12 May 2008

Amsterdam Museums

Today we had a free day for most of the morning, so after getting some sleep, I left the hotel around 10 AM and set out for the Amsterdam Historiche Museum which has artifacts and paintings related to the history of the city.
Part of the old city gates, then the city's weigh house.

On my way, I went through the Dam Square which is basically the heart of Amsterdam and is bordered on one side by the Town Hall and on another by the Niewe Kerk.

Dam Square with the Town Hall and Niewe Kerk to the right.

The diamond store where my dad bought my mom’s engagement ring is located across and diagonally from the corner on which the Town Hall and Niewe Kerk stand, so I was able to get a picture of it, though it wasn’t open when I went by. Today was a national holiday (Ascension Day), so I expected things to be less available. However, luck was on my side because the Niewe Kerk, which typically isn’t open to visitors, was and so I spent nearly two hours inside.
Niewe Kerk

Best of all, I had the entire building almost to myself! I love old churches of any kind, and this one was no exception.


It’s Gothic in construction with groin vaulted ceilings, stained glass (recreated), and gorgeously high ceilings.
Groin vaults!

Much of the artwork is gone what with the Iconoclastic Revolt in 1566 when Protestantism swept the country, but through restorations, some of the original paintings on the walls have been recovered (I don’t think they’re frescoes since they’re on stone, but something similar). The tomb of Admiral de Ruyter, the great Dutch general of the seventeenth century Anglo-Dutch wars also lays inside, and carved on the monument is the story of his life in Latin (which I was excited to somewhat be able to read!). After spending a good portion of the morning in the Niewe Kerk, I made my way to the Historiche museum. I was only able to spend about an hour there, but even so, it was time well spent. I walked through the medieval and Golden Age sections and saw some really interesting artifacts and some beautiful paintings. The museum is located in a former orphanage for Amsterdam’s citizens - only the children of citizens could be taken in by the orphanage, so many parents arranged for this to happen in the event of their death.
Around 1 in the afternoon, I headed to the Museumplein, where both the Rijksmuseum and the van Gogh museum (pronounced sort-of like van Hogch) are located to meet up with the group. We spent the afternoon between the two, but I definitely spent a much larger percentage of my visit at the Rijksmuseum! The van Gogh museum had a number of Impressionist and pre-Impressionist works and is housed in a fairly modern building. The Rijksmuseum was built in the later nineteenth century and designed by the same architect who designed the Amsterdam Centraal train station.

The building is currently under renovation, which was really unfortunate because much of the collection is currently off display. Nonetheless, I got to see some amazing paintings, including those by Vermeer, de Hooch, de Heyhm, Hals, and Rembrandt. Apparently the Rijksmuseum has a fabulous collection of pre-1600 paintings, and I was disappointed that those weren’t on display. However, the Night Watch painting depicting the Amsterdam city guard was up, as were a pair of recently restored late fifteenth century joint portraits depicting Giuliano Sangallo (the primary architect of St. Peter’s in Rome) and his father by Piero di Cosimo. After all the museum touring, we headed off to dinner across town. So far, the food here has been excellent (all the more so because the price was included in the program fee, so we don’t technically pay for it). We had a very nice dinner with lots of wine (it’s normal here to put out 9-10 bottles per table per meal!), then walked back to the hotel. Everyone is pretty tired from traveling and sightseeing, but I think some of us may venture to the Red Light District since we are in Amsterdam after all.

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