The Rest Of Amsterdam

To be done with my Holland vacations – the last bits and pieces of my stay there.


There was one more museum which we visited – the Rembrandt House. There are not that many Rembrandt’ paintings there, but to see the place where he lived and created his art was exciting. That was one of many times when I thought about me as a 14-year old studying Rembrandt in the Hermitage museum in then Leningrad. He is one of my most favorite artists, and I was thinking, that back then, forty-two years ago I won’t believe if anybody would tell me I will be walking these rooms.

The kitchen
The room where Rembrandt would meet with his patrons
The workshop
A part of Rembrandt’s art collection

A couple of words about the conference: the venue was the old Amsterdam stock exchange, and I can’t recall ever being present at the scientific conference in the building that old!

I didn’t even plan to go there, but then came this early breakfast problem and the fact that I didn’t want to deprive Boris of his morning meetings. So I’ve accompanied Boris there on Sunday morning. And a couple of people said hi, and I replied – I am actually not here! And Boris said something to the effect whether I could stop explaining everybody, that I am not participating.

Then I went to a couple of keynotes – I was already there anyway! And then I saw C. Mohan, and for those who know him, it’s not a surprise that I’ve got a picture with him!

And then I’ve asked a couple of questions to the speakers. And I talked to several people. Later I thought that giving all my this year’s circumstances and the fact that I am unlikely to go to any other conferences till the end of the year, I could very well register and leave not on the 3rd, but on the 4th of July… whatever 🙂

Here are my last Amsterdam pictures – a beautiful afternoon in a beautiful city.

Next the morning I took a train to the airport, and before that, we had the nicest breakfast ever!

Resistance Museum Without Pictures

This post will have no pictures. I didn’t take any pictures in this museum, mostly because we were short on time. We wanted to visit this museum very much – we’ve read a lot about the Dutch Resistance. Even when we were visiting other museums in Amsterdam, such as Stedelijk, there were multiple mentions of how people, artists, and curators, in particular, felt compelled to aid the Resistance, and how vital the Resistance was for cultural and national preservation.

The location of the Resistance Museum is not a very central one, so it required some planning, especially because the conference had started already, but we made it. By that time, after being in Amsterdam for a couple of days, we’ve already realized how useful their museum audioguides are. They are way more convenient than the ones we have in the States, at least here in Chicago.

When we visited Brussels several years ago, we ended up being very disappointed in the Magritte Museum – there were not that many of his paintings there (then-recent Art Institute exhibit had more!) and we could not read any of his letters and diaries, which were on display in abundance. We were a little bit concerned that something like this will happen in the Resistance Museum, but the audioguides helped a lot!

That’s another reason I didn’t take any pictures inside this museum – obviously, all explanations are in Dutch, and the exhibit is mostly useless without them. I’ve learned a lot about how life in the Netherlands was unfolding during WWII. It turned out I didn’t know a lot, including brutal hunger towards the end of the war.

That won’t be the first time that I am realizing how little did I know about WWII before I came to the US. My knowledge about the events of WWII was very obscure. The way World War II history was taught at school would give you the impression that even though there was something else going on, the most significant part of it was the Great Patriotic War. When I first rented a set of DVDs about WWII in our local library was the first time I’ve realized that WWII was a WORLD war and that so many countries have participated. It was a shock for me that the USSR was mentioned on less than half of these DVDs.

Since that time the more I travel the world, the more I learn about different countries’ history, this realization becomes deeper. In this sense, the Resistance Museum was a great history lesson, and also an outstanding ethical experience. The museum is organized in such a way, that the visitors are presented with the questions the war-time Dutch citizen had to answer: should I cooperate or disobey? Should I fly or stay? Should I hide or should I protest? I could not even imagine one could build the whole museum based on these ethical choices.

And one more thought. I agree with my friend, who was saying that the visit to this museum and her subsequent research made her realize that the Soviet Union was the only country under German occupation which did not have a resistance movement. The “partisans” were organized and controlled by the communist party, or the communist party would acquire a leadership over a spontaneously organized group. Also, the focus of the “partisans” activity was on blowing bridges and military echelons, not on saving people, as it was with the Resistance in other countries. Sadly, I have to admit, that by the time the war broke out, the idea of resisting any authorities was wiped entirely off people’s minds and was not considered even a remote possibility.

