Amsterdam

This weekend was our first excursion to the capital of the Netherlands.


As this was an excursion with the school, our three days were packed. It all started with a tour of the city by Rob Dückers. The city was fairly touristy, but the architecture, canals, and sunny made me love the walk. One of my favorite sights was the Begijnhof, founded in the Middle Ages, was sort of like a convent, but women could leave whenever they wanted; and what made it special was that women could actually own their own home there.

Museums

This trip in Europe is all about the museums, and Amsterdam did not disappoint with museums to visit. I visited the:

Rijksmuseum

This is the museum with Rembrandt's The Night Watch. My Renaissance and Baroque art history teacher (Rob Dückers) lead a tour of the museum. One question brought up at a few paintings was, "is this a portrait" or an exploration of color/light/etc? As a friend and I explored the museum we remarked that many of our favorite paintings were of bad things happening to ships.

Amsterdam Museum

Part a history of Amsterdam as a city, part an exhibition of Dutch artists, it was the guide I had that made this museum an excellent trip. My favorite sight in the museum was a Mondrian painting that he made while riding on his bike.

Royal Palace


This place left me speechless. First built as a city hall, when Napoleon invaded the Netherlands it became a palace for his brother (appointed King of the Netherlands) and has stayed that way since. I wish all governmental and public space could be this stunning.

Anne Frank House

I'm not super enthusiastic about visiting Holocaust-related sights, that's not my goal with this trip. But going to the Anne Frank House felt right for this trip. I've learned about Anne Frank for so long, and always knew that the place she lived in hiding for years was now a museum for people to visit. Passing by on the city tour, I that there is a surprisingly long line to get into the museum. Opting to go as a group on this trip meant we didn't have to wait in the general admission line. And even when we were in the museum, it felt like I was always in a line, waiting to get to the next room, to see the next plaque, and read the next short sentence explaining a moment of Anne Frank's life. It wasn't as though I was wandering the home and annex, imagining myself in her shoes, I was parading through. The most startling moment was seeing the pasted photos of movie stars and celebrities still remaining from when Anne decorated her room.

Stedelijk Museum

Amsterdam's modern art museum. Wandering around I came across an empty gallery with a group of people in a circle, chatting. When I walked in they all said in unison, "welcome to this situation" and then they all turned towards the wall and collectively breathed out. It was a performance piece by Tino Sehgal. I wasn't expecting to see any performance art, but I watched alone for 10 - 15 minutes as the performers went around discussing

Phobia

Because I'm a theater student, my hope is to see the greatest variety of theater I can, from the most commercial European productions, to the weirdest and most experimental pieces. I'm trying to avoid seeing anything that I could see, or would be going to the states.
On Saturday I saw a piece at the Stadsschouwburg called Phobia. It was a dance piece from the international dance company Club Guy and Roni (originaly form Groningen) with the Slovenian dance company EnKnapGroup. This trailer shows exactly what the style and staging was: modern movement with a lot of vibrating, moment depicting violence, and a lot of fear. What you don't see are the "theater of cruelty" monologues. There was a sort of plot and mini-scenes that the movement matched with. It's rare for a production to be so engrossing and have so many elements of its aesthetic that I am deeply satisfied by. I don't think they've ever been to the US, and I hope I see more from them in the future.



The Red Light District

Before leaving on Monday, some friends had a traditional Dutch Sunday* evening: we bought chocolate and sauntered around the Red Light District. I passed lots of women in skimpy underwear, standing in glass doorways under red neon lights. As a part of our education in Dutch culture, we have learned about the tradition of acceptance in the Netherlands. Rather than hide and be embarrassed about controversial issues, the attitude is to be open. Prostitution is legal, which means that sex workers pay taxes, have healthcare and protection. There were lots of tourists walking around and gawking (like me), but I never felt unsafe in this area.

I'll probably be back in Amsterdam to go to the Van Gogh Museum, and see another play. So I'll report on that later.

*There's no such thing as a Dutch Sunday.
Location: Well, Kasteelaan 20, 5855 Well, Netherlands
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