 7 days ago. I guess I can understand why that’s kind of a big deal and it might be a little crowded.

The first thing I did upon gaining entry was find a place to sit and rest my legs, eyes, and mind. I had museum fatigue before I even made it into the museum, and had lots of crowd-fighting ahead of me.

The Dutch masters do not disappoint. No matter how many times I see a Vermeer, I’m always surprised by how small they are. And wonderful. Rembrandt is a different animal. The Rijksmuseum calls the room where his enormous painting The Nightwatch is hung the “Hall of Glory.” Yeah.

I don’t find it half as interesting as his portraiture of single persons.

I did not hold back today when people used flash on their cameras. You don’t mess with the Dutch masters on my watch. The guards intervened more than they usually do in museums, perhaps because they’re all new, but there were just too many people. It severely limits my enjoyment of a museum when I am stressing out about priceless masterpieces being slowly but surely ruined by the scum who can’t be bothered to adjust the settings on their camera. Flash destroys paintings. Those pigments are not light safe.

Another thing that was weird about this experience was the sheer amount of picture taking that was going on. I was standing in front of Vermeer’s The Milkmaid, and all the sudden someone’s wrist was against my cheek as they thrust their camera forward. My head was surrounded in a halo of dozens of cameras.

You will never be able to take as good of a photo of any piece in any museum as have been taken by professionals. These professional, archival photos are readily available online and in books. You have one chance to look at this painting with your eyeballs. Instead you elbow your way to the front, take a picture, and fight your way to the next one? Please. Go look it up on google and leave the rest of us in peace!

After all that time in line, and the Van Gogh being relocated all across town, I didn’t have time to make it there before closing. There was still plenty of daylight left though, so instead of taking the train back to the central station I decided to walk for a while.

I had been pretty irritated with my Rijks museum experience, beginning to end, and I was not feeling warm and fuzzy towards Amsterdam. But the weather was warmer now, the sun was shining, and I started to admit to myself that my first and second impressions might not have been entirely fair. I was still tired, exhausted even, so I know I wasn’t at my most receptive earlier in the day.

I started to actually enjoy my walk. I had somehow wandered into the Art and Antiques district of Amsterdam. Even though the antique stores are all grossly out of my price range, they’re still fun to admire. A small band was playing on a sunny street corner that quite a crowd had gathered to watch. I took pause. They were really good. I only wish they’d been collecting tips.

I stopped for dinner at a Chinese restaurant when I knew I was getting near to touristtrapville. They were reasonably priced and pretty crowded. Then, as I sat at my little table, a miracle happened. I had finally given up on the idea of tap water, having been shot down every other time this trip. Therefore with my dinner, I asked for still water… And nearly fainted when the waiter replied, “sure, I’ll just get you a tap water.”

That’s when my day really turned around. It may sound silly to get hung up on such a little thing, but really… It’s the little things! My faith in Amsterdam is slowly being restored. I’m going to try to get a good nights sleep tonight and go on some walking tours tomorrow. If I can catch up on sleep, I have no reason to believe it won’t be a great day.

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3 thoughts on “I AM-sterdam

  1. Your tale reminds me of my father. He was stationed in Alaska during WW II. He missed trees, the Sunday funnies and being able to go to the refrigerator for a snack in the middle of the night. So I’m glad u got tap water! Cheers!

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