Friday, July 5, 2013

Ah, Amsterdam

From Utrecht we took a day trip to Amsterdam, to go to the Rijksmuseum and to revisit some of our favourite sites from a trip we took there a few years back. Of course this gave me lots of opportunities to reflect on the difference between traveling before baby and with baby.
There was of course the Rijksmuseum debacle. If there is any question about whether Heiko is laughing or crying in this picture, make no mistake. He hates it. But truthfully, I didn't like it much more than he did. This is Rembrandt's famous Night Watch painting, which is really big. Big as in large. That is probably the most intelligent thing I can say about it at this point. With all the crowds and the crying and so on, I didn't get a chance to look at the interpretive panel, and everything I ever learned/knew about art seems to have vaporized in the last decade.
One thing that is funny is that everyone takes pictures of these famous paintings. I did it too! By what does it mean, to have a photograph of a famous work? Clearly the reproductions in books or on posters would be far better than anything you can take yourself in the gallery, but I guess it isn't about that. I guess it is about having proof that you were there, standing before that vision of artistic mastery. I also stood before this garbage can in the museum. Isn't the light pretty?
The museum has actually just reopened after many years of closure due to restoration. It is pretty nice, but really I didn't see too much of it. Patrick kindly whisked Heiko off to the Vondelpark while I extended my visit by half an hour, but my focus just wasn't there. I'll try again another year, with an older Heiko perhaps.
We also did other Amsterdam stuff, like walking beside the lovely canals, eating French fries with mayonnaise from a big paper cone (Heiko slept through that part, poor boy), admiring the bicycle parking infrastructure (must be seen to be believed) and checking out some of the little shops selling all the handsome European goods. We searched for and found a cafe that we had stumbled upon several years back, and where I had enjoyed an amazing tuna sandwich. So I enjoyed another amazing tuna sandwich, and the experience was only brought down a little by the waitress who gave us a bit of attitude for bringing Heiko along.

Speaking of Heiko, I would say he had a pretty good day, once he got his Vondelpark/french-fries-missing nap in. He found a rock on the ground which he carried all the way home to Utrecht, after touching it to all the parked bikes in Amsterdam. And that kind of summarizes his approach to travel I would say. On the one hand, he finds everything interesting. On the other hand, I'm not sure he really knows that his rock is from Amsterdam.

By late afternoon, we were a little overwhelmed by the throngs of tourists, and the task of keeping Heiko from jumping into traffic or into the canals. Plus, cobblestone sidewalks were just not meant for strollers (even empty ones). So eventually we found our way over to the Jordaan Neighbourhood, which, while very close to the centrum, is also much more residential. We saw kids playing outside, and people returning from work. We looked at all the lovely apartments and considered what life would be like as an Amsterdam family. We paused for pictures by quieter canals. All this solidified my travel interest in everyday life. (However I should mention that the Jordaan is also a pretty upscale neighbourhood, so we weren't necessarily observing average everyday life). I love the quieter streets, and by far my favourite touristic destination is the grocery store. Maybe it is just a ridiculous and impossible quest for an "authentic" travel experience, and the grocery store would also become just as touristified if enough people were interested. In any case, we did finish our trip to Amsterdam with a stop in the grocery store, picking up some smoked herring and a few other dinner essentials.
As a final side note, I had to laugh at a question we got from our Dutch house exchange partners (we are staying in their house in the Netherlands while they are in ours in Colorado). They were asking about going from Fort Collins to Denver, and whether it would be too busy to drive and therefore should they take public transit? Ha! These poor Europeans. They don't understand the poverty of the train and public transit network in North America, and the states in particular. Truly, there is no way to get from Fort Collins to Denver that is in any way convenient. It would almost be funny how shitty it is, except that it isn't. Meanwhile, we enjoyed using our chip cards on the buses in Utrecht, the high speed rail connection to Amsterdam (less than half an hour), and finally the tram in Amsterdam. What a system.

1 comment:

  1. I think every time I have visited the Netherlands weird/upsetting things happened, but I will share that with you some other time.

    I am here now to comment on the Rijksmuseum, and taking photos of famous paintings, or in front of paintings. 1) I don't remember much about the Rijksmuseum, but I agree with Heiko, those massive European art museums are too much, and are too full of people who don't really care just breezing through to say that they have. One of my hangriest episodes ever was at the Uffizi after waiting about 3 hours in line just to walk in the door, and then it was so crowded you can't really enjoy it. People just like to see a famous painting and then leave. 2) I don't get the photo thing. If you go to the Louvre, there are long lines of people to see the Mona Lisa, and they ignore every beautiful painting that you pass while in line to see the Mona Lisa, and then they take a photo of the lady to prove they saw it, and then they leave. It's depressing.

    Ok, no more ranting. It's 90 degrees in my apartment, which maybe explains my rant.