Amsterdam (AKA, Van Gogh)

Sorry it’s been a while since checking in - I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and write, as my days have been filled to the brim with exciting activities. But yeah, here’s Amsterdam, the land of amazing food, amazing art, and an oddly open culture.

We arrived in Amsterdam pretty early in the morning after taking yet another early flight. We decided that the first thing that we should do in the city is take a cruise around the canals - so we killed about an hour walking around the central station and taking stock of the city. After the frankly lackluster canal tour (we heard a lot about gables and not much else), we decided that we needed to visit some of Amsterdam’s world famous museums. We started, and for that matter, ended, our day at the Rijksmuseum - Amsterdam’s premiere museum and one of the amazing collections of both Dutch masters of art, and Dutch artifacts in the world. In fact, we almost didn’t see the whole museum, as it took us nearly four hours to walk at a brisk pace through some of the exhibits. We only barely got to the end as they metallic voices came over the intercoms “The museum will be closing in 10 minutes.” After the museum, we grabbed indian food at a well rated café and then returned to the hostel.

After a few drinks, we decided to take a tour of Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District. What amazed me the most about the district, and the city in general, was the nonchalant attitude that residents take towards this ‘seedy’ underbelly that would exist in any American city. What is borderline inexcusable for us is displayed openly in proudly without comment. After walking around for a bit, we retired to our room. Though there were no dueling guitarists - the room was large, and there was a large group of Spanish folks who came in at 4:30AM, so once again, sleep was a tricky proposition.

The next day I woke up early, and set out to explore some more of the city’s museums. I started at the Rembrandt house - tucked away in a square called “Rembrantsplein,” the museum is an ode to the life of the Dutch master, and goes through his once great studio (which was eventually too grand for an artist, and taken by creditors). The collection of his works at the museum was one of the better collections I’ve had the pleasure of looking at. After the museum, I went for Pancakes (Dutch of course) and ended up with an amazing apple strudel pancake (with ice cream of course) which was only the beginning of a string of amazing restaurants.

Moving on, I found myself in the Van Gogh museum, which was a remarkable exploration of the famous painter’s life. With over 1000 pieces related to the artist - from paintings to letters - the museum form a brilliant impression of the painter’s life - beginning with his entrance into painting when he was 27, to his death 10 years later. It was also my chance to get a selfie with the famous sunflowers (which of course, no photos were allowed. Please don’t tell anyone.). After spending time at the packed Van Gogh museum, I took a short walk through the modern art and design museum next door. Though less impressive - I was once again reminded of the strangeness of modern art, and the reasons that I visit these museums. We then took a detour to check out the Anne Frank house, which we waited in line for (for over an hour), and was on the whole, a bit disappointing. Though Anne Frank has a poignant story, it is one that has been told a thousand times, by a thousand people - and the house is notably devoid of any artifacts that might make it stand out from the history that it is ensconced in.

We then visited an asian fusion restaurant for dinner - and once again, amazing food was amazing. After a quick tour around the city, and a bit of walking around - we once again fell asleep.

The last morning, I was awakened at 5AM by the garbage trucks dumping what sounded like a ton of glass onto the concrete. So once again, no sleep. It’s starting to become a worrying trend, I think. I had decided the night before, however, that the last day would be all about food - and it was. I began at a famous omelette place (which had one of the best omelettes I’ve ever had in my life) and by the time I left the restaurant, there was a line of about 30 people outside the doors waiting to get in.

I then meandered down the main shopping streets to the Café Amsterdam - known for it’s Bitterballen, which is a fried meatball of sorts, a bit like a croquette. After enjoying my meal there - I once again meandered around until I found a Herring cart - a speciality of the dutch, fresh (raw) Herring was exactly how I expected - a bit awful, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I offset this disaster however by visiting the Suoi Square, and the famous Stroopwaffle stand, which sold one of the most amazing, delicious, treats I’ve ever had.

As it was now only a bit into the afternoon, I stopped by the Amsterdam city museum to learn about the history of the town. I then went back to the hostel, and prepared myself for dinner - a 6 course ensemble at Bistro ANNA, an up in coming european fusion restaurant which I suspect in a few years will be worth at least one, if not two Michelin stars. The creativity of the chef was phenomenal, and I’ve learned a few tricks myself - such as mixing a bit of browned butter into your whipped butter makes an amazing nutty flavored butter, and the fact that watermelon and wasabi actually go pretty well together.

Amsterdam was an amazing city, and though we once again left early to catch a flight to Geneva - I was truly impressed by what the city had to offer.