An October 2002 trip
to Amsterdam by MichaelJM
Quote: We wanted a city break that was not too far away. There's a short list of one: Amsterdam. It has great museums and here's a few that we managed to visit.
Mr. Hartman built his house and retail outlet (he sold socks!), while on the top two floors, he created his "secret catholic Church," seating up to a 200-strong congregation. It is suggested that it was always packed enough to be overflowing, so the local oppressors must have thought that Hartman’s sock business was booming!
Although there were several such churches, "Our Dear Lord in the Attic" has been perfectly preserved and amazingly has all the elements you’d expect of a church, including a fine but fairly compact balcony. I felt that the balcony floor was a little rickety so I didn’t linger too long up there, but the view of the small church is great from here if you don’t suffer from vertigo. Make sure you check out the silverware and marvel at the fantastic paintings
There are church icons, statues, a magnificent organ, and a fold-away altar made out of a mock marble. There’s a priests confessional on the landing and what purports to be a hidey-hole under the stairs. If you were searching for a wayward priest, I think you wouldn’t have too much difficulty finding him!
Before you leave the church, make sure you check out the windows – there are some interesting views of the canals and a section of the Red Light District. I just contemplated, momentarily, how all those 200-plus voices and the organ-playing hymns would not have been heard from the streets below.
On the lower floors, the rooms are set-up as they would have been in the 17th century, the suggestion being that all of the furniture was originally found in the house and was returned here after the building was restored in the 1800s. The basement kitchen is delft tiled, and there are plain but well constructed pieces of furniture. Certainly this wealthy trader knew how to take care of his servants! The servant’s bedroom is bright and well-furnished, and generally the quality of the construction of the house exudes wealth.
There are regular but infrequent services that are still held in the church, but I think you have to give advance notice of your intention to worship here.
This is a popular museum – understandably so.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 24, 2004
Oudezijds Voorburgwal 40
Amsterdam, Netherlands 1012
+31 20 624 6604
Attraction | "Heineken Experience"
The Experience is housed in Heineken’s original Amsterdam brewery, and parts of the building date back to1867. The complex was a proper working brewery until 1988, and after the brewery re-sited, Heineken redeveloped the buildings as an attraction. The intention was to create a museum, which was interesting, informative, and fun. I reckon they achieved that goal.
Having paid your admission charge of 10 euros, you’ll be directed to the old streets of Amsterdam. This clever reconstruction attempts to give you a sense of how things were, and the shop fronts and taped noises go some way to set the scene. At the end of this short meander through 17th-century Amsterdam, you’re ready to explore the world of beer-making. There’s an interactive experience—one of those 3D "static" rides when you’ll experience the life of a Heineken beer bottle as it passes down the conveyor belt. I’m never sure that these experiences are good for me, as I soon begin to feel nauseous, but I try them anyway. The intention is that you feel the movement, and although I’m glad I’ve tried it, I am also glad when it finishes. But being a glutton for punishment, I leap into one of the horse-drawn carts to try yet another "near-real" experience. I actually quite enjoy this one, as your horse canters round the street of Amsterdam as if it’s on a beer delivery run. It’s a good way to see the street from the dry, bumpy comfort of the Heineken Experience.
The malting "experience" comes complete with explanations, computer games, and an experimental drum kit (made out of Heineken barrels), which is yours to play on if you wait your turn. We have fun as we walk through the brewing "experience", as here you stand in the brewing vats, and as you look up, the master brewer is looking down at you. A few minutes later, I am that master brewer and am communicating with the tourists at the bottom of the vat. They are as confused as you probably are now. But we have great fun mimicking their movements and watching their absolute bewilderment as this "taped message" responds to their idiosyncratic movements. It’s great, as they appear on our level and realise that they’ve just been communicating with me!
Three free beers en-route (double if your wife doesn’t drink), and you’ll have enjoyed the trip. Of course, the final stop is the usual museum shop. Nothing to hold me here, because this beer isn’t my normal tipple, but we do carry out our "free" half-pint beer glasses, which are carefully wrapped for their journey back to the U.K. I’m still using them on a regular basis, but not for Lager!
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on December 26, 2004
Amsterdam, Netherlands 1075 AE
+31 (0)20 523 92 22
Attraction | "Anne Frank House"
Anne spent two years hidden in this house before their whereabouts were revealed to the Nazis in the summer of 1944. The sad irony is that Anne and her sister died of typhus in the notorious Belsen concentration camp only a week before the German surrender. Thankfully, her diaries survived, and her father had them published in 1947. They continue to express the thoughts and the determination of a young teenager to survive despite the odds. She failed, but her words didn’t!
The first part of the exhibition graphically shows life in Amsterdam in the 1940s. There are stills and "moving photos" showing the Nazi occupation, the dress enforcement of the yellow star, the formation of ghettos, and the imposing of unrealistic curfews. All this led Otto Frank to decide that if he and his family were to survive, they must hide away from the German oppressors. With help from his Dutch friends, Otto moved into the unused part of his company’s warehouse and the now-famous bookshelf was constructed. We wondered as we walked through the doorway with the permanently open bookcase door how the Frank family had not been detected earlier, but we guessed that in the 1940s, the layout of the buildings would have made it difficult to detect, despite the fact that the rear garden is no more than a courtyard that would have been shared by more than one household.
