Dear fellow Babblers,
If any of you read my earlier Wanderings article you’ll be well aware of my Belgian, or not so Belgian, visit to Brussels – complete with endless shots, cigarettes, and embarrassing moments vomiting on strangers in clubs that I, now having regained my sobriety, fail to remember apart from being escorted out rather aggressively by security.
Amsterdam: city of WWII history,bikes, Van Gogh and negative degree whether has brought back down to the daughter mami and papi raised – calm, sweet, art enthusiast and book nerd hermit, Delphine.
So, for today’s post I thought I would share with you all my innocent meanderings through this beautiful city as well as my brief day trip in Zaanse Schans, an adorable windmill town smelling of baked chocolate (
for real though!) just north of Amsterdam.
Amsterdam Wandering #1: Van Gogh Museum
I arrived in Amsterdam from Brussels, about a three hour bus ride on Christmas day. While all y’all were roasting chestnuts of 13-gram-trans fat and unwrapping gifts of amazon gift cards and pretend-authentic gold lockets Delphina was making a run for -12-degree whether just to spend her afternoon hours with the master of sunflowers himself, Vincent Van Gogh.
Yup, absolutely, the Van Gogh Museum was open ON CHRISTMAS DAY PEOPLES!!!!! As soon as I arrived in the city, I rushed to my 20-euro-a-night rundown hostel to drop off my mountain of luggage and headed directly, via Google maps, northeast towards the museum quarter. Upon arrival I was met by a steady and lovely dose of rain as well as a mile-long-line of tourists all wishing to spend their Christmas with the lunatic of art and everything beautiful.
One hour later and several times more excited I finally made it inside this small, but all the more astounding palace of wonder. Complete with my guided tour and camera (FYI pictures ain’t allowed, but that’s only if you don’t get caught… THUG LIFE!) I strutted into the museum met by screaming kids wanting to head out for hot chocolate and obnoxious parents forcing their kids to shut their pie hole. ON any ordinary day, this would have irritating the living buh-jee-ziss out of me but not on Christmas and especially not in the presence of Van Gogh’s heart and soul.
Though small and cozy I spent just about my entire afternoon, only a couple hours from closing time floating through each and every room of the museum, listening to the dull, but extremely useful voice of the tour guide. I’ve read Van Gogh’s letters and watched several documentaries on the artist so I already basically knew the story behind the majority of his paintings but hearing them again as I was standing in front of the original paintings made me feel as though I was stepping directly into my dreams.
For art, culture, and anyone looking to step back into time through the eyes of a sadly disturbed genius I would definitely recommend visiting this museum.
Amsterdam Wandering #2: MOCO Museum
I feel like entry into this museum should be free. It’s impossible to spend more than an hour, hour and half max in this house. Yes, I did just say house. I felt like I was wandering around some long-lost nomad’s home instead of around a museum. I really was expecting more from this visit. All of the works are from early 20th century artists: Bansky and Dalí. Don’t get me wrong, I definitely enjoyed the rebellious twist of the exposition and found it a luminous change from Van Gogh’s historic works. However, it is not a place I would recommend for visitors to come to. That is, unless you’re an art enthusiast, like Delphina over here.
If there is one work in the museum that you cannot, simply CANNOT leave without seeing or taking a selfie in front of, it’s Bansky’s infamous Girl with the Red Balloon. I’m sure all of you have seen this before, in one form or another, from being tattooed on the back of some chick’s arm or sketched on the wall of the metro station… It really is, that famous. I don’t want to get to heartfelt here as I promised myself I would get straight to the point but this art piece in particular means a lot to me because it represents a reminder that though life may bring me down into the most bleak and frightening of places, there is always hope. Dreams don’t die and as long as I remain hoping, I am still living, not mundanely surviving. At a time in my life where everything is changing and I often feel lost in a crowd of blurring faces and ear-popping screams, Girl with the Red Balloon awakens my memories of a time in my past when life was colored. Now, I only need to take back that marker and retrace my happiness once again.
Amsterdam Wandering #3: Heineken Experience
This was, by no way, shape or form, on my itinerary. Trust me folks, I got enough of all that deadly beverage back in Brussels. However, I was invited by a friend, and yearning for some company, I somehow found myself in yet another hour-long-line waiting to buy a ticket just to hear the procedure of keeping a bottle of beer bubbly… ugh.
If you’re traveling to Amsterdam and want a full-on Amsterdam experience, along with riding a bike through the city, which I myself failed to do, you have to go to this guided tour.
Upon entrance your taken, with a group through several rooms all with a staff member awaiting you to give you a lecture on the beer-making-process. I would love to give y’all some tips but I’m still nursing my sickness from all the fumes gathered up in on lieu.
On a happier note, it was super interesting to watch the bottles coming through the machines, being filled, pack and ready for shelves. I especially enjoyed the game rooms and photo booths where I got to take goofy photos and tease my friend about his genius knowledge on the beer-making process, despite his hate for beer.
Amsterdam Wandering #4: Zaanse Schans
Apart from my 3-hour-love affair in the temple of the man who cut off his ear my day trip to this little village, about 15 minutes north of Amsterdam was really the highlight of my stay in Holland.
On the third day of my trip in Holland I rose before the rest of my annoying hostel mates even got to the snoring phase of their sleep and rushed to Amsterdam Central Station straight north, fifteen minutes by train to the village of windmills, wooden shoes and dreamy rainbows – Zaanse Schans.
This tiny Dutch haven dates all the way back to the 18th and 19th centuries, attracting tourists from all over the world for its classic workshops, succulent fresh bread, and old fashioned factories. There is even a museum dedicated to the town which I didn’t feel like visiting, as wandering through the streets and visiting the local shops was enough to educate me on the neighborhood’s original beauty.
Zaanse Schans is a step away from the business of Amsterdam, as I felt I was stepping into another time period altogether whether it was during my quiet walk into the village in the morning hours, the time I spent watching wooden shoes being carved, or testing my photography on the emerging rainbow in the sky. If you have some extra space on your Amsterdam itinerary I would definitely recommend visiting this industrial district, small but blooming, to this day, in luminescent culture and life.
These are only four of the highlights during my first ever trip to the Netherlands. There was and still is so much more to discover in this historic world of northwestern Europe. There is the Anne Frank house, the Red Light District, the Flower Market, the Rijksmuseum along with the never-ending canals, overgrowing fields, and cycling routes. However, I do not want to take you all through all that Holland has to offer through my eyes. Discover it for yourself. Take leave off work, kiss goodbye to your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner and just go. Wander, dream explore. There is so much more than can be written.
Our next Wandering will take us all the way across Europe (well, sort of) from the Netherlands to the home of our beloved James Joyce: Dublin. In the meantime, free yourself from the clutches of life and Wander. It doesn’t matter where, how or with who. Just go. Go.