It’s Tulip Time

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After returning from Norway, I went back to my normal routine in Copenhagen. Weeks in Copenhagen fly by, and before I knew it, I was heading back to the airport to travel again. This time to Amsterdam, with Lexi.  Believe it or not, my travel went smoothly for once! But the curse still isn’t broken, because Lexi missed her train on Friday morning, leaving me with a day to explore Amsterdam on my own.

My first stop was the Van Gogh museum. I waited in line for about two hours before being allowed to enter the museum. The museum was huge, as it contains the largest collection of Van Gogh paintings and drawings in the world. I wandered through the museum’s three stories, viewing some of Van Gogh’s most famous works including The Potato Eaters (1885), Bedroom in Arles (1888), Sunflowers (1889), Almond Blossoms (1890), and Wheatfield with Crows (1890). I also saw works by artists that inspired Van Gogh, such as those by Paul Gauguin, Claude Monet, and Henri Fantin-Latour.  I’ve decided that Monet is my favorite artist. It might be an obvious choice, but I really like impressionism, and Monet’s artwork has clearly had an impact on a lot of artists, including Van Gogh. I’m also starting to realize that I’ve seen some of the world’s most influential artwork.

After exploring a couple cute streets along the canals, and eating lunch, it was time for me to head back to the apartment so that I would be there in time for Lexi’s arrival. Once Lexi arrived, we headed out into town for sushi and to go to Gollum, a bar that both Lexi and Alexis have been to on their previous trips to Amsterdam.  We both really liked the atmosphere at Gollum, it was cozy and filled with Dutch locals. They have a huge menu of beers expertly categorized and written on chalkboards that line the bar’s walls. We both decided to try a beer called Chimay, a Trappist beer brewed by a monastery in Belgium.

On Saturday we decided to go to Keukenhof, a beautiful park and garden outside of Amsterdam and the home to over 800 varieties of tulips. Little did we know that every other person visiting Amsterdam would have the same idea, so we ended up having to wait in a two hour line at the airport just to get on the buses to Keukenhof. The ride that was supposed to take 20 minutes ended up taking over an hour with traffic. We finally arrived, and ended up spending hours walking through the amazing blooming gardens. 2015 was chosen as the year of Van Gogh at Keukenhof, commemorating his death 125 years ago. There was a giant “self-portrait” of Van Gogh, made out of thousands of tulips and grape hyacinths.

Here are some of my favorite tulips from our visit to Keukenhof :

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On Sunday, I woke up really early to go the the Anne Frank House. I ended up making it to the museum at 7:45 am, which was at just the right time. I ended up being about 10th in line and got right into the museum when it opened at 9:00 am. I think that everyone has a different experience visiting the Anne Frank House, so I wont talk too much about it, but it is definitely something I’m glad I got the chance to see.  Otto Frank’s decision to leave the rooms of the house and annex empty makes visitors feel the void that was left behind by the millions of people who were deported and never returned. It was eerie being able to walk through the rooms where Anne, her family, and her family’s friends, were in hiding for two years.

After starting my morning on a serious and emotional note, Lexi and I decided to lighten the mood with an afternoon of bakery hopping and a brewery tour. First, we went to the cheese museum, aka the greatest establishment of all time. Here we sampled about twenty different cheeses, watched a video about the making of Gouda, and became Dutch milkmaids for a few minutes–all fo’ free.

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We continued our food tour at Van Stapele, a bakery that sells one and only one type of cookie. A deliciously rich chocolate cookie with a molten white chocolate center–they know what they are doing here.  Embarrassingly enough, our next stop was right next door. We had our eye on the famous stroopwafel, a thin waffle with liquid honey/caramel in the middle.

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We decided to walk off the sweets we had just consumed, and headed toward Kunst Kramer Antiek, a well known antique shop selling a lot of blue and white Delftware. While searching for a souvenir for my mom, I picked up an antique tile, thinking it was marked with the price of 35 euros. One of the store’s employees quickly swooped over to me, making sure to indicate that the 35, in fact, had a zero on the end, making it a 350 euro antique tile from the 17th century. Sorry mom, it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase?

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Our next stop was Brouwerij ‘t IJ, a local brewery located in an old bathhouse and next to a windmill.  Apparently most breweries in Amsterdam name their beers after water bodies that are near where they make their beer (for example: Amstel Beer is named after the Amstel river).  Brouwerij ‘t IJ is located near the IJ waterbody, but it’s name actually gets more creative than that–the word egg (ei in Dutch) is pronounced the same way as the way IJ is pronounced in Dutch. Hence their very aesthetically pleasing (in my opinion) logo that features an ostrich with an egg and a windmill in the distance. All of the beers at Brouwerij ‘t IJ have names related to eggs, for example: their Zatte beer translates to “whipped” and the IJWit translates to white. Their most creatively named beer, however, is the Columbus–named after Christopher Columbus who was known for (among other things–don’t worry Mom) being able to balance an egg on its tip.

For just four euros, we were able to go on a tour of the brewery, learn about the beer brewing process, and taste a beer for free. We may or may not have camped out for a few hours while waiting for the rain to stop.

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Later in the evening, we continued on to a bar called Café Belgique, where we ran into an American man who was very friendly and knowledgable about beer. He runs a business out of California called the Taste Moore Co. in which he takes people, young and old, on beer tours around Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic. He was in Amsterdam booking reservations at hotels, breweries, and bars, for the group he is bringing over in the fall. He answered anything and everything we wanted to know about beer: how to pour it, why different shaped glasses are used,  and why beer tastes a certain way.  He even was able to recommend the perfect beers to me and Lexi based on our tastes. He had recommendations for us all around Europe and even all up and down the East coast, including a rave review of a brewery in Cooperstown, NY called Ommegang (Dad, I’m thinking we should stop here next time we go up to New York).  Although we ended up talking to him for way longer than we expected, Lexi and I both felt like we really learned something about beer!

Amsterdam has a lot to offer. While the sheer number of tourists crowding the museums and streets was overwhelming at times,  Lexi and I were able to go off the beaten path a bit, and ended up having a lot of fun walking around, eating, and meeting really interesting people.

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