Certainly life in the restricted space of the annex must have been difficult to manage for the family, and it is evident as you follow the tourist trail that they became an insular and self-sufficient family. There is evidence of normality as you walk through the rooms—pencil marks on the walls showing the growth progress of the two Frank girls and posters on the bedroom wall (typical of a teenager). It is said that, other than maintaining the property and the obvious work downstairs, little has been done to the rooms. If this is the case, the family lived very frugally, and it would have been a stark contrast to the opulence they’d been used to in the main house.
There is so much to see here, and we all felt the emotional presence of the Frank family. I truly would defy anyone to leave here without experiencing feelings of bewilderment and astonishment for what happened with and to this family.
The museum is more than the Franks’ home; it’s a full portrayal of how minorities must struggle to survive. Enjoy—if that’s the right word.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 28, 2004
The Anne Frank House and Museum
Amsterdam, Netherlands 1016 GV
+31 20 556 71 00
The museum is housed in what appears to be a drab and neglected building, consistent with the fact that the original building was constructed in the 1970s. However you’ll soon get over that as you enter the art gallery and begin to feast your eyes on the treasures that are hung within. The rooms themselves are simple giving priority to the masterpieces that are displayed there.
The walls on the ground floor are arrayed with paintings by the friends and influences of the great man, including several by Gauguin, Monet, and Pissarro. Thereafter, the paintings of Van Gogh are displayed chronologically. The surprisingly realistic landscapes alongside the atmospheric and painlessly worked peasant paintings were painted in his hometown. He had made hundreds of sketches of local peasant life, and we were pleased to recognise the weather-worn domestic scene of "the potato eaters". Van Gogh had been meticulous in his early studies, and it’s incredible that he moved away from the traditional to be best known for his more colourful Impressionist work. However, in this exhibition you can see the changes emerging through his art as the years advance.
His Parisian phase is well represented with Paris landscapes, the famous Montmartre paintings, his depiction of café life, and his self-portraits.
Life in Arles and his representation of the clear colours of southern France are well-exhibited, and you will not fail to appreciate the clarity and vibrancy of these paintings. And yet, I felt a lingering sense of sadness portrayed in this work. To begin with, I thought it was due to my knowledge of the circumstances of his madness and death, but as I contemplated the paintings, I realised it was more about the way in which Van Gogh distorted trees and flowers to assume a sinister and often threatening appearance. None of this is easily detected when you see photos of the paintings in books.
In the basement, surrounding a large courtyard, was a really interesting exhibit with a display of letters between Vincent and Theo, his brother—letters which recount the story of how Vincent struggled with his life both financially and emotionally and offer an incredible insight into the artist’s life. Perhaps the man who killed himself at the age of 37 would not have produced such great and emotive paintings if he had not moved into madness, nor, I guess, would he have provided the world with so much to speculate about.
Enjoy the colours and emotions that are Vincent Van Gogh!
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on December 28, 2004
Van Gogh Museum
Paulus Potterstraat 7
Amsterdam, Netherlands 1071 CX
+31 (20) 570 52 00
Attraction | "Amsterdam Canal Tour"
The guided tour offered a commentary of the major sights in an unhurried and not overly intrusive manner. The boat weaves its way up and down the Amsterdam canals, cautiously proceeding over the many junctions. After a time, it gets a little difficult to decide whether or not you’ve passed down a canal earlier, as even the waterside houses take on a very similar appearance. Many exude wealth and would be able to tell fantastic stories of the days when Amsterdam was a thriving trading port. Marvel at the amazingly high windows as posh houses rub shoulders with grand warehouses and gaze on the extravagant façades of many of the houses.
There are so many bridges (over 1,200 in total), and their design features differ greatly. The "standard" arched is by far the most common and I guess the most inconvenient, as it prohibits two boats passing under at the same time. I’m not sure what the protocol is, but I did detect that the "driver" of one other vessel incurred the wrath of ours. The grand ornately carved multi-arched bridge that stands proudly over the canal and the utilitarian specimen under which we could hear the rushing of tyres as cyclists pedalled furiously over them. We glimpsed the famous Magere Grug ("skinny bridge"), and I was moderately disappointed to hear that this was a 1960’s replica
of the 1670s bridge. Realistically, I knew it couldn’t be the original, but I would have like it to be. It is fascinating to watch the raising mechanism at work, if you get the chance.
At one point we ventured out to sea—the water became much choppier and there were signs of industrial Amsterdam. We sailed past "The Amsterdam," a colourful replica of an 1854 clipper. This is part of one of Amsterdam’s many museums but we were just happy to view and photograph it from our boat. Quite close to here was the impressive liner like building that is NEMO, an interactive science museum. What inspiration to integrate a building into the watery surrounds!
We enjoyed the trip but not sure how it helped orient us. It seems to me Amsterdam is confusing to sail through and to walk round. We were constantly lost!
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on December 30, 2004
Amsterdam Canal Cruises