First of all, I want to welcome everyone to my new blog page. I decided to switch from Blogger to WordPress as I wasn’t completely satisfied with the functions available within Blogger. I used WordPress a while ago for a school project, it seemed to have more functions, and it does, so here I am.
Earlier today I combined all my old Blogger posts in one ‘archive’ post on here, but they are also still at http://imanerdandiknowit.blogspot.nl/. So anyone new to my Lonely Planet Challenge, you can read about my idea and it’s development using either option.
Friday, as in last Friday, yes I’m getting quicker at posting my blogs and they’re on a more regular basis. Friday I went to Amsterdam, making it the third Amsterdam trip for my LP Challenge.
I started off in the Beurs van Berlage café for ‘koffie met gebak’ (coffee with cake) and as the Beurs van Berlage was on the list of sights to see in my LP I thought I’d go there. According to LP: “The Beurs van Berlage is the old stock-and-commodities exchange designed by renowned architect HP Berlage. The functional lines and chunky square clock tower are landmarks of Dutch urban architecture. Today the building is home to the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and hosts occasional museum exhibitions. Roam the premises or grab a bite and ponder the murals in the café.” Now wandering the premises was, as far as I could tell, not really an option. There were two exhibitions going on and apart from the café the rest of the place seemed off limits without buying a ticket for one or both of the exhibitions. I really loved the café, even though it’s only a tiny part of the massive building, it did give me a good impression of the place. It seems as if they’ve tried to keep everything as authentic as possible, but adding some modern touches here and there. The entrance into the café has this beautiful revolving door and inside the café there are three large murals on the walls which are also very impressive.
The bar in the middle of the room is in contrast to the rest of the interior very modern, but it all fits together as a whole and works well. I ended up going for just a green tea, as I didn’t have much of a sweet tooth. One of the exhibitions in the Beurs van Berlage was a Van Gogh exhibition displaying ‘200 of his most important works’, I debated visiting the exhibition, but saw in the small type that they were replicas of his work and €16.50 to see some replicas seems pretty expensive to me. The other exhibition was about Queen Beatrix, who will be handing over the crown to her son Alexander in a few weeks time, this personally didn’t really interest me very much.
My next stop was Sexmuseum Amsterdam, which to be completely honest I was not looking forward to at all. The Sexmuseum pretty much pounces on you whilst entering Amsterdam, it’s on the right hand side when you head from Central Station to the city centre. It looks so cheap and cheesy from the outside it has never attracted me to go inside and take a look. Now part of the idea behind this challenge is to do new things and things I wouldn’t have done before. I definitely wouldn’t have done this before, so there you go, it’s working. It’s €4 to get in, so I paid up at the fair ground like entrance booth and entered. Oh and this is what the LP has to say about the Sexmuseum: “Those in the mood for a giggle should head to the Sexmuseum Amsterdam. Ogle replicas of Pompeian porn, 14th-century Viennese erotica and some of the worlds earliest nude photographs, along with plastic derrières that fart at passers-by and an animatronic flasher. It’s good, silly fun.” Now I have to say I don’t really agree with the good silly fun part, in fact I don’t think this museum has changed since it first started out which was probably in the seventies. And it actually probably doesn’t need to change, as it’s one of the first attractions tourists see when they visit Amsterdam and as the city known for ‘drugs and sex’ I think there are enough tourists who remember it on the way to their hotels and go back for a peek. But for me, and I think for many Lonely Planet readers, this isn’t the kind of thing I’m looking for for entertainment. The humour was atrocious, probably outdated as well, I mean there seriously were plastic bottoms hung up the stairs that let out fart sounds as you went past, do people still find that kind of thing funny? I mean I did when I was seven, but adults?
