Museum Day

There are a lot of galleries in Amsterdam, and plenty of well known Dutch artists to fill them with. But forget about Mondrian, Escher and Rembrandt – this city belongs to Van Gogh.

The Van Gogh Museum was certainly top of my Amsterdam to do list, and it did not disappoint. Arriving early helped; we were able to walk straight in when we arrived just after 9am, and the relatively few people around meant you could actually look at the works without having to fight to get in front of it. All the big favourites were on display, featuring sunflowers, bedrooms and self portraits in various hats, and while it was great to see these, it was the huge variety in his work that I found really interesting.

There were large sections of the gallery dedicated to his sketches and early works, and the accompanying notes were not afraid to point out the flaws in these. Van Gogh apparently struggled with getting people to look life like, and to get things in correct perspective (they still looked pretty good to my untrained eye). But of course practice makes perfect, and as you move through the gallery you can see his progression, and his transitions through different styles as he was inspired by other artists (with plenty of work from these artists also on display to illustrate the point).

It was much more crowded by the time we were leaving, and I was glad we weren’t with the people queuing in the rain waiting to get in. Of course after our obligatory perusal of the gift shop (truly amazing the number of different items they can cover in Van Gogh artwork, including the rather bizarre choice of a skateboard deck covered in sunflowers), we found ourselves queued up in the rain waiting to get into the Rijksmuseum.

We didn’t know much about the Rijksmuseum, other than that it contained some Rembrandt. After half an hour queuing, we discovered it seemingly also contained the vast majority of Amsterdam’s population. We jostled our way through the Dutch Masters section (basically Rembrandt, and a bunch of other paintings that look like Rembrandts), had a quick look at the Young Rembrandt collection (from what I can tell, unlike Van Gogh his early work was already pretty great, however he also had a lot less variety in his style), and then saw some more Van Gogh on our way out.

At this point Holly retired to the hotel, but since we had a Museum Card which got us free entry into pretty much everything in town, and the Stedelijk Museum was close by, I decided to press on.

The Stedelijk Museum is Amsterdam’s modern art and design museum. The lack of heavy gold frames did make a refreshing change from the previous galleries, and browsing the collection of design objects and posters (including some by Cassandre, one of my favourites) was very enjoyable. Of course there was also some Van Gogh, because you can’t be an art gallery in Amsterdam without it (if only because it means you can sell postcards in your shop).

Returning to the hotel after a full day on my feet, we debated whether to see the Anne Frank house – Holly had already been as a teenager, and I’ve never read the diary. However since our Museum Card also got us in there, and it wasn’t too far from the hotel, I decided we should probably take a look. It was 7pm by the time we got there (the house is open late for half the year), but we still had to queue to get in, and, like the Rijksmuseum, it was packed inside. We slowly shuffled through, and while interesting, it was hard to appreciate with the number of people inside.

A hearty meal of Dutch cuisine then awaited us at Restaurant Greetje on the other side of town. Wild boar terrine, duck, pork and quince icecream left us both rather stuffed, but Holly was still set on tracking down and trying something from a dessert place she’d seen the night before. One serving of waffles and icecream later, and our rather epic final day in Amsterdam (and of the holiday) drew to a close.

One thought on “Museum Day”

  1. To clarify – the duck, pork and quince ice cream were separate menu items. The quince ice cream did not contain either duck or pork.

    Also, anyone going to Amsterdam, you MUST MUST MUST visit the Metropolitan Deli dessert bar. As well as crispy waffles and lovely gelato, they have beautiful home-made chocolates with flavours including chipotle and caramel/tomato. You can also snort cocoa there – I emphasise that we did not take part in that activity, nor was I at all tempted to do so.

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