Saturday, August 31, 2013

Highbrow and Lowbrow in Amsterdam

On the morning of our second (and final) day in Amsterdam, we went back to Headfirst Coffee. The guy recognized us from the day before, and asked if we wanted the same as before. We did.

Three flat whites.
If you are in Amsterdam, you should have coffee here. No arguments.
Properly caffeinated, and having been told about an afternoon show where it was rumored Prince might appear (I don't know if he did in the end, but he did do a short-notice show that evening), we headed out to the Rijksmuseum, which was our major plan for the day.

On the Museumplein is a sculpture which is a tourism professional's dream - I amsterdam.

They tried "You aremsterdam", but it didn't have the same ring to it.
So you can climb on it, get your picture taken with 100 of your closest tourist friends, and then buy an uncluttered version as logo on t-shirts, bags, keychains, postcards, socks, hats, underwear, shot glasses ... you get the idea. We didn't pose with it.

On to the museum, which is there lurking in the background of that photo. There was a line to get in, but the line was shorter than the one for the Anne Frank house, and I was pretty sure there was more room inside the Rijksmuseum, so we waited it out. I took a lot of pictures in the museum, but I'll spare you most of them. Nothing worse than "look, here's a thing! And a different one! And another one!" The point is, you will not want for awesome things to see if you visit.

We spent a while exploring the rooms of religious art. For some reason, it's always fascinating to me. In amongst the Madonna-and-Childs were some carvings that intrigued me.

This one is "Christ in the house of Mary and Martha"
Mary's parents celebrating their impending parenthood
Our Lady of Sorrows
So. There were some things.

We had lunch in the museum cafe (quite good, and surprisingly reasonably priced) and dove back in for an assault on the must-sees of the museum: some Vermeers and Rembrandt's "Night Watch." Before getting there, though, I got side-tracked by a cluster of people.

You might recognize that guy in the painting.
I didn't bother to try to get any closer to these. There's a whole Van Gogh museum across the park from here, and besides, he still has two ears in this one. On we went, and found the real crowds. You can see a panoramic photo of the Masterpieces Hall on my Flickr account (the Vermeer room is on the left of that photo). The Vermeer paintings, I did get mostly close to. There aren't that many of them in the world, and I hadn't seen one in person before. (This is a list of his paintings and where you can find them; the Rijksmuseum has four.)

Then, the Night Watch.

It's a big painting, with a big crowd in front of it.
And after that, we were pretty well done. Happy with what we'd been able to see, and ready to move on, we left the museum to spend the last couple of hours in the city outdoors.

We wandered through the red light district (intentionally, this time). Why did we decide to check it out? In the immortal words of mountain climber George Mallory, "Because it's there." On a Sunday afternoon, it mostly consists of women in lingerie sitting in windows, texting. So aside from the lingerie, an Amsterdam prostitute's slow afternoon at work looks pretty much like everyone else's.

We didn't stray too much farther afield because we had a train to catch in the evening, so we took some last photos here and there and headed back to the train station.

The hazards of going on a trip with a new camera - it doesn't always
focus where you want it to, and you don't always notice that.
The train station - beginning and ending point of our journey.
And that's it for Amsterdam! Next stop: Cologne (or Köln, depending who you ask), Germany.

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