Check-in 12/25: On the train to Paris

Thursday morning we switched hostels, moving a few streets over to Durty Nelly’s.

The hostel felt traditional in the sense that we were in a big dormitory, but it was much quieter than Flying Pig. There was no common room but it was located above a cozy Irish pub that seemed like it would do well enough.

After dropping our bags we took the tram to the south part of town to start on a few more museums. We started at the Rijksmuseum, which, though housed in an enormous castle-like building, was surprisingly condensed. The highlights were probably a crash course in Dutch history and a lot of works by Rembrandt, including The Night Watch.

Next up was the Van Gogh Museum. I had never realized Van Gogh was an artist for such a short period of his life, so it was interesting to follow the museum’s tour through his active years and see paintings that were, well, not that great. It was the perfect way to get to know an artist though—not as someone who all of a sudden sprouted a genre-transforming talent, but as someone who started from almost nothing and then gathered ideas and practiced until something came of it.

After Van Gogh we somewhat blindly wandered through canals and streets on the way to our next destination. Along our route we visited a long canal lined with the city’s flower vendors. Within their tents was every type of tulip conceivable, packaged in big bags or in dark, earthy, loose bulbs. Finally, though, we found our way to the Rembrandt House Museum. The famous painter and printmaker lived there from 1639 to 1658, using it both as a dwelling and studio. Walking through, you could see where Rembrandt slept (new life goal: sleep in a box bed), cooked, painted, produced prints, sold paintings and generally lived. In one room you could see the shelves of props he and his assistants and pupils used in their works.

Interestingly, the museum was also exhibiting what it called “The Last Caravaggio.” What is suspected to be one of Caravaggio's last paintings—“St. John the Baptist Reclining”—was on display to the public for the first time in 400 years. The giant canvas seemed cramped in the tiny little room at the top of the house, but I suppose anything seems roomy after being hidden away that long.

That night we mostly hung out in our hostel room with some of the other guests. One was Australian, two Canadian and the last English, making it a somewhat strange summit of the world’s English speakers. Conversation passed from Amsterdam to music (how many Australian bands can you name?) to American sports teams. Somewhat late, we all took the tram to the South part of town to the nightlife district. We found a quiet pub with some live Jazz and settled in for a bit before heading back to the hostel.

Friday we first had a late breakfast at a nearby bakery that offered a weird mix of traditional Dutch and Italian fare. We carefully selected two items off my food tourism list—Belgian waffles smothered in chocolate and Dutch pancakes—and dug in.

We left in a satisfied sugar coma and quickly realized one of our main goals for the day—to rent a bicycle—was going to have to be abandoned because of the cold. So opting for the tram instead, we headed East to another museum district that, excitingly, was near the zoo! After gazing at camels through the front gates for a bit we tore ourselves away and found our destination—the Dutch Resistance Museum. The exhibits chronicled the country’s effort’s against the German occupation during World War II which, though weak on the military front, included a strong underground network of information dissemination, protection of the country’s threatened people and some creative banking to fund the resistance. The tolerance of Amsterdam was again apparent.

After the museum we were determined enough to see a real Dutch windmill that we walked for 20 minutes in some of the worst wind and cold we had encountered so far in Amsterdam. But as soon as we came around the last corner, there was the De Gooiyer windmill, towering over the surrounding canals, cars, buildings, everything. It was shingled brown with big, wooden sails…that weren’t turning. Oh well. 

At the foot of the windmill sits the IJ Brewery which, if you are ever in Amsterdam, I highly recommend a visit to. It was Christmas Eve so the tour was canceled, but the beer was cheap and strong and definitely worth a taste (you should also try the cheese with the seasoning they put out on the tables).

We quickly fell into a fierce game of cards and befriended the American and Israeli pair sitting nearby. They taught us a Russian card game, and it very soon became apparent we were terrible at it. The consequence? A performance of the hokey pokey for the whole room to see.

That night we completed the food tourism list, filling our stomachs with fries with mayonnaise and Wok to Walk, our quest bringing us on a somewhat surreal route through the red light district and canals filled with huge white swans.

Anyway, now we’re on the train to Paris. The jarring sound of Dutch (Damstraat I’m going to miss butchering street names like Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal) is finally shifting into the somewhat familiar French and, for now, we’re safe from the snow and cold inside a high-speed train. We opened a few gifts that had been packed away in our bags (thanks Mom!), providing us with ample ways to entertain the little Dutch boy sitting in the seat next to Jess. It sounds like plenty of stuff will be open on Christmas there, so I’m hoping to do some terrible ice skating before having a nice dinner. Happy Holidays to all!

25 December 2010 · Comments

3 notes

  1. sevenhills posted this

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