Day Sixteen: Museums of Amsterdam

Early morning start today with a 7am alarm startling me.

We all had some breakfast before walking Layla to school and seeing what her classroom and teacher are like. It is very similar to primary schools back in Australia in layout of the rooms and the amount of children in each class. Jip and I walked to the other side of Java Island to get on the tram to take us to Spiegelgracht, the closest stop to the museums.

Some of the main museums are within one area called Oud Zuid (Old South) which contains a grassy square with the museums around its border. Our first stop was the Van Gogh museum. With our ‘I Amsterdam’ cards we were able to prebook a specific time and enter straight away as the Van Gogh museum usually has long lines out the front. We were happily lining up for our 9.15am time slot and when we got to the entrance, Jip realised that he mustn’t have booked in the time slot yesterday but he had the ability to explain that issue and imply that we are ‘tourists’ which worked as we were given access anyway! The exhibition consists of hundreds of paintings, drawings and almost every handwritten letter Vincent had sent to his brother Theo and other family members. It was a good collection separated into the different years he was painting and you could see his mental health deteriorating as the years wore on. When Vincent Van Gogh was in the mental asylum, he painted 75 paintings (predominately landscapes) within 70 days and even within that brief time, his painting technique changed. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take any photos within the museum even though you can take photos of his work within the museum next door!

“Drawing is the root of everything, and the time spent on that is actually all profit” - Vincent Willem Van Gogh (1853-1890).

We had a small bite to eat and some time to rest before making our way to the Rijksmuseum. On the way to Van Gogh museum we passed the long queues to the Rijksmuseum and feared the possibility of the line being longer now that every tourist was out and about. Thankfully, with our tourist cards, we were able to walk straight in, leave our jackets and umbrella at the cloakroom and head straight through to the exhibitions. As we have previously learned with the Louvre, we planned what we wanted to specifically see as the museum contains over 7500 artefacts within 1.5km of hallways! As per my Lovely Planet book, the Golden Age artworks are the highlight. We wandered around on the ground level which is specifically dedicated to works prior to 1600 before heading up one level where half of the floor is for the years 1800-1900. On this floor, The Battle of Waterloo’s situated and is the biggest painting within the museum at 5.67x8.23 metres! It depicts a battle fought in the town of Waterloo near Brussels where Emperor Napoleon was finally defeated.

We saw further works from Van Gogh and Paul Gabriël and then climbed the four flights of stairs to level two to the Golden Age, years 1600-1700. We saw beautiful doll houses that were owned by affluent women and had amazing attention to detail. Further on, we went into the Gallery of Honour which is the most picturesque hall within the museum. There were beautiful works by Rembrandt and Vermeer including the first painting bought by the Rijkmuseum back in 1800 entitled ‘The Threatened Swan’ by Jan Asselijn.

Finally we reached the painting entitled ‘Night Watch’. It was initially called ‘Company of Frans Banning Cocq’ but was renamed years later due to a thick layer of dirt and dust that gave the painting a nighttime impression. It was very rare of this era to paint particular features within the artwork brighter than others as it was common to have all the faces illuminated/eye catching in the foreground.

After the Gallery of Honour, we were starting to get very tired so we decided we were finished and walked around the suburbs close to the museum area. We came across a McDonalds and it was suggested that I try a McKroket (croquette with mustard sauce in a bun) and it was delicious! We caught a tram and bus back home to rest before our night out.

Natalja and Marco made the most delicious meal with chicken, potato and a wonderful, colourful salad, all washed down with 2010 Spanish red wine. After dinner, we got ready and went to the Comedy Cafe on the other side of Central station. They had six different English speaking comedians. The first half was good but pretty flat and the second half had us in stitches!! We all had a couple of beers before making the journey home - we went home laughing and giggling. It was very late when we got back so we had a decent midnight snack of Salada biscuits with cheese, patê and peanuts - with more beer of course! Ended up going to bed at 1.30am. It as a great day.