Day 26 and 27 – All things Amsterdam

Day 26

I refused to take a picture of the I amsterdam sign with six billion other people crawling all over it. I had tried to swing by last night on my way to dinner, but there was still a lot of people there. Being that it’s summer and all, it gets light nice and early, so I decided to get up way too early and head over. I didn’t even make it to my alarm clock however, as many people in my room were getting up to go places before then (16 people in a room is a lot of alarm clocks). So off I went.

Lucky for me, I think it was around 7 when I got there, and was pretty much deserted. I did run into a couple guys who were stopping to take their picture with the sign on their way home from the bar…. luckily, they were totally sober enough that I could ask then to take my picture too!

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After this adventure, I headed back to my hostel to grab some breakfast. Nothing would be open for a couple hours anyways.

In the morning I went over to the Rembrandthuis, which is Rembrandt’s house set up as it was when he lived there. In his life he earned a lot of money, but he spent most of it before he actually earned it. Not a good route to go, and he ended up broke. The bank therefore foreclosed on his house. When they did that though, they made a meticulous list of all the things that he had in the house. That is why it has been able to be recreated as well as it has.

A bit interesting just to see a period house, but the most interesting part was definitely the paint making demonstration. I had never really thought about how you would make paint. Well, it’s a pain, and had to be made every day. Rembrandt would make a couple colors per day, and use those colors on multiple paintings at the same time. Pretty smart. Interestingly, the white paint was made from lead (at the time), and totally toxic. Powders were mixed with oil on a stone until the right consistency was reached, the different powders would create different colors. Some came from rocks, some from coal, etc. and that’s how you have the different colors. This demonstration made it so that I could finally figure out how some artists have what looks like “chunky” paint, and other don’t. It would have been a preference in how they mixed the paint.

After this I decided to bike around and find the smallest house front in Amsterdam. It was no wider than the door. Walking around back it’s hard to tell which house is which, but all the backs were much larger, which is pretty much what they tell you about the house.

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Other things I found while biking around: A pretty canal view, and a house that was so crooked I don’t know how it’s standing. Pictures don’t do either justice, but here they are anyways.

Canal in the morning before everyone gets moving
Canal in the morning before everyone gets moving
I swear the house with yellow windows was going to just fall into the street
I swear the house with yellow windows was going to just fall into the street

Day 27

I decided, after reading reviews, it was worth it to go to the Van Gogh Museum early. I got there around 850, because when I plan to be somewhere in Amsterdam, I leave plenty of time for wrong turns, and was surprised to be early. The museum opened at 9. There was already a crazy crowd when I got there.

They're working on a new entrance, because this is a mess
They’re working on a new entrance, because this is a mess

While I really enjoy Van Gogh’s work, I was not a huge fan of this museum. They have the largest collection of Van Gogh in the world, but I really didn’t feel like they had much of it on display. A lot of what was on display was the people who inspired him, and bits about his family and letters he wrote. While this is how he came to be, it wasn’t what I was expecting, and simply wasn’t that interesting. Perhaps I would have had a different view if the Munch Museum in Oslo hadn’t had the display comparing Munch and Van Gogh, which also explained both of their life stories and histories and influences. We shall never know.

I wandered around shopping for a bit, coming up empty handed. It’s amazing how hard you have to work to justify purchasing anything when you know it has to fit in the one bag you have packed!

In the evening I met up with Jeannette for drinks and dinner. I previously met her on the walking tour in Copenhagen, but she’s living in Amsterdam. I figured it’s fun when you can meet up with someone, way more fun than eating and drinking alone!

 

Day 25 – Rijksmuseum, Anne Frank House, Dutch Dinner

I started my day off heading to the Rijksmuseum (which is pronounced rykes museum, not sure what the ij combo into a y thing is). This is a large museum that has what seems like a little bit of everything. One of the main attractions is that it has Rembrandt’s Night Watch. I decided to head up there right away, in the hope of there being less people.

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This painting was pretty well guarded. Not surprising. This main gallery had a lot of the more famous Dutch artists and therefore ended up being rather full, rather quickly. If you know me, crowds aren’t my favorite thing, so I was happy to be there fast and then move on to the other areas which were much less crowded. ¬†Over all I really enjoyed this museum.