Amsterdam Day 4 – The Church Of Our Lord In The Attic

This attraction was not recommended by the app originally, but my local friend told me, that this is one thing she would strongly recommend to see.

Fortunately, it appeared to be super-close to the conference venue, and even though the conference has started already, I’ve asked Boris to find a session he can skip, and we went to see the church.

What is this church anyway? It was one of the many underground (although we should probably say – upground) Catholic churches which existed in Amsterdam at the time the Catholic churches were outlawed.

The building does not look like a church at all:

You might wonder, was it really possible that such a large institution would remain unnoticed and undiscovered. The audioguide says that it’s not like nobody knew what was going on – you just had to bribe the right person 🙂

I’ve made tons of pictures in this church, however, when I’ve started to go over them, I’ve realized that due to the size of the space most of the pictures do not give the right impression – they show only small fragments of the beauty!

Actually, it is one of the oldest museums in Amsterdam – the church was operating will 1887, and was reopened as a museum in 1888! It consists of three houses adjacent to each other, and the church itself occupies the two upper floors of all three buildings combined (if you understand, what I am trying to say :))

Everything starts from the kitchen
All these plates, and pots, and other things were excavated at this site
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One Funny Thing Happened During The Cruise

There was a big group of Japanese tourists on the same boat, and they took the task of taking pictures very seriously. They were way more organized than us, so while several of them were standing on the stern and taking photographs, the messenger from the inside was periodically popping out and alerting them about upcoming attractions. It turned out; you do not need to understand the language to figure out that something is coming up.

Later I’ve returned to the cabin. At that time we were passing the habituated boats, where people live permanently, and some of them had hose plans in the pots displayed on the decks. It was hilarious that one of the ladies started to point at these plants: bonsai! Bonsai! I can’t tell for sure what her neighbor was replying to her, but looked like she was saying something to the effect: you are out of your mind! What kind of bonsai it could be?! But the first lady did not seem to be convinced :).

Amsterdam Day 3 – A Canal Cruise

Several people have asked me, both in writing and in person, how did I manage to take pictures of Amsterdam with almost no people at sight. Especially because I’ve been saying that there are too many tourists.

Indeed, the city seems to be very crowded in the middle of summer. And in spite of the whole army of garbage tracks and janitors on the streets every morning, the city center only remains relatively clean for a couple of hours.

Yes, I could take tons of pictures of the garbage everywhere on the streets, of thousands and thousands of people in the city center, who make the said streets very difficult to walk on. But I didn’t see any point in it.

When we were walking down the streets of Amsterdam, I was trying to imagine how they looked at the time when young Peter the Great was visiting the city. For a person born in Saint Petersburg, visiting Amsterdam is like visiting living far-away grandparents and searching for your roots. You can’t stop from metally comparing the sights, the bridges, the overall feeling of the city. You can’t stop recalling the “new Holland” island in Saint Petersburg, and canals around it, which look exactly like in Amsterdam.

So yes, I was trying to capture even the most touristy places in a non- tourist mode.

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Amsterdam Day 2 – More Museums

Previous (and the only time) I’ve been to Amsterdam, I’ve only been to the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, and the Holland Pass listed several dozen. Since I didn’t know much about either of them, I left it to the app to choose. In the end, we did everything, except for one – the Anne Frank House.

For this latter one when I’ve started to explore my options about three weeks before our vacation, I’ve found out that it’s already too late to book advanced tickets, and my only option is to catch the “same day” tickets at 9 AM whatever day is it. We tried to stay in the virtual line on Saturday morning (our Day Two), but when it was our turn, the available times were only late in the afternoon, and we already had a trip to Delft booked for that time. I’ve tried one more time on Sunday morning and reached my turn quite fast, but whenever I was trying to book tickets for available slots, it would tell me – sorry, there are no more tickets … I could not continue these experiments, as for the next two days Boris was already at the conference, at least for a part of the day, so there was no Anne Frank for us this time.

We’ve been to Van Loon House Museum, and this was quite interesting. Willem Van Loom was a co-founder of Dutch East India Company at the very beginning of the seventeenth century, and since then the history of the family was closely intertwined with the history of Amsterdam.

