Alicia’s Lonely Planet Challenge – Amsterdam Part 2

– Lonely Planet Challenge – Amsterdam Part 2-

I know it took a while, but I’m back! I finally managed to get myself to Amsterdam again on last week Friday, yes I am writing this blog a week later, to carry on with my Lonely Planet Challenge.

I’ve decided not to post pre-trip posts as I think they will end up being boring. I’m still figuring out which direction to take with my blogging. My posts won’t be following any formula, unless I find one throughout experimenting that I’m happy with and want to stick with. As I mentioned in my last post I’m also not just going to blog about my Lonely Planet adventures, but other stuff as well. I do still need to get into the flow of things though. So you may have to bear with me for a while.
So, back to Friday. I arrived in Amsterdam around lunchtime (I had school in the morning) and headed to ‘t Spui as I knew from preparation that this would be the area I would be covering today. First I took a stroll over the book market held on ‘t Spui every Friday (mentioned in the Lonely Planet and definitely worth a look if you’re a bookworm like me). I had to make it quick otherwise I would have ended up taking a bag of books home with me when I have at least two shelves full I still need to read. I managed to restrain myself, although it was difficult I must say, and perused my friend the Lonely Planet (who from now on I will be calling LP) to find a good place to eat as my stomach started sending messages to my brain that it wanted food and soon.

The book market
LP told me there was an interesting restaurant/café close by called Gartine so I headed there. Gartine is a very small, cosy looking restaurant/café with a mouthwatering menu. Unfortunately it was full to the brim, the waiter guy apologised, I told him I’d come back some other time. Apparently this is a popular place and it being full can only be a positive thing in my eyes, so I will definitely be returning, in fact I will probably make a reservation on my next Amsterdam trip.

Gartine, next time…
The entrance to the Begijnhof

Unfortunately LP didn’t offer me any other good places to have lunch that were in close range and I didn’t feel like trekking across the whole of Amsterdam just to fill my belly. So I decided I’d find a place on my way around and I would begin today’s sight seeing adventure. I started where I’d left off in LP, with the Begijnhof. A Begijnhof is a courtyard surrounded by houses used by the Beguines (Christian lay religious orders whom were mainly active in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg).  The last Begijn died in 1971, so since then I presume the occupants are just your everyday Joe, well the ones who can afford such a beautiful house in such a beautiful place of course. There are similar courtyards dotted all over the Netherlands. I love the places! There’s always such an oasis of calm when only the walls are separating you from the bustling city life. Apart from the tourists, who did actually seem to respect the peace of the place and weren’t very noisy, it was the same here. And beautiful, oh so beautiful. I would love to live in a place like this! 

The Begijnhof

Within the courtyard there’s both a church ‘de Engelse Kerk’ (the English Church) and a chapel, which doesn’t look much of anything on the outside, but inside it looks like a very small church (which is basically what a chapel is I guess). I’m not religious person, in fact I’m pretty much an atheist, but there’s something about churches that I really like. It’s the smell, like a musty old smell, I have the same thing with books and again the peace and quiet, the kind of peace and quiet that almost feels magical. I don’t know, but without any religious feelings about the places I kind of like them, a church would be a good place to write a book I think.

For residents only

The English Church
Inside the English Church
The chapel
My dream house
More of the Begijnhof
Inside the chapel

I left the tranquillity behind and arrived back in the lively streets of Amsterdam. My next stop, according to LP, was the Amsterdams Historisch Museum, renamed Amsterdam Museum in 2011. I decided I would eat in the museum café as I was having no look finding anything that looked interesting enough and I was starting not to care what I ate and where. I decided eating in the museum café might add an interesting extra to my review. Not really interesting though, just don’t bother really. The service was not very good, for one thing I had to pay to use the lavatory. Secondly it took them bloody ages before the noticed me, it wasn’t even busy, there were three waiters/waitresses standing around doing nothing. I almost left and then finally a waitress appeared in front of me. I ordered a tea and a club sandwich. Now here comes thirdly, the tea was fine, tea’s tea, but the sandwich, no thanks. If I hadn’t have been ravenous by that point I wouldn’t have eaten it and paid ten euros for it. I don’t know if everyone is familiar with the club sandwich and whether the club sandwich differs depending on which country you’re in. So I will explain, a club sandwich (as I know it) is 3 slices of (usually toasted) bread with a variety of fillings but most often it would be chicken, bacon, some kind of sauce/salad dressing, tomato, lettuce, maybe some other salady (yes sometimes I make up words) kind of things and maybe cheese. Now the usual ingredients were all there, and the bread was toasted. But while eating I started wondering when the bread had been toasted. It must have been hours before as it was stale and chewy and not very easy to eat at all. Also for some reason, I don’t know why and I don’t mind it in particular, club sandwiches are often served with a side of crisps. This club sandwich was not just served with a side of crisps, but the whole plate was full of crisps and the sandwich seemed to be the side. Now I like crisps, in fact I love crisps, so I’m not exactly complaining, but it was a bit overdone.

Onto the museum itself. Now the museum, you should definitely visit the museum, just not it’s café. Well that’s if you like museums and history and culture and that kind of thing, but if you don’t you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog in the first place.

