Friday, May 6, 2011

Amsterdam: My Long Lost Home

This past week I visited Amsterdam. It had been a travel long waiting to happen and I am so happy that I had the opportunity to go. My original desire to go was sparked by the fact that my paternal ancestors migrated from the Netherlands to America back in the late 1800s and I wanted to visit their homeland. Now, my name "Venema" actually comes from the Northern Netherlands in Friesland, but why not visit Amsterdam, the capital that is full of culture, history and and awesome art scene. It turns out I love the place, and want to move there someday.

I honestly did not have any vision or idea of Amsterdam before arrival, so my first impression, set by the amazing "crooked" houses and beautiful canals, was off to a good start. The people were so nice, charming and genuine. We rented bikes in order to get around the city. It was really the best choice of transportation. It allowed us to really see the city, it's nooks and crannies. Of course we visited the central part of the city where you find downside of the city's reputation: sex shops/museums, red light district, coffeshops aka: weed zones and loads and loads of tourists, but to be honest, it was a good laugh, but not that impressive. We found this quarter in Jordaan called "9 straatjes," which we soon adopted as our area. There were adorable little boutiques everywhere, cool vintage stores, awesome art galleries, delicious real coffee shops and calm streets - a nice getaway from the touristy chaos in the center.

The Anne Frank House was so powerful and a must-see if you visit Amsterdam. If you are not familiar with the Anne Frank story, she was a young Jewish girl who was in hiding with her family in a house in Amsterdam for 2 years during the Holocaust. She kept a diary about her feelings, emotions and everyday life while in hiding, which was found after her death, and then published. I wasn't sure what to expect from the Anne Frank House, but the curators did an excellent job. The simplicity in design and the quotes from her diary throughout the house made the important story very easy for all ages to understand as well as very powerful. It was as if Anne was there, narrating her story and you just couldn't imagine how scary it was for her and her family during this war. At the end of the tour through the house, they have incorporated an installation on contemporary discrimination, which is an excellent ending that ties what has happened in the past to current events of today. There is a quote from Anne's father, Otto Frank, that I really like and find very important.

"To build up your future, you must know your past." - Otto Frank

The Van Gogh museum was something very special as well. I don't think I have ever seen a museum dedicated to one artist like this before, and I was impressed. The curators did a fabulous job explaining their goal to place Van Gogh's works in context and then following through. They have grouped his art in chronological order to show how he developed as an artist, but what I loved was that they included so many other artists and their works that inspired Van Gogh and that really helped him shape himself as an artist. To see a Jean-François Millet or a Japanese woodblock print right next to a piece of Van Gogh's by which he was inspired just made him so real to me. It might sound silly to say that, but I have studied all these artists in writing and in printed pictures, and it is like they are entertainment celebrities of today, but even more important. Though I will never see Van Gogh for obvious reasons, it was like I really got to know him throughout this exhibition, and that is direct evidence as to why I believe that the curators did an excellent job.

Okay, enough talky. Here are some not-so-excellent pictures and links to things I liked.

Great coffee:
Adorable girly boutique + cupcakes:
Good vintage shop:
Another good vintage shop:
Great art gallery, which had a beautiful solo exhibition of the artist Ryan Mcginley:
Amazing Thai food:


No comments:

Post a Comment