Amsterdam is the capital city of The Netherlands. It was built in the 12th century when a dam was created to prevent the waters from flooding the city. These waters come from the Amstel River.
Amstel + dam = Amsterdam. Brilliant!
When I stepped out of the train from Centraal Station, I was greeted by century-old buildings and churches. It felt like I was transported through time, back when women used to wear pretty long dresses and men wore top hats and carried canes.
In the instant that I saw the city , I knew I was going to love my trip. Its fairy tale-like atmosphere, combined with funky bars and cafés, is just one of the reasons why tourists love to come here.
Sit back and enjoy while I share my fun and exciting trip to the land of tulips.
My first destination was the Rijksmuseum. Opened in 1885, the Rijksmuseum is Holland’s best and most visited museum. It has Rembrandt’s, Vermeer’s, and other fine painters’ masterpieces displayed in its amazing galleries.
Rembrandt’s Night Watch (1642) is a series of seven similar paintings of the militiamen commissioned from different artists in Amsterdam. The painting’s original title is Archers Under The Command of Captain Frans Banning Cocq. The Night Watch title was only given years later after the painting’s dark effect of evening.
Next stop is Van Gogh’s Museum. Staring at this genius’ paintings may be very well similar to traveling through his troubled mind – sometimes dark, sometimes soft, and sometimes a riot of colours.
As mentioned in my Instagram, I think Van Gogh may have become self-obsessed and vain for painting many self-portraits, due to his mental illness. Although, he explains in one of his many letters that he didn’t have enough money to pay for models. One of the more interesting self-portraits is the one with a bandaged ear that he sliced after a big fight with his friend and co-painter, Paul Gauguin.
Ironically, most of Van Gogh’s art exhibits didn’t sell much – or anything at all – during his life. It was only after his tragic death that his works became a worldwide phenomenon, thanks to Johanna van Gogh, an art dealer. She was the wife of Vincent van Gogh’s younger brother, Theo van Gogh. Theo died when he was 33 years old, only six months after Vincent’s suicide.
Floor 1 is where you will find Van Gogh’s earliest works and masterpieces including the euphoric colours of Sunflower of Arles and Irises. If you take a closer look, you will notice the thick and bold fluid brushstrokes, as if the master himself just freshly painted it.
Vincent van Gogh painted at least 2,000 mind-blowing paintings throughout his painting career.
The last floor shows the paintings of his final years, including a tribute from some of his close friends. Vincent van Gogh finished his painting, Wheatfield With Crows, before he committed suicide on 29 July 1890.
Anne Frank Huis (pronounced just as how we say “house”). As you may know, Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who hid in the “Secret Annexe” together with her parents and her only sister for nearly two years to avoid being caught by the Nazis in the early 1940s. This was during World War II. The “Secret Annexe” used to be her father’s former business office and warehouse.
Indeed it was an emotional experience for me to visit Anne Frank’s hiding place. The “House” shows all the living quarters of the occupants: all eight of them – Anne’s family and friends. You will have to pass through the original bookcase used to conceal the staircase leading up to their secret hideout. Also, the original manuscript used to translate her diary is still there, although only a replica of her red plaid diary is shown due to its fragility.
A short video clip of what transpired in the concentration camp during WWII is shown as you go along the house tour. Dead bodies are either scattered everywhere like fallen leaves or piled up like a hill of rubbish. Literally skin-and-bone prisoners are weeping and walking like zombies begging for food. The clip reminded me of the movie Boy In Striped Pajamas, which I saw few years ago. It was set during WWII where a Nazi’s son befriended a Jewish boy in a concentration camp. The boy was later on incinerated together with other prisoners. The scenes in that movie are very much like the ones I saw at Anne Frank’s House, and it is even more disturbing and deeply saddening to know it actually happened in real life. You can almost already picture how Anne suffered an awful death while she was a prisoner in that camp.
On a happier note, her father Otto Frank survived the Auschwitz and it was through him that Anne’s diary was published and revealed to the world what it was like to hide and suffer during WWII. These remnants are a reminder to us that a war never did anyone any good.
Museum het Rembrandt Huis. It is said that the great painter, Rembrandt van Rijn, bought this house during the success of his renowned painting, Night Watch. He paid a huge sum of money for this house, amounting to 13,000 guilders, which at that time was a very expensive property. Eventually, he went bankrupt and was not able to pay the mortgage of the house causing its sale including his other possessions. He lived the remaining of his life in a rented house until his death in 1669.
This small bed box is thought to have belonged to Rembrandt’s maid as it is located in the kitchen.
According to the kind museum staff, people in the olden times slept while half of their upper bodies were leaned against the wall because they were so afraid the blood circulation would go up to their heads and they would die. Also, the people before weren’t as tall as they are now.
I asked the staff whether the things in Rembrandt’s house used to be the same things he owned. But, of course, the answer is no. We have to remember that he sold his house along with the other things in it. However, there is a depot in Amsterdam that sells really very old housewares (and they cost a fortune). The staff didn’t mention whether it’s an antique shop, but anyone who’s fairly wealthy can buy from the depot if they want to decorate their house with old stuff. The kitchen decors and other things that we see in the picture are still as old as it can get. The walls and the paintings are authentic.
Royal Palace of Amsterdam. This is where the Royals of Amsterdam live. When it’s not holding any important and private function, anyone can come in and admire the grandiose palace.
Majestic chandeliers adorn the halls of the palace. Just by looking at all the regal possessions, you can be certain of how wealthy Holland is in terms of art, culture, and money.
The furniture and artworks that was left behind by King Louis after he was dismissed by his brother, Napoleon Bonaparte during the early 18th century can still be very much seen in the palace – all 1,000 pieces of them.
On the third floor, a reconstruction of the Night Watch and other series of the civic guard paintings hung on the walls of the Small and Large War Council Rooms respectively. The portrait hung in this very exact spot between 1715 and 1808 before it was moved to the Trippenhuis and now the Rijksmuseum.
Tip: All of my museum tickets are pre-booked two weeks before my trip. If you’re planning to visit any of the museums mentioned, buy your ticket weeks ahead to beat the queue at the ticket counters to save an enormous amount time.