TLDR Amsterdam was pretty amazing. This is a long post so here is a list of sub categories.
- De Wallen
- Van Gogh Museum
- Foam Museum
- National Maritime Museum
- The windmill that was a pub
- A Royal Send Off
After a relaxing day of recuperation at the Zuiver Spa I was able to hit the street of Amsterdam and explore this city which is known as the Venice of the North.
As per the trend I got lost trying to find the Mike’s Bike Tour company. But according to our bike tour guide Stuart this is completely normal. The curving streets of and canals of central Amsterdam make it incredibility easy to get turned around.
“You will get lost in Amsterdam this I can assure you”
Stuart ~ Mike’s Bike Tour Guide
Unlike Berlin the streets Amsterdam are a crazy mix of trams, cars, motor scooters, pedestrians and bikes. The streets are a very busy place and cars are the least of your worries (in my opinion). Luckily Mikes Bikes gave us a great preparation and everyone was able to navigate the streets properly.
Stuart absolutely filled our tour with this history of Amsterdam and gave me some awesome suggestions for my stay. His bike was also pretty bad ass.
As you might imagine Amsterdam’s history closely tied to shipping and the Dutch East India Company. With shipping came the prostitution, with the prostitution came the church. Which is why the church is also located in the historic De Wallen district.
Stuart also told me about a brew pub that was in a windmill near the National Maritime Museum which I will be eternally grateful for, but more on that later…
After the bike tour I took the blue boat canal tour that was included in my I Amsterdam pass. I’ve never been a fan of the pre-recorded audio tour, you can’t ask questions, they seem campy and cheesy. I found a spot on the back of the boat to photograph unobstructed. Luckily there was a local who was giving his friends a tour of the canals in english. I have always enjoyed the local perspective and he was quite gracious with his time for the few questions I had.
If I were to do the canal cruise again I would pay extra for a smaller boat tour which takes less people and comes with a tour guide. I feel you get better value for your time and money with a actual human you can chat with.
I spent Saturday Night walking around the De Wallen district. I hadn’t planned on visiting Amsterdam during a weekend. But that is just what happened. Don’t make the mistake I did if you are going to visit it on the weekend book your hotel well ahead of time. The De Wallen district on a Saturday night resembles Vegas and all of it’s hedonistic pleasure that are available to you.
I saw many a bachelor / bachelorette party running a muck, lookie loo, but very few actual punters looking for some company. No I didn’t part take in anything the De Wallen district might offer. I just spent the night walking around and had a few drinks and saw the most hilarious yet completely true marketing slogan ever.
Van Gogh Museum
I next morning I woke up early and hit the Van Gogh Museum. It truly was everything the guide books say and it didn’t disappoint I learnt about the strong bond Vincent and Leo Van Gogh had. How if it wasn’t so Leo’s support Vincent really wouldn’t have been able to live and create the way he did. I also was fortunate enough to see the rotating exhibition called Munch : Van Gogh which explored the relationships between the Edvard Munch and Vincent Van Gogh. But what was truly a highlight of the trip was that on one wall you had a a Monet, a Van Gogh and a Munch you could visually see the inspiration of each painter had on each other. I also got to see the pencil colour version of the scream on loan from Oslo.
I had wondered why the Van Gogh Museum didn’t allow any photographs of the artwork at the time I visited but once I visited The Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay I think I understood why. With everyone running around taking selfies with art work in paris, I felt that people really didn’t even look at the art work, they were just grabbing a poorly captured photo to say they were there. At the Van Gogh there was no camera’s allowed (except for the photo of my left) so people actually had to look at the art work. I don’t really know if this was the defining factor or if the Amsterdam museums were just less busy but in hindsight it was a fabulous decision by the management. ( ps. I am no better btw I took a selfie with The Rhine the most expensive photograph in the world in Munich when I though no one was watching )
The visual feast continues at the Foam Museum ( Fotografiemuseum Amsterdam which is where you get the name foam from) This relatively small museum in comparison to others in town came highly recommend by the guide at the VVV I amsterdam Visitor Centre Stationsplein. I was also lucky enough to be visiting the Museums during Magnum Contact Sheets show. For a former news photographer this is an treasure trove of art, culture and history. A contact sheet is a look into working process of the photographer during the time he shot the photo. What he first saw, what stuck him as important, how we worked the image.
"Pulling a good picture out of a contact sheet is like going to the cellar and bringing back a good bottle of wine" Henri Cartier-Bresson
— Robert Dall (@robertdall) October 11, 2015
I had seen many of the photos from my studies in photography. But seeing the contact sheets and having the ability to see the reverse side of the prints that were made and the notes that were made on the back was a view in the comments and annotations made to prints after it was selected. Both of these are gone in the digital era.