Apart from the terrible humour on the ground floor, the rest of the museum wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. In fact it was quite interesting and it makes you realise that sex has been around forever. There was lots of interesting visual material showing how sex was portrayed through the years and throughout different cultures. The only thing that bothered me was that there wasn’t a line to follow, there was no story that held everything together, it was just a mish mash of everything mixed together. Plus you could tell that all the little cards with written information on them had been hanging there for years on end. Nothing refreshed, nothing new, but as I mentioned earlier, they don’t need to renew things as they get customers anyway. I wouldn’t go there again and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but I could give a lot of pointers on how to make it a museum I would visit again as there is actually potential there.
On the Damrak (where the Sexmuseum is located) is a really cool shop called ‘Options!’ where I took a quick peek. I ended up taking some elephant shaped paper clips with me; just because they exist.
Next I had a bit of a wander in the Kalverstraat, which conveniently was also in the sights to be seen for today. Not that I’d never seen or been to the Kalverstraat, in fact I don’t think there’s been a visit to Amsterdam that I haven’t. But it’s good to look at things you see as normal through a critical lens. Now what I have to say about the Kalverstraat, is really it’s not very much different to any other shopping street in the Netherlands. All the shops that are in all Dutch cities. Some shops even pop up more than once, here we’re talking about one street. Obviously the independent shops are different from anywhere else, but you won’t find the most interesting independents in the Kalverstraat. To shed a more positive light most shops in the Kalverstraat are bigger than there little brothers and sisters in most other cities, which means more clothes, books, shoes, jewellery or whatever else you might be after. I ended up taking a big study book home with me that I probably wouldn’t have found as easily anywhere else. And now I must take you a little bit off topic, because I can’t just skim over this subject I’m too enthusiastic.
So I’m going to be quitting the programme I’m studying at the moment (International Communication and Media) as it hasn’t turned out as well organised I thought it would be. I received my Propedeuse (P; A Dutch diploma you receive after completing your first year of study successfully) a few weeks ago, which permits me to go to university (well a higher level of university) which I am going to do in September. I will be following my dream and studying English Language and Culture (which after the first year is basically English Literature, which is actually what I’ve really wanted to do ever since the word college or university crossed my mind, it was not until recently though that I realised I could study that here in the Netherlands, silly me). I can not wait! I just get nerdier and nerdier as life goes on.
Now where was I, oh the enormous study book I took home with me. I was in this book shop, De Slegte, they have new books but mainly second hand books. I was browsing the English Literature department and (I’s already been looking at books I will need next school year) came across The Norton Anthology of English Literature, it was only €30 and I’d seen it online for €50 or more. The book itself got me very excited and so decided to buy it. I’m glad I had my rucksack with me cause I had to carry it around Amsterdam with me for the rest of the day. But I dived into it as soon as I got home. Very very interesting stuff, I’ll be stuck with my nose in the thing for hours on end I think.
Now after my little shopping spree I got a bit peckish, on the way to Amsterdam I tried to reserve a place at Gartine (see my last post) for lunch, but unfortunately they were already fully booked. Next time I will have to phone a week in advance. Now I really really really want to eat at that place! What I noticed in my search for food was that there are lots of interesting sandwichy kind of places where you can order but you can’t sit and eat it there, I guess you would call that a take away (although I connect that more with evening meals for some reason).I was specifically looking for somewhere I could sit as I needed the toilet. I found a little place in a side street of the Kalverstraat, it was nothing special, but good enough. It was run my an Indian looking guy and seemed to be very much targeted at tourists and specifically English ones, as there was an English breakfast and they had bottles of HP sauce on a shelf. I had fried eggs with mushrooms, cheese and onion on bread. It was good, it felt very fatty, but it was good nevertheless. Not really worth any photos or elaborate reviews though, I don’t even know what the place was called.
