Having eaten all of the chocolate in Switzerland, it was time to take a short flight to Amsterdam where I will be spending the next few days. I’ve never been before so I was excited to see if the city was as full of tulips, bikes and pot smokers as I had always heard. The short answer: yes, yes and yes. Within minutes of walking out of my hotel I was strolling through the stunning flower market and was almost hit by a biker – the lanes are impossible to distinguish, as the smell of pot wafted through the air.
There are approximateky 350,000 bikers on the road every day in Amsterdam and 73% of the population owns a bike. They are everywhere!
How I wish I could put all these tulips, bulbs, trees and seeds in my carry-on bag! I’ll let the pictures do the talking:
Fortified with an apple turnover and some coffee from Luna’s Cafe, I set off to taste some cheese.
The best cheese in Holland that is. Apologies that the link isn’t in English. My favorite cheese was the spicy goat and the pesto cow’s milk. Delicious and I love how they are displayed. Mooooo
Sated with cheese, I walked to the De Nieuwe Kerk, a large gothic cathedral located in the middle of the city centre at Dam Square next to the Royal Palace. Here in 1980, Queen Beatrix was inaugurated and in 2002 Prince of Orange and Princess Máxima were wed.
I had also heard that the church hosts fabulous art exhibits so I was excited to see what they were featuring today. As I approached I saw the large green sign below: American Indian. I laughed out loud.
This is funny because I live Arlington, VA, a few miles away from the National Museum of the Native American in DC. It also cracks me up how Europeans are fascinated by our legends of “cowboys and Indians.” I didn’t pay to enter the exhibit but I snapped some pictures in the gift shop before I left. In case you ever wanted to own your own headress or tee-pee, this is your spot!
I diverted instead to the Amsterdam Museum which I found confusing to navigate and creatively (read: badly) organized. I thought it was hard to tell which time periods of history and art you were looking at and it seemed like a hodge-podge of collections. The first floor of the museum also smelled like a porta-potty, not sure what was going on there.
The brochure alludes to the exhibits’ bewildering nature: “Discover the surprising objects that make the past seem real. One moment you’ll be hoisting a horse out of the canal, the next you’ll be in one of the white cars of the 1970’s. Or ring the doorbell of one of the flats in the Bijlmer, in the southeast of the city, and hear all about how great it is to live there. The museum has something for everyone.”
Nevertheless, it was a warm place to spend a few hours and I learned a good deal about the city.
Some of the highlights for me included:
A section on the history of drugs, legal and illegal in Amsterdam. This piece, Double Date, Love and Ecstasy, 1996 by Michael Klein features a “happy tablet” symbolizing the world of clubs and nightlife.
The view from above one of the galleries where you can “walk on art.”
Do you think this is a little boy or girl? If you guessed girl like I did you are wrong! In the 17th century boys and girls dressed alike until they reached 5-6 years old. He wears a valuable whistle, bells and teething ring around his neck. This and his clothing indicate that he is a member of a well-to-do family. The cane in his hand implies he is a future nobleman.
This portrait portrays a youngster around the same age as the previous nobleman. This little guy is destined to be a shipbuilder because his father was a great shipbuilder and owner of the paint mill in the background. The exotic parakeet was included to show his family’s affluence. It’s all about the benjamins, baby.
Finally, and apologies for the glare, I was intrigued by the story behind this portrait of Princess Marianne (1810 – 1883) daughter of King Willem I and Queen Wilhelmina. The princess gave the city this portrait as thanks for their wedding present – a 94 piece silver table service. Sadly she had been forced into an arranged marriage with her cousin, Prince Albert of Prussia, and was not allowed to marry the man she loved, Prince Gustav of Sweden.
She had five children with Albert but was incredibly unhappy because he was always off having affairs. In a twist that befits the Real Housewives of Miami, she left her husband and her children to live with her lover, Johannes van Rossum, a former coachmen from the royal stables (also sounds a little like Downton Abbey, no?) After Marianne had a child with Rossum the courts of The Hague and Berlin broke off all contact with her. Marianne, Johannes and their son spent the rest of their lives in Italy.
Here is the courtyard of the museum which also served as an orphanage for the city in the 17th century. There are artifacts from this time (and somewhat creepy life-size child dolls) displayed around the building.
After a cultural afternoon I was in the mood for something a little more low-brow. Enter Chipsy King! Here you can choose either a hot dog and fries or just fries. The you get to pick from 10 sauces – I went with ketchup and sweet chili, not feeling so European as to go with a mayo-based sauce. I am loving Amsterdam and would appreciate any tips from readers on things I need to do/see/eat while I’m here!