Amsterdam August 2010

August 26, 2010 - August 28, 2010
SURPIRSE!!!!!!!!! SURPIRSE!!!!!!!!! SURPIRSE!!!!!!!!! SURPIRSE!!!!!!!!!

Amsterdam CanalsSatcha surprised me with a weekend getaway to Amsterdam!!! Amsterdam has always been a city that I'd wanted to visit. Besides wanting to tour the Van Gogh museum, he's my favorite painter, I'd heard so many good things about the city. Since we had a long weekend and there were direct flights from Bilbao to Amsterdam, Satcha decided to surprise me with a weekend in Amsterdam!!!

We flew out of Bilbao on Thursday around 7:00pm and arrived in Amsterdam around 9:00pm. By the time we took the bus to the hotel and got settled in, we decided to hang out and plan what we wanted to do and see the next day.

We saw most of Amsterdam in 1 day!!! We started the day by going to the Van Gogh museum where we saw around 200 of Van Gogh's paintings. Some of his most famous paintings were on display: the Self Portraits, Wheatfield with Reaper, The potato eaters, The sunflowers and many more. Unfortunately The bedroom was being restored, so it wasn't on display. There was so much I learned about Van Gogh, also.

Vincent Van Gogh
Van Gogh MuseumVan Gogh was a self taught painter who started painting around the age of 27 after his intent to become a minister failed. He decided that he could become an artist and still be in God's service. He started painting by attending academies and learning from and following other artists such as Millet and Breton. Potato EatersHis first paintings were very dark and of peasant life. When he moved to Paris to live in the artists' quarter of Montmartre he saw the Impressionists and Pointillism styles and there he learned about light and color. This is when Van Gogh began to create his own style. He wrote, "What is required in art nowadays is something very much alive, very strong in color, very much intensified."

The Bedroom When Van Gogh got tired of Paris he decided to leave for Provence in the south of France where he rented a studio in Arles. He painted this studio in the Yellow House. He invited Gauguin to join him and create an artist's cooperative. He painted many still lifes to decorate Gauguin's room; one of these paintings was The sunflowers. Gauguin arrived in Arles and for nine weeks he and Van Gogh worked together, painting and discussing art. SunflowersPersonal tensions grew between the two artists and Van Gogh experienced a psychotic episode in which he threatened Gauguin with a razor and later cut off a piece of his own left ear. There has been much debate as to the source of Van Gogh's illness. Some 30 different diagnoses have been suggested by psychiatrists, these include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, syphilis, poisoning from swallowed paints, temporal lobe epilepsy and acute intermittent porphyria. The illness could also have been aggravated by malnutrition, overwork, insomnia and Van Gogh's addiction to alcohol.

After this episode, Van Gogh felt he was unable to organize his life or set up a new studio. He attributed his breakdown to excessive drink and tobacco. Afraid of having a relapse, he voluntarily admitted himself to the psychiatric hospital in Saint-Rémy. He stayed at the hospital for a year where he worked on paintings, many of them with wheatfields that he saw from his room's window, and tried to get a handle on his life.

Staying in the asylum, Van Gogh wrote, "I feel happier here with my work than I could be outside. By staying here a good long time, I shall have learned regular habits and in the long run the result will be more order in my life."

While in Arles and Saint-Rémy, Van Gogh sent his paintings to his brother, Theo, in Paris to try and sell. Despite his illness, he produced many masterpieces, such as Irises, Cypresses, and Starry Night. With these paintings Van Gogh started to get recognition.

Because Theo financially supported his own family and Van Gogh, Van Gogh had always felt like a burden for his brother. On July 27, 1890 Van Gogh walked into a wheat field and shot himself in the chest. He staggered back to his room, where two days later, on July 29, he died with Theo at his side.

Christine and Satcha Amsterdam CanalsAfter the museum visit we walked around the city and along the canals. Amsterdam is a very pretty city with buildings and houses built right on the canals and it's definitely a bicycle-friendly city. Amsterdam has a population of around 700,000 people and 3 times as many bicycles!!! You have to be careful when crossing the street because besides the car traffic there is bicycle traffic, and I'd say that the bicycles are far more dangerous than the cars!!!

The Red Light District is an interesting area to see. There is quite a contrast of the area during the day and at night. During the day, there are very few women in the windows, most windows were closed, and the women were older, heavier, and not what I had expected.Red Light District But, then at night, after dark, the majority of the windows were full, the red lights were turned on, the girls were younger and prettier and there were a lot of people, mainly mid 20s-30s male tourists. We saw some people go in for a good time. We learned that it's costly to be with one of these girls. For a "15 minute quickie" the price is around 50 euro. This is pretty expensive considering that in those 15 minutes, once you walk in the door, the clock starts ticking: the girl has to take off her clothes, you have to take off your clothes, clean yourself, do your thing, get dressed and get out the door. All in 15 minutes!!!!! And on top of that it's just a "basic quickie", if you want extras, for example you want the girl to look like she likes it, that'll cost you extra!!! From what it seemed like, while walking around and observing, the girls get a lot of business from groups of young guys after they've had a few beers!!!

As we walked around the city there was a definite "aroma" in the air, also. There was a distinct marijuana smell all over the city. The coffeeshops were scattered about the city. There's no specific area where all the coffeeshops are. You may be wondering why it's called a coffeeshop if it's a place where they sell marijuana. But, they really do sell coffee, too!! It's a café where you can get coffee, other non-alcoholic drinks (they're not allowed to sell alcohol), munchies and marijuana. Something funny:Amsterdam Coffeeshop It's illegal to smoke cigarettes in coffeeshops, although it's OK to smoke marijuana. If you want to smoke a cigarette you have to go outside!!! For everyone who's wondering now if I smoked or not, I'll tell you that I did not smoke. But, I did try a "brownie", although it didn't seem to have much of an affect on me!

These are aspects of Amsterdam that the government is proposing to "clean-up". It's said that by 2015 the government wants to get rid of 95% of the Red Light District windows and make the selling of marijuana by coffeeshops illegal. If this is true, I'd definitely recommend seeing these two parts of Amsterdam that are almost impossible to see anywhere else!!!!

We also visited the Anne Frank House: the house where 8 people (the Frank family, the van Pels family and Fritz Pfeffer) lived in hiding for over 2 years before they were betrayed to the Nazi authorities. We saw how they lived and read different passages from Anne's diary. It's a very moving story, so moving that it's inspired me to read the book.

Amsterdam Canals Besides all of this we just walked around the city and enjoyed the sights and food (the warm apple pie, cheeses and fries were delicious!!!). Amsterdam is one of the prettiest European cities that I've visited. I recommend it to everyone!!!

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Anonymous said...

I LOVE THE STORY ABOUT THE GREAT VAN GOGH!!! YOU HAVE TO COME TO PARIS to see the rest of his paintings! LOVE YA Tir Benifor