Sunday, December 29, 2013


Despite the cold temperature, Amsterdam is warming up to me. I’m currently sitting in a restaurant, drinking Amstel upon the bartender’s patriotic recommendation. I had to visit three museums before I could admit that Amsterdam is not a carbon copy of Portland, Oregon. I think ever since the 24-Hour Church of Elvis closed down, Portland is lacking in museums. And, although both cities are bicycle crazy, Amsterdam trumps Portland in the bicycle category too.

On the subway, a woman sitting across from me leaned forward and spoke to me in Dutch. When I said I didn’t understand, she switched to English. “Is there camouflage on my face?” I figured she meant foundation and assured her that her makeup looked nice. We talked for a little bit and she told me I have to go to the Red Light District. “You have to see the ladies,” she said. Well, I never got around to that, but here’s what I did accomplish in Amsterdam. 

Last night, I finally got into the Van Gogh Museum. It has a really hip ambiance with a DJ playing new wave music and stylish people drinking cocktails. Seeing everything over the course of Van Gogh’s ten-year career, I could see the work improve and become distinct and the colors go from subdued to electric. I was interested to learn that Van Gogh not only put a lot of thought and preparation into his paintings, but he also planned the way they should be hung. He did two versions of The Bedroom with a yearlong gap between them and it’s the first version that is the most well-known. 

I read an article recently that revealed a new theory into Van Gogh’s death, that he didn’t kill himself but rather allowed himself to die after some boys accidentally shot him. I don’t know what’s true but the people at the Van Gogh Museum stick to the traditional story that Van Gogh committed suicide.

Another museum I went to was the Anne Frank museum. Visitors can see where Anne Frank, her family and another family hid from the Nazis, until they were betrayed and sent to concentration camps. A revisionist like Van Gogh, Anne Frank wrote a second draft of her diary. Her bedroom walls still have the pictures she put up, including one of chimpanzees having a tea party and a self-portrait by Leonardo da Vinci. Her height chart on the wall revealed that she was tall for her age. She was my height (5’6) the last time she was measured. 

At the Rijks Museum, I felt dizzy and a little overwhelmed by the maze-like building and the masses of people. I saw the Rembrandts and Van Dykes and then I left. I wish I had more to say about the Rijks Museum, but I wasn’t in the right mood or state of health to enjoy it.

Amsterdam is a beautiful city. I hope to come back, but it will have to be with friends.

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