Day 50 – Amsterdam

Prostitution / Day 50 of 64 / 28 June

What’s the first thing I do on my first full day in Amsterdam? Laundry, of course! I left the hostel at around 9.30am and headed to the neighbourhood laundromat. I had expected to spend at least an hour there doing laundry, but it turned out that it was a laundry shop and not a laundromat. So, I dropped off my clothes and headed to the Van Gogh Museum.

And of course, the famous sign.

The museum is located in Museumplein, a giant plaza surrounded by some of the best museums in The Netherlands, such as the Rijksmuseum. I arrived at the Van Gogh Museum at 10am and got my tickets from the self-service ticket machine. Although the ticket stated an admission time of 11am-12pm, I asked the guard if I could go in anyway, and to my surprise, he said yes.

Now, I’m not exactly a connoisseur of fine art, especially visual fine art, but even I found the Van Gogh Museum extremely interesting. Maybe it’s because Van Gogh himself is not just an art icon; he’s almost a mythical creature in relation to all things creative. Van Gogh is probably best known for cutting off his own ear, but at the museum, other narratives of the artist’s life are revealed. In them, you start to build a picture of Van Gogh as being almost a role model for all creative endeavours, minus the self-harm of course. His was insistent on personal authenticity: preferring to paint rural subjects instead of the cityscapes that were popular in his time. But yet, this authenticity didn’t stop him from learning from others: he was open to scathing critiques from other artists and regularly painted his own version of paintings made by artists that inspired him. The museum is more than just a showcase of his work, it’s a showcase of Van Gogh’s character and personality.

I left the museum at 12.30pm and headed towards Dam Square, which can be considered the centre of Amsterdam. I had signed up for a free walking tour of Amsterdam with the same company that did the Sachsenhausen Tour in Berlin. The tour wasn’t until 1.30pm, so I decided to walk to Dam instead of taking a tram. For lunch, I got a hotdog from one of the many food trucks operating around Dam.

The tour started just slightly after 1.30pm. As seems to be the case for this company, most of its guides aren’t locals, but that doesn’t mean that they lack a deep knowledge of the city. In fact, it only made our guide’s knowledge of Amsterdam all the more impressive. The tour was a crash course to Amsterdam, touching on everything from its canals and slanted houses, to its prostitution and coffeeshops. Unlike prostitution, however, at the end of the tour, you simply pay how much you think the tour was worth to you. And, much like the Sachsenhausen Tour in Berlin, the Amsterdam walking tour was an informative and interactive experience. I’d highly recommend Sandeman’s NewEurope tours to anyone planning a visit to Europe. I was so impressed with the walking tour that I even signed up for a countryside cycling tour for the day after tomorrow.

The three Xs on the Crest of Amsterdam represent protection against flood, fire, and plague.

Buildings in Amsterdam are often titled. If they’re tilted forwards, it’s probably intentional. If they’re tilted sideways, not so much.

Short rest stop during the tour, but still in the sweltering summer heat.

The tour ended here, at the Homomonument in front of the Westerkerk. The monument was the first of its kind dedicated to homosexuals murdered by the Nazis.

After the tour, around 5pm, I headed back to the area around my hostel. I stopped by the laundromat to pick up my freshly cleaned clothes, and I stopped by a supermarket to buy some dinner, soap, and a toothbrush (to replace the one I left behind in Berlin).

– Ryan

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