Walking Tour and Van Gogh Museum (Nathan)

Trip Start Sep 03, 2010
Trip End Oct 27, 2010

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Where I stayed
Houseboat Amicitia

Flag of Netherlands  , Noord-Holland,
Monday, October 18, 2010

Apologies once again for falling behind (so very, very far behind) on my travel blog. If you're one of the ones who hasn't given up on it yet, please leave me a comment (I'll finish it either way, but it will motivate me if I know people are still reading) and make sure to keep watching, because there's a very special place in Germany that I guarantee will be worth the wait! :)

After my birthday, we had a walking tour scheduled on the 18th. But first I wanted to get a herring sandwich... it's one of those things that's not really all the remarkable, but it's impossible to find back home. We went to a hard-to-find place recommended in the travel guide, and that was my breakfast... and it was actually pretty disappointing. It was good, but it was all bread and no herring. Looking around the shop, I could tell that herrings were a big deal in the Netherlands, though... there were tons of herring ads showing people eating herrings, usually by dangling a fresh, whole fish over their open mouths, apparently with the intent of just swallowing it whole. My favorite was one with an attractive young blonde woman in traditional (or at least stereotypical) Dutch clothing dangling a herring over her gaping ruby lips and perfect white teeth while staring into the camera with an inviting smile, as though saying "Hey, I'm doing it, it MUST be good! Now you try!". I really wish they sold THAT in the tourist shops.

Before the walking tour we paid a visit to the Old Church in the center of the Red Light District. Much to our dismay, it had an admission price... it was reduced because they were doing renovations for some art project, but even the reduced price seemed like a rip-off because there were people everywhere hauling boxes and using power tools, and the inside of the church was a mess. Still, there were a few interesting things in there, and I got pictures of them for you.

The walking tour itself wasn't too memorable, unfortunately. We met in Dam Square, where there was a bunch of carnival equipment being set up for some reason... some rides were rapidly being assembled (the Ferris Wheel was already well underway, which was pretty surprising, since it was only early afternoon and nothing had been there the day before) and there were also some stalls and booths for games, though we wouldn't realize that's what they were until later. Best of all, there was a big trailer that said "SPUK Castle of Doom", which sounded an awful lot like a dark ride to me! After missing so many at Blackpool, I was eager to try another, but we'd have to wait for them to set it up.

The tour group was immense... I seriously think our one guide must have been leading 70 or 80 people. She was a New Zealand woman named Joe (I think), and she was pretty good, though a bit disappointing after our awesome boat guide the previous day. We went to the Red Light District and heard a lot of the same stuff we'd heard from the tour we'd gotten from the Prostitution Information Center, then continued on and learned a lot about other parts of town... unfortunately, I can't remember much of it at all, so I don't have a lot to say here. We had to leave the tour early to get to the Van Gogh Museum as well... Glennica had been wanting to go there, and I wanted to make sure we didn't miss it somehow, so I'd deliberately planned it for that evening.

The Van Gogh Museum didn't allow photography, sadly, so I can't show you anything. And honestly, I don't think Van Gogh is as great as everyone says, but I still found a lot to enjoy in the museum... some of the pictures were very moody and I sort of got lost in them, and the information cards about them had a lot of interesting stuff, talking about Van Gogh's inspirations and what was going on in his life at the time he created the various paintings. Apparently The Potato Eaters was supposed to be his ultimate masterpiece, but it wasn't very well-received (I didn't think it was that great either, to be honest) and he was never that ambitious again... he made many more paintings that would eventually be considered masterpieces, but he never regarded them as such. His early stuff was very dark and earthy, only becoming colorful later on, and the transition was a little startling. Some of it was symbolic, like Still Life with Bible, a sort of contrast between his stern, religious father's view of the world (represented by a hulking Bible) and his own (represented by a modern paperback). Skull with Burning Cigarette was apparently done as a joke, and I'm amazed that it's not used in anti-smoking campaigns all the time, though it did turn up on the cover of a book when I got back home, and said book seems to find my eyes every time I enter any store that sells books now. I know I had a couple favorites among the paintings displayed, but I can't remember their names... which makes sense, considering 99% of them had mundane titles like "Peasant Burning Weeds", "Houses and Chestnut Trees", and "Basket of Apples".

After that we wandered town a bit more, ending up back in the Red Light District where there was a massive gathering of ducks and swans in the canals, all squawking and preening and chasing each other. I wasn't sure why they were so concentrated there until someone tore open a huge bag of feed and began tossing it in the canal! I guess they get fed pretty regularly and, like the pelicans at the zoo, their internal clocks tell them when to start arriving with startling accuracy. The resulting feeding frenzy was pretty amazing... some of the swans were even floating under the canal's edge and got feed scattered all over them, filling the space between their wings and neck like a bowl, and were craning their necks around to eat off their own backs. After that we got some waffles (Glennica had been wanting waffles since Belgium) and went to bed. Well, we probably got dinner and went to some coffee shops in there somewhere as well, but unfortunately I can't remember any more details, so I'm afraid that will have to be it until the 19th!
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Renac on

Yes, I want more! I want -closure!-

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