Amsterdam Aplenty!

We’re not sure if it’s more the Hotel Brian, or more just Amsterdam, but either way we definitely decided to stay for a few more days, primarily so that we could explore the city more, but also because our gracious host Nicole had some academic responsibilities that needed her attention. So we will have stayed at Hotel Brian for a total of 4 nights, 2 with Nicole and 2 without, and will head back to Nijmegen to join her by train tomorrow evening, after we enjoy Amsterdam for one more day. We have to be out of our hostel by 10 officially, but they are quite flexible about such things, though we do want to be up early to take advantage of the complementary breakfast, but we can use the internet and kitchen and such later in the day if necessary. Of course it only seems today that we’d gotten a grasp on navigating the city, but that’s how it goes travelling around the cities of Europe. Right after noon today we went to the Botanical Gardens, though we squeezed in a sandwich luncheon in the neighboring park, Wertheim first. The park was certainly nice, but the gardens are massive and immaculately groomed. The Botanical Gardens have been around in some form since the 17th century, and its been a Dutch institution for well over a century, so many of the trees are themselves quite ancient. The whole place is divided into smaller garden sections, such as the rock garden or the herb garden, and then there are a pair of massive greenhouses as well: one is a 3-climate greenhouse, built within the last 10 years, that includes a jungle room and a desert room, plus an overlooking walkway through a large part of the greenhouse; the second dates from the early 20th century, and is called the Palm House, and it is filled with many tall palms, cycads, and other ancient plants that have “survived” from previous eras. A lot of rare plants are featured throughout the zoo, including around 25 particularly rare trees. All in all in was a fun, cheap experience, and a change of pace from the museums we saw the previous few days.
Most of the major art museums in Amsterdam are only showing partial collections due to massive renovations not due for completion until 2008, so even though we wished to see them, it didn’t make sense to miss most of the art itself. But we did go to one of the 3 big museums, the most operational, the Van Gogh Museum. One whole floor was still closed, but 2 other floors featured Van Gogh paintings from his “early years” and “continuation.” Europeans view things unusually sometimes. Anyway, there was also a large exhibit called Japanese Season, featuring artwork from the Meiji period during the Japanese Enlightenment Period. Numerous exquisite vases, guilded screens, and other pieces were simply amazing. Not that the the European paintings were bad either, we were just expecting them on arrival. We also saw a lot of good painting at the Rembrandt House & Museum, which features the house where Rembrandt painted many of his masterpieces, restored, and an adjacent museum featuring many of Rembrandt’s contemporaries. Many of his paintings were featured, but his etchings and engravings were perhaps more impressive, since they are initially etched mirrored-backwards, before ink is applied and the regular image is made on paper.
We also went to the Torture Museum just a little while ago, which although not the largest museum we’ve ever been to, certainly covered the history of torture quite accurately. Sometimes with museums you feel like you don’t quite get your money’s worth, but fortunately at only 5 euros we cannot feel too ripped off. We’ve been doing a lot of walking around the city, as Amsterdam is pretty large, and therefore somewhat confusing when you are not very familiar with things. But having a centrally-located hostel has really helped, as we have everything we could really need (bars, coffeeshops, a market, cornerstores) within just a few blocks. Of course it took us about 5 days to figure everything out, but at least we’re there now! Tonight we also watched some Champions League Football (where all the best European clubs teams play each other) on a big-screen at a nearby pub, which was fun, and the Dutch team Eindhoven beat the French team Bordeaux. Tomorrow we may try to go to one more museum, possibly, but we really haven’t decided yet, just that sometime in the evening we will catch a train to Nijmegen/Lent, and meet back up with Nicole. Over the weekend we will explore Nijmegen some more, until Sunday morning, when we will head south to Maastricht, a town that Nicole has visited before, and that our hostel host has described as “beautiful.” So that will make for a nice day, and late that night we will catch another train to Brussels, where we have an early Monday flight to Madrid, Spain, where we will be until Oct. 5. We had hoped to spend more time in Madrid, but we were trying to wait in Holland for our camera (Anderson dropped it right before we left, but we’ve been notified that it’s been fixed under our warranty), though that’s just how life goes some times. We’ve just booked a hostel in Madrid, after doing some research, so hopefully the Pop Hostel will treat us well. We should be able to update one more time before leaving Holland, and hopefully our trip back to Nijmegen will be relatively painless. So long as we don’t take the last train of the night…

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