After six months of living in the Netherlands, we finally made it to Amsterdam on Saturday. For our first excursion we chose the Van Gogh Museum and some general wandering.
The Van Gogh Museum was very see-able. They have a great but not overwhelmingly large [as in, not the size that you can’t humanly take in in one visit] collection of works by Van Gogh and some by contemporaries (favorite), laid out mainly by chronology with captions on the walls in Dutch and English both. (You can rent an audio guide but it’s E5 on top of the E14 adult admission, so we forewent that.) We bought our tickets online the night before, which I strongly recommend. This saved us a wait in quite a lengthy queue.
What most surprised me about the Van Gogh chronology was seeing how many different emulative phases he went through before painting the style he is most known for by the average art enthusiast (like myself). It was also curious to think, while streaming past his work with hundreds of other visitors, about the impact he couldn’t know about himself: Van Gogh committed suicide in 1890 after writing to his brother that he considered himself a failure.
The museum was crowded. But out on the streets: holy tourists, Batman. Some of the main drags were so thronged with people that several times I had to resist the urge just to run down a side street to get my personal space back. However, it is not advisable to run blindly in Amsterdam, because you will probably get hit by some form of aggressive transportation: trams, cruising through the pedestrian zones; local bicyclists, dinging their bells angrily at the people who don’t notice they’re walking in the bike lanes; tourist bicyclists, who are generally a little skittish (photo below of bike tour); not to mention mopeds and cars when allowed.
We did a few brisk blocks through the Red Light District (although my husband was taken there once before on a high-school trip… um, what?). The seedy haze from the “coffee shops” [translation for Americans: marijuana shops. If you want the beverage, look for a cafe.] permeated the streets. (We have those shops in Delft, too, but not in such a concentration.) The actual red-light windows themselves were so strange to me. I don’t know what I expected—on some level I must have thought this area of the city would be glitzy, maybe like Las Vegas. Instead, it felt like the dive areas of New York and had a sad underworld-type vibe.