The house was built in 1672, but the interior was completely redone in the middle of the 18th century in a more popular Loui XV style.

This was the first house we saw on this trip, and later we saw the similar features in the other homes. Many of them look very much like the palaces in Saint Petersburg, where we both are from. No wonder, since Holland was a model for life transformation in the18th century Russia. But what I really liked in all of these museums was the fact that the living spaces on exhibit were not separated from the visitors by ropes, you could actually walk around each and single room and take a close look at all of the objects on display.

The Staircase
The Hallway
The Dining Room
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How Does It Feel To Be In Amsterdam In The Middle Of Summer

The only close to that experience I can remember is being in Prague in September :). So many tourists on the streets, it’s difficult to walk. Weekend or weekday – does not matter. Lot’s of people everywhere. Lots of bicycles. People, cars, and bikes are trying to get from point A to point B and back without even pretending they are following the rules :). If it were by me, I would choose different dates to come here.

The city tries to survive this tourist invasion. Honestly, I can’t even blame anybody. On the big scheme of things, that’s their city; it belongs to people who live there, not tourists. My local friend commented on the poor quality of service here in Amsterdam, and in Holland in general. And sadly, I have to agree with her. But once again, I can hardly blame anybody.

In addition to really wild traffic on the sidewalks, the next problem we’ve faced was the operation hours of most of the places where you can eat. Being not just American, but also from the North, and even for a person from the North an extremely early riser, not being able to get breakfast on Saturday before 9 AM was a real problem. I am up by 5 AM regardless of the day of the week, so you get the situation :). On Saturday morning, although my sleep time was adjusted for the previous 31-hour day:), I was up by 6-20. We tried both breakfast places recommended by our host, but one was closed till 9, the other one was opened by 7-30, but they said, that they might have some breakfast “in an hour.” A couple of other places where just opened (about 8 AM), but took our idea to have breakfast in such a time on Saturday as an insult :).

Finally, one place close to the central train station was opened and had decent food, good coffee, and even fruits 🙂

Most of the time we travel, we enjoy trying some local street food, and I have some “calorie budget” allocated for that. One very satisfying experience was baked potatoes:

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Amsterdam Day 1 – Museums

We both arrived on Friday, on two different planes, 30 min apart. And we managed to meet at the Airport train station, though it was not easy:). I’ve picked up our Holland passes and the train tickets. It’s only 20 mins to the Amsterdam central railway station from the airport, and as I’ve already said, the apartment is not more than 10 minutes walk.

We were given a code to open the front door, and when we got to the fifth floor, the key to our apartment was right there in a keyhole, waiting for us.

This time once again, I’ve used VisitACity App to plan our trip, and the app decided that it will be best to do the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum on the first day. I tried to play with an app and move the things around, but it would insist :), and I obliged.
I’ve been to both museums “in depth” during my previous visit to Amsterdam, so this time, my goal was mostly to show both of them to Boris.

But first, there was lunch. Retrospectively I think that lunch in the museum was a good idea, it was quality food at a reasonable price. The asparagus soup with mackerel sounded like something similar to the Finnish salmon soup, turned to be a pale variation of the latter, but still decent.

I’ve got some ginger tea with “Rembrandt selfie” macaroon.

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Amsterdam Vacation: Where Are We Staying

Today is the third day of our Amsterdam vacation, but only now, by the end of the third day, I’ve got some time to write about it. Do not even know where to start :). First – a couple of words (and pictures, of cause!) of where we are staying.


This is a somewhat new experience for me: this is not a hotel, but also not a classic B&B, where you either have a room in the same house or apartment, where your host is staying, or the host is on vacation and renting their space.
It’s an old house which is remodeled to be a family-style hotel. There are two apartments for rent on each of the floors, and at least two in the basement. We live in the attic, and thereby it is just one studio on our level. The note from the host advised us to take our shoes off when in the house since this way we generate less noise. The building is on the bank of the most inner canal ring, so it’s a pretty expensive property.

Here is me standing on the stairs which lead to the utility room half a floor above:

The roof window shows the sky:

The stairs are … as you expect in Amsterdam:

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