Seeing Robert Capa’s photography from the Normandy Invasion was both impressive and poignant when you find out that a rookie lab tech screwed up most of his film from that invasion. Only 11 frames of 106 could be salvaged… Of those 11 frames 10 were impressive enough to be published in Life Magazine. What is was on those lost negatives only Robert Capa and a few life staffers knows.
Being able to see the works of Henry Cartier-Bresson, Larry Towell, Steve McCurry, Stuart Franklin, Philippe Halsman, Rene Burri and Frank Capa was just as memorial as seeing the impressionist masters I had visited in the morning.
The only reason I left the Foam Museum was because they were closing for the day.
The quality of the show and my history with news photography made this a perfect match but I’d suggest anyone with a interest in photography and going to Amsterdam check out this unassuming museum. I think you will be impressed I certainly was. I went back to the hotel full of inspiration but completely spent of any energy.
National Maritime Museum
I was told by Stuart my trust bike tour guide that if I was a sailor I would enjoy the Het Scheepvaartmuseum ( Dutch Maritime Museum ). So the next day I decided to visit and again I was not lead astray. The museum was located in the old Dutch Navy headquarters in the building ‘s Lands Zeemagazijn (The Arsenal). A large glass roof was constructed over the courtyard in 1997 provides shelter from the elements. The building is absolutely beautiful both in and out.
I really enjoyed the maps and atlas dating from 14th century that doesn’t even show North America, to astrolabes from 16th century. The museum also has a huge collection of maritime paintings showing epic battles along with great collection of model yachts both new and old.
Outside the museum is the replica of the East Indiaman ship Amsterdam which is a complete replica cargo ship of the Dutch East India Company. I visited the ship but there is a chilly east wind coming in from Russia so I spent most of my time below decks chilling in a hammock!
I walked into a windmill that was a pub
It was suggested to me that I skip the Heineken Experience if I was not a devote Heineken Fan or the sports they sponsor. In addition to those two points the old brewery building doesn’t even brewing the beer anymore. I asked Stuart if there was any micro brew pubs and he suggest one that was housed in a windwill named Brouwerij ‘t IJ It was located just down the street from the maritime museum so I though I’d check out the local beer.
After ordering a flight of beer and checking into Untappd I over heard the distinct lingual tones of a English being spoken near me.
“My girlfriend doesn’t want a full pint can she order a small one” ~ Richie
“No Sorry” ~ Bartender
Me having a great time in this pub I say:
“Your on vacation, have a full pint” ~ Robert
“That’s right I am on Vacation!” ~ Leanne
And so she did. That struck up a conversation which lead me to join the table and meet a group of scots, brits, irish and Spaniards. Through out the night a number of members of the commonwealth shared our table all we were missing were a couple aussies. I though we are in a pub right? and there aren’t any aussies? Also Peter a friend of Leanne made an astute observation:
This is the longest I’ve ever spent in a windmill… Can’t say I have ever spent this many hours in a windmill before… ~ Peter
Not a truer wood had been spoken that night. While I had no intention of closing down a pub my last night in Amsterdam It certainly turned out to be the best choice made some new friends.
A Royal Send Off
I I wanted to check out the rights museum on my last day I knew I had made decisions that would only let me visit briefly the museum. So I arrived at the Rice museum in the full baggage in hand and I saw a lot of people gathered around a car waiting for someone to arrive I asked her what all the commotion is about and who is that arriving to the car. She replied in a very proudly:
“She is our Queen”
~ dutch women I was standing beside.
I got my cell phone out and captured about a dozen pictures before Queen Máxima of the Netherlands was wisked off down the street. Really there was only about 50 or 60 people who were casually walking buy who waiting to see her off. I just happen to randomly arrive at the exact moment she was leaving. I then asked a member of the media what she was doing there and was told she was opening up a conference being held in the building.
Unfortunately I couldn’t gain entry into the museum with my large luggage. I would have to leave it somewhere and come back. As fate would have it as soon I board the tram to the Centraal Station I found out my transit and museum pass had expired. ?
I knew leaving Rijksmuseum to the last day was a risk, and I knew I had to leave in under two short hours. So I knew I had to leave Amsterdam without seeing the national museum. But seeing the Queen of the Netherlands in person… Well that will certainly do.
I was happy with the choices I made in my visit to Amsterdam and you certainly can’t see everything. I would happily spend another afternoon in the Foam museum and miss the Rijksmuseum if given the choice of either / or.
Plus this gives me amble reason to visit again, I hope I get the chance.
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