B&A’s Benelux Journal

November 5, 2016

Hollaaaaaaa!…. nd

Filed under: Uncategorized — A @ 4:07 pm

So the last leg of the trip has been in the Netherlands. We stayed in a really artsy place in Amsterdam called Hotel Not Hotel, where our room was concealed by a ….(wait for it)…… bookcase! Yeah, like the bookcase in Young Frankenstein. Because we’re that cool. Actually, it made for quite a small room, and all the artsy rooms are so small, they pretty much have to resort to a big communal bathroom, like in a hostel, so it wasn’t so totally swanky. But still! It was cool.

Overall, Amsterdam was certainly an interesting city. Lots and lots of bikes, which rrrreeeeeeeaaaalllllyyyy took some getting used to as a pedestrian. And yes, loads of fun things are legal there that aren’t legal in ‘Murica. There are indeed canals everywhere, as well as cheese and old, gabled buildings. But it’s still a bustling, modern city, crawling with people. Also, crawling with museums. To be truthful, I got a little museum’ed out, but I am very grateful for the excellent art we saw in Amsterdam. I think some of the art really made the hustle and bustle and crowdedness of Amsterdam worth it for me. There were several Dutch masters at the Rijksmuseum, including four Vermeers (more than any one spot in the world) a respectable number of Rembrandts. Brandon has already talked about the Van Gogh House, another wonderful site for art. It was one of THE most crowded places we’ve been to on the entire trip (second only to Versailles), but I still loved hearing his story. Personally, I think my favorite art spot in the city was Rembrandt’s house. Not a lot of his work there, other than etchings, but there’s something special about being in the spot where an artist worked. Especially an artist like Rembrandt, whose work so dramatically embraced light and dark.

Other prominent art stops in the Netherlands include a museum in Delft dedicated to Rembrandt’s “companion” artist, Vermeer. Also known for his elegant treatment of light on the canvas during the Dutch Golden Age, Vermeer has always been one of my favorites. The museum — holding none of his works — did a fine job of analyzing his works and extensively discussing his techniques. So fascinating! In the small city of Haarlem, we checked out the Fran Hals House, a Dutch master known for his lively portraits.

The other half of Amsterdam that really helped me view it as more than “The City Where Everything’s Legal” or “The City Where Everyone Rides a Bike and Is Therefore Better Than You” was its history. That is, the opportunity to learn about all of Holland’s history while you’re visiting the Netherlands. The Anne Frank House is the classic, of course. I know it’s kind of cliché to cry about Anne Frank stuff, but whatever! I did. Yes, I think part of me was super emotional about it because Emily and I were in the play together, and we lived and breathed these people and their story for two or three months, and then actually being in the space… Back to the Rembrandt house experience, it’s the power of being in the same space a person occupied, walking the same floor, looking out the same windows… I can’t explain it. And for me, walking through the Annex was more than the sad story of one girl and her family; it reminded me that they and all the victims of the Holocaust were not just monuments or martyrs but real people. It got me.

The other big historical museum in Amsterdam was the Dutch Resistance Museum. Very thorough and informative, basically about life in the Netherlands in WWII but particularly focused, of course, on the Resistance Movement. (There was also an superbly well curated exhibition on food during wartime. It was amazing!!!) The Anne Frank House and Resistance Museum were perfectly rounded out, though, by a visit to the Corrie ten Boom House in Haarlem. This side of the story showed us a clear picture of what life was like for the people doing the hiding. It was also a moving experience.

Aside from art and history… Oh yes, the food! We found a list of “15 Foods to Try in Amsterdam,” and boy did we valiantly try to conquer all of them. I think we got through eleven. Damn, was it all delicious. Featuring lots of cheese, fried things, Indonesian foods… So yummy. Yes, Dutch cheese is as good as everyone says.

All right, I’ve reached the point where I’m rambling about food, so I’ve got to rein it back in. Last big thing unrelated to all of that: We’re ending the trip in a nice little city called Delft, and from Delft, we hopped over to Rotterdam this morning, mostly just to check out some of its famous architecture. Mainly, the one thing we just had to see was the commune of dwellings called Cube Houses. Only, not the kind of cube-shaped houses where the bottom of the cube is on the ground; oh no, these cubes are propped up on a corner, suspended on a pole. The designer wanted them to look like… geometrical trees, I guess. It’s actually really, really cool. Maybe Brandon will upload some photos, since pictures speak a thousand words or whatever. Anyway, it was a cool thing to do on our last day.

I don’t really have anything profound or moving to offer here at the end of my last post. I’ve learned a lot on this trip, and I’ve seen some beautiful things, and I’ve consumed many delicious foods and beverages. And let’s not forget the whole reason we initially made this trip… the wedding. That was so special, and I’m really honored that we got to experience it, as well as all the hospitality that came along with meeting Charlotte’s friends.

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