September 2005


Amsterdam, Again

I’ve been to Amsterdam too many times for me to be able to write about it from a naïve tourist’s point of view. Mateo and I had a few short hours to do the express tour of Amsterdam-which included a tour of the Anne Frank House-we were incredibly lucky, because there was no line when we showed up. This was my third tour of the house.

The house has an amazing impact on me-it makes me feel very frustrated with the world. The history of hatred toward people for traits they cannot control (race, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation) is absolutely astounding.

The tour of her house is very well done-the only thing I would do differently is add back in the furniture to demonstrate exactly how much living space everybody had. However, I suspect that if the furniture were added back in, the lines would be even longer since there is limited space inside the rooms as it is.

I left the house emotionally drained and in a reflective mood-which I set aside for a spell since Mateo’s time was limited. The rest of his few hours we spent wandering around the heart of the city-looking at the Dam, the National Monument, the Red Light District, and the Catholic Church in the attic museum, which in its own way is a monument to intolerance and mistrust.

From there we picked up Mateo’s luggage from the lockers at the Amsterdam Centraal Station and headed back to the airport. Mateo got checked in and I discovered that there are luggage lockers at the airport-and unlike the lockers at the Centraal Station, they oddly do not require x-raying of baggage before usage.

Beyond that I hit a few museums in Amsterdam whilst I was there, and did a fair amount of sleeping recovering from the week in Budapest and Bratislava. I’m finding that I have a few favorite museums in Amsterdam which are worth repeat visits-due to the changing exhibits.

First up is the Stedelijk Museum, which is temporarily housed in an extremely ugly building while its normal galleries are being refurbished. When I stopped by, half the galleries were closed, so I got in for half-price. The art was incredibly interesting-including the exhibit “What Looks Good Today might not look good tomorrow,” featuring Michel Majerus. It’s an interesting reminder to see what once did look good now looks odd and not that enchanting. Oddly, it was a reminder of my hotels in Swansea and Bratislava-both of which had clearly seen better days, although only one could start to claim that retro-chic status.

I also visited the Newsphoto Gallery-a museum I’d overlooked before. Constantly changing, each day they pick one photo (or news-graphic) and print it out on massively large sheets of paper, which are then displayed. More than anything what makes it interesting are the choices that they make each day. Surprisingly to me, the New Orleans flood was only featured one or two times and events that I thought would have been minor, even for the Dutch, were featured. Perhaps one of the best parts of the museum is that everything is for sale-some of it at rather affordable prices, although I did not actually purchase anything this time.

foam (Amsterdam Photography Museum) had three exhibits that drew me in, but only one turned out to be a winner. There was a collection of historical photographs of Amsterdam by a famous photographer, whose name I cannot recall as I write this. Many of his photos were taken in the late 1950s and 1960s. I came away with two distinct impressions from his photography. First off, Amsterdam was much dirtier back in the 1960s. There was more graffiti, more littering, and more abandoned buildings. Secondly, and seemingly contradictory, as the distinct impression that very little has changed in Amsterdam. People used bicycles a lot back then, and they still do. Little shops ruled the roost back then, and they still do. Oddly, I also came away with the slight impression that perhaps British cities of today look like Amsterdam of the past in terms of cleanliness.

2 comments to Amsterdam, Again

  • Jerry Faust

    Adam, what are your thoughts on David Sedaris’ essay on the Anne Frank House in his latest book, “Dress Your Family in Courderoy and Denim” ?

  • Jerry, I glanced at that chapter today, and I have to say, that I understand what he means and the story he is trying to tell, but I have trouble juxtapositioning what he suggests with the space in question.

    I would call it one of his weaker chapters, in other words.