Saturday, July 23, 2011

Weekend in Amsterdam - Part III

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Despite the previous night´s revelry, we had all agreed to wake up early and visit museums in our last few hours in Amsterdam.  The task fell to me to prod my friends along, but by 10:00 we had checked out of the hotel and were on our way.

Ryan made a new friend at the hotel.
We arrived at Amsterdam´s Museumkwartier and walked across the Museumplein (Museum Square) to take pictures with the giant I AMSTERDAM sign, a tourist landmark. 

Rijksmuseum with I AMsterdam sign.

Our first stop of the day was the Van Gogh museum where we immersed ourselves in the great impressionist’s works.  (Inside joke: No, Ryan.  None of the paintings were moving!!)  One of the most interesting exhibits was the gallery which explained the x-ray process that uncovered older paintings beneath some of Van Gogh´s works.  Many artists then and now reuse canvases to save money, and analyzing these hidden works has allowed researchers to better understand Van Gogh´s methods and artistic development.   The temporary exhibit on Van Gogh´s time in Antwerp and Paris further elaborated on recent scholarship into Van Gogh´s methods and reconsiderations of previously-held beliefs about some of his work from this specific period of his life.  The funniest section concerned the mislabeling of his painting “Wheatfield with a Lark”.  The bird in question is now believed to be a partridge and the exhibit contained a letter from a professional ornithologist decrying this absolute travesty and urging the museum to take action. (“While I understand renaming the painting “Wheatfield with a Partridge” could cause confusion in academic circles, I recommend at least adding a note ‘despite title, bird is actually a partridge’ or something similar in order to educate the public…”)

BEST students at Hard Rock Amsterdam.  We think the restaurant just replaces the $ symbol with €, making food here very expensive.

Later, we watched two men play chess in the square.
 After a lunch break at the nearby (and surprisingly expensive) Hard Rock Café, we headed for the Rijksmuseum, the Dutch national museum.  Having been looking forward to this visit the most, I have to admit that the Rijksmuseum was a bit disappointing.  The national museum and its one-million piece collection are housed in a massive Gothic- and Renaissance –styled building on the Museumplein.  However, since 2003, the building has been undergoing renovation, so only a small, 400-piece selection of collection highlights is on display in a smaller, adjacent structure. Visitors must still pay full admission.  Despite this disappointment, I still enjoyed seeing the museum’s collection of Vermeer and Rembrandt paintings. Nothing beats walking into the dimly-lit viewing gallery and finding Rembrandt’s “The Night Watch” glowing softly on the far wall! I was also pleased to find a small selection of works by one of my favorite Dutch artists Hendrick Avercamp (1585–1634).  Avercamp’s works were featured in a special exhibition which I saw at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. last year, and I was delighted to see them again in their home museum.  Avercamp was a mute who, possibly because of the social isolation brought on by his handicap, excelled at winter landscape and town-scene paintings, capturing the trivial details of daily life which often go unnoticed by most people.

After the museum closed at 6:00, we split up, each wandering through the Centraal district towards the main station and our 9:04 ICE train.  Meru explored a small tulip market while I searched some grocery stores for a bottle of stroop, the Dutch sugar beet syrup we’d enjoyed at the Pancake Bakery, and a case of stroopwafels, the thin syrup-filled wafers which seem to come with every cup of coffee in this city. 

Coffee with a stroopwafel.
 We soon found ourselves in the Chinatown district, passing windows full of Peking ducks. Chinatown blurred into a sort of British Quarter, and passing a through a gay street party, we headed for the train station’s clock tower.
At Amsterdam Centraal we scrounged up some dinner and found the proper platform.   

Ticket and baguette in hand! ICE to Duisburg.

We had a table-place again for the ride to Duisburg.  Clo, Ryan, Blayze and I sat together while Meruyert sat across the aisle alongside a Turkish-German gentleman and his two young daughters, about 10 and 12 years old.  The two young girls soon wore each other out and fell asleep. Within minutes the older of the two proceeded to unleash an earsplitting snore which had everyone in the train car glancing around in a shared awkward moment.  Eventually, the father was forced to wake the poor girl in order to pacify the other passengers and, the matter settled, most everyone in the car finally went to sleep.

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