I Amsterdam

Beep. Beep-beep. BEEP-BEEP!! 'Urgh. Time to get up now. What time is it? 5:30 in the morning? Ah, bus to catch at 6.15 of course.' A flurry of action ensues, involving showering, dressing, chowing down some breakfast, doing a raincheck on 'essential items' and then dashing to catch the metro. Destination: Amsterdam.

I amsterdam. Amsterdam. A city built on water. House-boats. And its very original bike-cars. Trams, buses & bikes. People who often speak 4 languages. Tulips, delicious food, 50+ museums, and rated the 13th most livable city in the world in 2008. It's got a rich history, rich being a word which conveniently hides all the not-so-pretty details of what we call history.

Indeed, Amsterdam is filled with tourists, criss-crossed with canals which, although similar to Brugge in Belgium, are generally larger and are filled with boat-houses. Amsterdam's bikes are everywhere. Motorcyclists and cyclists alike mostly without helmets. Faites attention ! (They drive fast, albeit zip right around you as they are pros with all the tourists. ) Cobbled roads and streets. Open-faces of locals, who seem to all have an impish smile as you ask for directions.

So what could I there? Well, we have about 7 or 8 hours to work with, so it is going to be pretty rushed. But I'm quite relaxed; I'm now used to trying to 'take in a city in a day', so I'm just going to soak it up.
I'm with a bunch of friends who quickly look for a bite to eat. We eventually find the city centre, and then oh-so-tourist-looking check out the maps and try to get our bearings. We walk into to a dimly lit café- restaurant. The waiter, a man of few, rapid-fire words, ushers us. We dig into some pancakes, mine plain, the others more creative with bacon- or egg- or even mushroom-pancakes. Er, I mean literal mushrooms, ok? Speaking of euphemiums for cannabis, the cafes in amsterdam are masters of playing with words. We pass not a few oh-so-suble references to pot such as Mellow Yellow or Free Adam signs with a Bob Marley-looking guy posing with a smoke. You would have thought the national flag was green, yellow and red (with a green herb in the middle) rather than France's blue-white-red flag, if you turn it 90deg anti-clockwise!

I don't go into the red light district, but some of my friends do. But for the curious, it is hardly necessary--almost every tourist store had postcards of it. A friend who walked along the street of sex shops described it as an 'educational' experience. Her response kinda surprised me.

Something I love here is the Dutch handmade work such as the ceramics like below, or beautifully painted shoes with that delicate curl of the toe. Of course, the ubiquitous 'I amsterdam' is on a lot of products. It makes me reflect on 'what does it mean to be Dutch, to live in Amsterdam?' And then in my boy-logic, what does it mean to be an Australian? After all, I celebrated Australia Day a few weeks ago, but it might be worth thinking a bit harder what I actually celebrate it for! But anyways, I figure I had to have a bit of fun with the I amsterdam.

this was a doubly special moment!

After several hours of eating, getting lost, seeking impish smiles and avoiding bicyclists, we arrive at Van Gogh museum. After waiting in line for 20 minutes, we discover that entry is 14 euros. One of my friends is very disappointed, but we go in anyway. It is worth it, but it feels rushed again, since we have limited time. Van Gogh's multiple auto-portraits. His experimentation with colour, vividness and broadness of brush-strokes is his trademark. His challenges to naturalism, a movement where artists tried to express ordinary daily living with exacting detail, were revolutionary as he tried to communicate emotion in his drawings and paintings, particularly in the later 1880's with his bold colours. Despite being so influential in art, prompting Fauvism and Expressionism, it seems he was a deeply sad man. To read his life story alongside his work is chilling & tragic, but helps explain his motivations & helps me see him as a breathing, precious human and not merely a name in a book. I find it intriguing that after his period of trying to become a pastor, he decided to stick at being an artist and, through art, could then "...try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God; one man wrote or told it in a book; another in a picture."

Amsterdam. A city, which to many, is synonymous with marjuanna and sex shops, actually is home to many global business giants partly due to the ideologies which it represents. Liberalist governance. Tolerance. Creativity and wonderful sense of humour. I hope to tackle the ideals of liberalism and tolerance in upcoming blogs, as well as write a short novel based on Amsterdam, so stay tuned...

made in Holland

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Thanks, Mrbonchapeau 


Anonymous said...

Nice descriptions, Mark!
Top read. It's great seeing you get out there with friends and explore France. -You're one question has grammatical problems: I think you mean "So what could I do there?"
Im glad I can experience this with you, Mark. Thanks for another good read. Pete

Aquavires said...

Great narrative, Mark. :) I never knew you had an interest in the visual arts (or their artists). Did you manage to learn anything from Van Gogh's way of teaching?

Mrbonchapeau said...

@Aquavires, one of the things I learnt was the ability that colour has to express emotion. Van Gogh was very experimentalist and tried 'wrong' colours to help the viewer feel for the character for example. I've just started the journey of art appreciation so I can't say much more!

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