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Monday, 01 March 2021

Exploring Amsterdam and its ‘Big Three’ Museums

Written by Russ and Emily Firlik
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We arrived at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, which is one of the busiest airports in Europe, for our two week slow travel adventure. Normally, we have a longer period of time, so we planned well and just focused on the city. Having just finished Dutch Culture in the Golden Age, by J.L Price, I was anxious to spend as much time at the Rijksmuseum as possible. The majority of our time we were joyfully visiting the museums, enjoying several canal rides, and leisurely walking around and admiring the sights along the Amstel River.



After researching Amsterdam, we discovered it is a two wheel culture, bikes take priority over pedestrians and there are over 300 miles of bike paths. It also has 165 canals — with a combined length of 50 KM (31 miles). There are 281 bridges and over 2,500 houseboats.


The ‘Big Three’ museums and highlights of our slow travel:

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1) The Vincent van Gogh Museum. During his ten-year artistic career, Van Gogh was highly prolific. We read that 864 paintings and almost 1,200 drawings and prints have survived. The largest collection of his work, more than 200 paintings, 437 drawings, 31 prints and 700 letters are found in the Vincent Van Gogh Museum. We purchased the 120 hour City Card that provided sufficient time to slow travel, and we were very happy to have observed, lingered and reflected on almost every painting. Most intriguing (which is very difficult to choose) were: SUNFLOWERS, THE POTATO EATERS and THE SOWER. At peak times, the museum was very busy, as expected. We determined that the best viewing times, with less people, were in the early mornings and late afternoons. Fortunately, the museum is open on weekends as well. One interesting tidbit I learned about Vincent: After losing his job after working for six years, he became a substitute teacher in a boarding school in the seaside town of Ramsgate, England.

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One observation we made was the paintings were not only displayed in chronological order by years, but by color and composition; extremely enjoyable and a valuable learning feature.


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In between museum visits, were the two hour rides on the 17th century canals, with UNESCO status. They fostered new discoveries and appreciation for the history and architecture of Amsterdam. The narrow houses were built because in the 17th century taxes were based upon the size of the building’s facade. Dutch colonial architecture was characterized by gambrel roofs (two-sided roofs with two slopes on each side), with curved eaves along the length of the houses. Especially in the Jordaan quarter, many of the houses are sunken into the ground, most likely due to an added floor, which added extra weight. With careful observation, one notices the ‘hook’ that enables residents to pull large and bulky objects up into a window at the focused floor.


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Most of our time in Amsterdam the weather ranged from high 40’s to high 50’s degrees Fahrenheit. The relatively few days of sunshine did not detour our quest to seek out the endless treasure troves in Amsterdam. The museums, canal views, redevelopment of the Tobacco Theater, the cultural center of Amsterdam, and the colorful buildings more than compensated for the weather.

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Last modified on Monday, 01 March 2021

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