Yesterday we set sail for the Continent from the port of Harwich on the east coast of England, boarding a ferry that looked more like a cruise ship headed for Den Hoek, otherwise known as the Hook of Holland. It was a sunny, blustery journey, and a few of us partook in a Titantic-themed photo shoot out on the deck. By evening we reached our hotel, which overlooks the picturesque Boerenwetering canal mere minutes’ walk from two of Amsterdam’s Crown Jewels – the Rijksmuseum and the Heineken Brewery! In between class and our museum visit, some of us are going to visit a Sunday market that sells fresh fruit and flowers.
Everyone has been warned that Amsterdam is the only city where bicyclists have the right of way over pedestrians – get caught up in rush hour and you’ll see a sea of bicycles swarm past like locusts! Boat seems to be everybody’s preferred method of transport, however as we enjoyed our evening cruise through the canals together, everyone was in agreement that it would be great fun to live on a canal boat – as long as you didn’t value high ceilings!
Coming face-to-face with paintings by the Dutch masters such as Rembrandt and Vermeer was a humbling experience, especially when you can finally appreciate the scale of some of them – Rembrandt’s The Night Watch is so gigantic, it covers almost the entirety of a gallery wall! In fact, one of my favorite new discoveries was a small still life painting of a bunch of white asparagus, a 1697 masterpiece by Adriaen Coorte.
But the one name on everyone’s lips is Van Gogh. (We’re practicing pronouncing if the Dutch way by clearing our throats!) Visiting the recently refurbished museum dedicated to the 19th century troubled genius is an important pilgrimage for many of us. To stand face to face with the impressionistic brush strokes of an artist you’ve felt a connection with since you first discovered a love of art, and in that artist’s home country to boot – there’s simply no substitute for that feeling!
This post was contributed by Meg McClure, an AIFS Study Abroad staff member accompanying students on our summer European Art and Architecture traveling program.