Your cannon isn't very intimidating with this on the end.
Your cannon isn’t very intimidating with this on the end.

It turned out that I enjoyed it enough, that it took me way more hours to wander around than I ever thought possible. When I got out, I had intended to head over to the Van Gogh Museum, but there was simply no hope of spending any more time in a crowded museum.

So instead, I headed over to the Anne Frank House. Less of a museum right? But really, it was less crowded. The Anne Frank House is one place where you can’t buy tickets from any of the ticket locations in the city. Your two options are to buy them online, WAY ahead of time, or to stand in line and buy them at the museum. I was going with the line option. Luckily, it was a shorter line than a lot of days, and only took an hour and a half I believe. Met some nice girls in line that were doing a Europe tour at a super fast pace!

The museum was great to see, but super horrible at the same time. If you get to Amsterdam, it’s a must see.

After this day, I decided I should have some real food for dinner, and went to a place that was suggested by my hostel front desk man as a place for good traditional dutch food. Surprisingly, they’re not so easy to come by now that the city is such a mixing pot. A lot of the better food and more popular places are actually the immigrant food styles.

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Started off with cider and some herring. Yes, I know, strongbow is not dutch.

They serve herring with onions and salt. It is served raw and I was super apprehensive about it (not the raw bit, just the fish in general). Turns out that I actually really enjoyed it! I followed this up with Stamppotten, which is a meatball on top of mashed potatoes with some sort of veggie mixed in. The traditional version is with carrots, so that’s what I went with. I guess I could be Dutch because this was pretty much right up my food alley. Nothing to complain about. This was also the first place I’ve been that had a gluten free menu, but more exciting, gluten free bread. This area is so big on bread that I’ve actually been missing it.

Days 23 and 24 – Travel and Amsterdam

Day 23

I spent my morning on trains getting to Amsterdam. Hamburg station was interesting as all announcements were in German only. Luckily, signs telling you a time and a direction/city read the same in all languages. I was waiting on my correct platform ready to go when some announcement comes on. Everyone else is now hurrying to somewhere else. I figure they can’t all be wrong and so I follow them. Our train had moved platforms. All good.

I was happy that I paid the ~$5 to make a reservation for my second train. There were people sitting in all sorts of odd places, like the floor. A reservation gets you a seat spot :).

Off the train, to my hostel. Amazingly, didn’t have any difficulty finding this one!

Checked in, showered (I always just feel dirty after traveling), and then wandered around the city for a bit. The hostel is located right on a canal in one of the older row houses in the city center.

I took a walk around Amsterdam then grabbed a seat by the canal for some people watching and book reading. Relaxing is always an important part of any vacation!

Day 24

I decided to start off my visit with a walking tour. I’ve been enjoying them so far and they often have useful information! Additionally, the tour guides are usually great at suggesting things you should do in the city.

After the walking tour, I went to rent a bike. It seemed to be the only real way to get around the city, unless I wanted to walk every where. Not the most organized place, but I rented my bike just fine. The place I went has navy blue bikes, so perhaps I wouldn’t stick out like a total tourist. Most rental places have obnoxious colored bikes, while all the locals seem to have black.

My Bike
My Bike

My guide in the morning had mentioned that there was a brewery that was located in a windmill in the city area. So I decided I would bike out there. Of course, not for the beer, just for the experience and the windmill!

Well lets just say that my direction sense on a bike in Amsterdam isn’t so great. After a few wrong turns, or missed turns, I did end up finding where I was going.

Pretty cool, not sure if this is an original windmill or anything though.
Pretty cool, not sure if this is an original windmill or anything though.

I then decided I should check out a bit more of Amsterdam, especially since it was a very nice day out. So I biked around to the park (vondelpark) and past the museums which I was intending to go to the next day. My hope was that by biking there now, I wouldn’t get lost the next day.

The park was nice, but for the only major park in Amsterdam, none too large. And everyone was there. The place was packed. Perhaps it is just because I am used to the Cities where there are a million parks and you can pick many of them and be almost alone. That doesn’t work so well when there is only one large park I guess.

On an unrelated note, check out the dock for this boat:

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