Van Gogh Museum
Perhaps you associate Amsterdam with Van Gogh. The famous painter was Dutch after all.
We’ve crossed paths with him in the south of France — at Les Carrières de Lumière near Arles, and in Arles itself. During the period from 1888 to 1889, Van Gogh lived and painted and sketched in Arles and its region. Many of his most famous paintings come from the south of France — sunflowers, olive trees, café scenes, his own rented room in Arles.
After visiting these places where Van Gogh worked, we looked forward to visiting the museum dedicated to him in Amsterdam. We’d hoped to see the paintings of the places we’d visited in Arles. Such as views of the Rhone River, the Café “Le Soir,” the hospital where he was admitted after cutting off part of his ear.
The modern Van Gogh museum, sited a few strides from the Rijksmuseum, welcomes you into a light-filled lobby. Over four floors of very clearly organized exhibition space, the curators lead you through Van Gogh’s life. Through the works of the collection, they show you Van Gogh’s artistic development, from darker Dutch works, to color-saturated Provence paintings. They also compellingly explain that Van Gogh’s genius did not come from his mental illness; Van Gogh’s genius pushed through despite his illness.
However, this collection, with a few noteworthy exceptions, such as some sunflowers and iris, does not include many of his most famous works. Those works are scattered all over the world.
So we didn’t get to fulfill our wish of matching our visits to Arles with Van Gogh’s paintings. But there was a special exhibition of his series of paintings of olive trees in Provence. Seeing those paintings called up the sounds of cicadas and the blast of hot dry summer breezes from our life in southern France. Not quite what we expected, and not bad at all.
This brick and mirror complex is tucked between a sidewalk, a busy intersection, and some older traditional buildings. It isn’t far from the hotel where we stayed, and around the corner from one of our breakfast restaurants. First impressions are of a piece of contemporary public art in Amsterdam’s signature brick, topped with interwoven mirrors.
Despite its modest size, its import is massive. On this sunny day, all the brick walls were clear and bright. But the layout, at first seeming crisp and rational, makes it easy to get a bit lost and disoriented. You’re also aware of being in a walled precinct, with a hint of claustrophobia. The ordinary buildings and trees of Amsterdam crack into shards in the mirrors. Then you stop and read names. Quiet and painful.
Here’s the background:
A labyrinth of brick walls and angular mirrors define the Dutch Holocaust Memorial of Names, which Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind’s studio has completed in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Located on Weesperstraat street close to the Jewish Cultural Quarter, the memorial … commemorate[s] 102,000 Dutch victims of the Holocaust. The victims, who were largely Jews, Sinti and Roma people, were killed by the Nazis during the second world war and have no known graves.
To honour each of these victims individually, the walls of the memorial are constructed from 102,000 bricks that are inscribed with the names of the victims – giving the project its title. Alongside these bricks, 1,000 extra bricks were left blank to memorialise those who remain unknown….
The mirrored volumes were designed by Studio Libeskind to emulate four Hebrew letters, which form a word that translates as “in memory of” when viewed together from above. They are also designed to appear as though they are floating above the walls, which the studio said represents “an interruption in the history and culture of the Dutch people”….
The Dutch Holocaust Memorial of Names was commissioned by the Nederlands Auschwitz Comité and officially inaugurated on 19 September 2021. (source)
You can’t miss the Heineken signs all over Amsterdam. It’s one of Amsterdam’s most famous home-grown beers. Around the corner from the Rijksmuseum, a brick behemoth of a building sports a huge green Heineken logo, and the words “Heineken Brouwery.” (image from the internet)
After, in recent days and weeks, wine tasting in Beaujolais and champagne tasting in Reims, let’s go northern and enjoy a beer tasting. 21€ each and in we go.
Early in the scripted tour, four stylized vessels, and a chipper young tour presenter, greet us. The vessels outline the process for making beer: water, barley, hops and Heineken’s special “A” yeast.
Next stop is a handsome room full of very large copper vessels, in which the beer was brewed until 1988. We find more tour presenters who tell us about water, barley, hops and Heineken “A” yeast.
Then a path out of this room, with graphics that tells us about water, barley, hops and Heineken “A” yeast.
We think that the tour designers were finally confident that we internalized the water, barley, hops and Heineken”A” yeast sequence because the next few rooms were multimedia extravaganzas. Lots of shiny green graphics spinning on walls, floor and ceiling.
At this point, we finally realized that we’d payed 42€ to stroll through a Heineken commercial. The last stop was, yes, a tasting: two glasses of, well, Heineken. Yep, it’s Heineken.
Another contemporary interior, this time to match an inventive menu. The hostess squeezed us in around a tiny corner table, very close to our dining neighbors. We felt precarious in this time of covid, but chose to stay positive. The approach here is a favorite one: the chef decides what we’ll have; each plate is a surprise. Fortunately, this chef is very accomplished. A delicious meal.
A fun seafood restaurant with a theatrical approach. Your first stop upon arrival is at what looks like a fish market. Raw fish and seafood are displayed on a bed of ice. The young extraverted “fish monger” explains what is available and how each can be cooked. Our job is to make choices for starters and main courses. And sides from the departure-board of options. Next stop is a mini wine shop. Wine selected — a nice rosé — we’re shown to a bare table. Shortly dishes start to arrive, fresh and hot. Very casual, a bit of a loud party atmosphere, and very tasty seafood. This one we will happily visit again.