The museum is amazing! It’s massive! I love it! And I want to go back. There are three floors filled with history; information, art, artifacts, videos etc. The lady at the desk advised me to start with their newest exhibition Amsterdam DNA.

 Amsterdam DNA is an interactive exhibition, you get a QR-code, which you can scan in different places to either, watch a video (in a certain language as the QR-code is connected to the language you speak), answer some questions on a computer screen and take a photo of yourself as a civic guard. The exhibition is about Amsterdam in the past 1000 years and the story is told using these core values; spirit of enterprise, freedom of thought, civic virtue and creativity. It was very interesting and I loved the interactivity. There were two small things that didn’t work very well. The first; when watching a video, you scanned your code and the video played in your language, but if someone else came and just scanned their thing (this happened) without thinking about the fact that you are now watching the video in your language (instead of waiting for you to finish) the video starts all over again and possibly in a language you don’t understand… This was a little annoying. Secondly there was an interactive quiz kind of thing, throughout the exhibition there were I think 5 or 6 computers where you could scan your QR-code, at each different computer you were asked to watch four videos and choose one of them. Each video had to do with one of the values. I didn’t really get the point of this. I think in the end the idea was to see which you personally valued the most. I liked the idea, but it wasn’t completely clear and one of the computers wasn’t working for me. All in all though the concept and effect was both interesting and entertaining. 

I learned that Amsterdam is built on piles 

(as in poles under the ground) because it was built on a marsh. Compelling stuff. The second floor, which I’m not sure if it was actually the second floor as I can’t remember whether I went up or down, and this got kind of confusing throughout this visit, was all about the Golden Age, which is one of the most interesting parts of Dutch history and I just love the art from that period, I don’t know why, I think it has something to do with the hats. At one point I walked up some stairs and there was this really fishy smell, it smelled like dead fish. I thought there must be some kind of problem with the sewage or something then I walked into the next room and the smell got even stronger. As I noticed this I noticed there were a load of dead fish hung from the ceiling. It was disgusting, but really cool at the same time. It really made you feel like you were in that time period, this part was about ships and fishing and stuff. I thought it was really great, it added to the museum experience. 

After the Golden Age, I couldn’t really concentrate very much any more, as there was so much information. So I just kind of strolled through the rest pretty quickly. The rest seemed to be a look through history after the Golden Age until now, but I have to admit I’m not 100% sure as I really just skimmed this part of the museum.

The smelly ceiling
Some really cool chests, this just

made me think of Game of Thrones…

I will be going back to this museum cause it was too big to do in one go. Very very very intriguing! It made me want to dive back into the history books and learn everything! I’d like to go back and go through everything more slowly and carefully. I’d also like to go back and do some of the museums mobile tours through Amsterdam. Very innovative museum, I am very impressed and do very much recommend. It’s would be worth spending a whole day in there. There’s also a special part of the museum for kids, it seemed to be closed so not really sure what that’s like. I got in for free with my museum card, but I would say if you’re a regular visitor the €10 entrance fee would definitely be worth your while.

Tin figurines; an old Amsterdam speciality


David & Goliath


The orphanage

Across from the museum is the so called museum shop, although it seemed very much like a separate shop, as I could find hardly any souvenir that represented the museum. I ended up taking home a fridge magnet with a picture of the massive David and Goliath Statue which is part of the art exhibition in the Civic Guard Gallery next to but also kind of within the museum. Hard to explain, you would have to see for yourself. I took a stroll through there next, I’d already seen it from above and now I saw the massiveness of Goliath from below. And a mix of other art, both old and modern. I took a walk around the building as it used to be an orphanage and I’ve had this fascination with orphanages ever since I was a kid and I saw the musical version of Oliver Twist on television for the first time. Orphanages and adventures. Me, Freya and Charlotte, who was a childhood friend of ours, even wrote, directed and acted in a musical (in front of our parents of course)  about escaping from an orphanage when we were little, but that’s another story. The most interesting part to the building was the courtyard, which is where the orphans where permitted to spend time outside I believe, interesting mainly because of the set of old fashioned lockers across one wall, this is were the boys, who often had apprenticeships (for example with a black smith or so), kept their work tools. It was just funny to think back to all those years ago when they would collect their things from there everyday and go off to work.

The boys lockers, now being used for an art exhibition…

I ended my day in Amsterdam there and walked back to the train station. I can’t wait for my next visit, although the next thing I will be visiting is the Sex Museum and I’m not really looking forward to that. It’s one of the first tourist attractions you walk past on the way into the centre and it just doesn’t attract me at all, it looks so cheap and cheesy, but we shall see…

Next time I will be making a lunch reservation for Gartine, so I am looking forward to that.

As always please leave any comments, questions, tips, improvements, thoughts…. Anything you want to tell me is very welcome. 

Thank you for reading, I hope you enjoyed :) Over and out.

p.s. sorry about the layout of the pictures, placing them doesn’t seem to work very well on Blogger, so they are not how I wanted them to be placed. I will be looking into switching blogging website sometime soon. 

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