There were a couple of shops I’d seen in the same street as the place I had lunch that I wanted to visit, a little Italian place that sold Italian delicacies, I took home a pot of asparagus pâté for on bread, which I haven’t tried yet, but is bound to be delicious. Across the road from that was a comic book store, filled to the brim with both new and second hand and Dutch and English graphic novels and comic books. There are a couple of graphic novels on my list, but they’re mostly the first part of a series and they’re most often the only issue not in stock. I just browsed for a while. There was one more shop after that I wanted to visit, in the Kalverstraat. I’m not sure what it’s called but it’s filled with all kinds of useful and less useful items in all kinds of colours, mainly very bright colours and shapes and sizes. I bought an owl shaped lens container, which I just couldn’t not buy, being an owl myself.
Next up was the Allard Pierson Museum; “…run by the University of Amsterdam, shows a rich archaeological collection, including an actual mummy, ancient Greek and Mesopotamian vases, a wagon from the royal tombs at Salamis (Cyprus) and galleries stuffed to the wainscoting with other fascinating items.”
Now I must say I didn’t manage to cover the whole museum, as I believe I arrived there around fourish and it closed at five. I managed the ground floor, which covered Ancient Egypt and a temporary exposition about Troy. Now the Trojan exposition was done pretty well, not too much text and some videos to make it a bit more diverse, it was modern enough, it could have been a bit more interactive, but that might just be me. The Egyptian theme was a bit out of date, now I don’t mean the subject obviously, what I mean is the way it was set up. Now Ancient Egypt and history in general are things that interest me greatly, there were lots of things to look at and lots of bits to read but there’s a point in a museum when I’ve had enough of reading. I liked seeing all the Egyptian artefacts though, especially the real life (not literally life as in alive) mummy!
Yeah I know, i’manerd! I bought a little scarab amulet for a euro as a souvenir, oh and a fridge magnet to add to the collection. I guess I’ll have to go back at some point to see the rest of the museum. I would recommend it, just don’t try reading everything, because you’ll give up anyway.
After being kicked out of the museum, it was time for a couple of drinks and on the way to a bar a Belgian waffle with chocolate, I shouldn’t have done it, I enjoyed the first two bites, but when it comes to sweet things eventually I’m just asking myself “why am I eating this when I’m not really enjoying it all that much?” There’s something wrong with me, I realise that. I found a nice beer bar and had a couple of drinks and as my stomach started rumbling I moved on to Hofje van Wijs, explained well by LP: “The 200-year-old coffee and tea vendor Wijs & Zonen (the Queen’s purveyor) maintains this pretty courtyard café. In addition to cakes, it serves inexpensive Dutch stews plus beers and liqueurs.” This was my favourite place and part of the day! Hofje van Wijs is a café attached to the shop that sells tea and coffee. It has a very homely feeling with a bit of an unfinished touch. The guy who served me was really friendly and a little bit chaotic, but in a charming way. Also the menus were half English half Dutch, and the English was a bit messy but also in a cute charming way, when usually badly translated English really really annoys me, for some reason though I could forgive it here, it fit. There were four menus, on a mixture of separate pieces of paper, some of which were laminated and others not so a bit crinkled at the sides and so on. Chaotic. There was a menu with pasta’s, one with cheese fondues and two others that seemed to be seasonal menus. I went for a cheese fondue with Emmentaler, Goudse cheese and truffle, it was scrumpdiddlyocious (for first time readers, I sometimes make up my own words).
In fact it was the best cheese fondue I’ve ever had, better even than the one I had when in Lausanne, Switzerland, last year. And that is saying something! It would be like saying a pizza or pasta in a restaurant here was better than one you’d eaten in Italy. Sorry Switzerland, it really was better… I loved the place! And I will definitely be going back. Anyone and everyone should go! Also the prices are not too bad either, very fair. And the tea is also extremely tasty (as they are also a tea and coffee vendor).
It was a great day! Tomorrow I will be off to Amsterdam again, I’m going to see Of Monsters and Men play in one of my favourite music venues in the Netherlands; Paradiso. I can’t wait! My plan is to go early and make another Lonely Planet Challenge day out of it. So stay tuned and good night for now…
Oh and next time I will try taking more pictures, for some reason I didn’t manage to do this as enthusiastically as usual, this time.