DAY 22 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands:
We were ‘professional weather forecasters’ by this point of the trip (with the help of our phones’ weather forecast apps of course) and knowledge of rain on this day of our trip led us to cancel our Countryside Bike Tour and instead re-plan the entire day.
First stop: The Antique Market of Waterlooplein
We saw beautiful (albeit slightly cheap-looking) tapestry, messy piles of second-hand clothing, tins which made Miriam really excited, the song Do Ya Think I’m Sexy? by Rod Stewart and the words ‘BEING ALIVE IS BY FAR YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT’ written on the wall of one of the Kilo Stores‘ changing rooms. We realised here that the locals in Amsterdam, despite having shared a conversation in Dutch, would switch to conversing in English when we enter their stores. I thought this was lovely — no exclusions of tourists and no chances of making the tourist feel as though they are being gossiped about.
Second stop: Vondelpark
Directions came to us in the form of a metro man who was, I presumed, in a really good mood. He gave us a map, reminded us to ‘never walk like grandmothers’, and erupted in laughter as he waved us goodbye, imitating the way grandmothers staggered and stalked. (I disagreed that grandmothers walked that way though.)
Sitting on a bench in Vondelpark and commenting about the attires of the cyclists passing us (we agreed that the locals here dress well), homely, baked-earth smell rises from the land as it is washed and cleansed by the dewy tears of summer rain. We stayed long enough for Miriam to eat an apple before the rain caught up with us and pushed us to move forward.
Third stop: Albert Cuypmarkt
We stopped for raw dehydrated banana pancakes on the way, which turned out to be such a huge disappointment, it even made enjoying it difficult even though it tasted amazing. The stack of pancakes certainly could’ve been made taller…
The market began trading in 1904, and now, over 300 stalls line both sides of the Albert Cuyp street in the neighbourhood of De Pijp. The offocial Amsterdam website told us that ‘stalls sell everything from fruit, vegetables, cheese, fish and spices to clothes, cosmetics and bedding. The prices are among the cheapest in Amsterdam. The market gets very crowded especially on a sunny day and Saturdays.’
We talked about what we’d fill our shops with if we were ever to open one. I saw a gorgeous shop overflowing with greens, and thought I’d love to own something like that too one day, except mine would be stocked with succulents of all sorts.
‘When I was in Primary 3, my Science teacher taught us about the Bryophyllum plant’s special ability to grow its offspring on the perimeter of its leaves. I was so amazed by this so I naturally got excited when I saw tine Bryophyllum plants spilling out of my neighbour’s pot. I took a couple of them on the floor and a few months later, all the Bryophyllum plants I had grown were multiplying at a cancerous rate. It drove me crazy and so I began throwing all the babies off the balcony!‘
The last statement is an example of things I say when I’m sleepy… We were thrown into fits of laughter hahaha!
Fourth stop: Vincent van Gogh Museum
Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum maintains the world’s largest collection of the works of the world’s most popular artist – Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890), his paintings, drawings and letters, completed with the art of his contemporaries. I read that each year, 1.6 million visitors come to the Van Gogh Museum, making it one of the 25 most popular museums in the world.
‘The permanent collection features the works of Vincent van Gogh – more than 200 painting, 500 drawings but also works of other artists, his contemporaries – Impressionists and Postimpressionists. Van Gogh’s work is organized chronologically into five periods, each representing a different period of his life and work: The Netherlands, Paris, Arles, Saint-Remy and Auvers-sur-Oise.‘
The museum made an effort to weave the timeline and progression of van Gogh’s mental illness into his artwork, and that, I felt, made it clearer to me as to why he painted what he did. In his final weeks, Van Gogh painted a number of landscapes of the wheat fields. On July 10, 1890 Van Gogh wrote to his brother, Theo about two of them saying,
Van Gogh’s last painting, Wheat Field with Crows
“They are vast stretches of wheat under troubled skies, and I did not have to go out of my way very much in order to try to express sadness and extreme loneliness…. I’m fairly sure that these canvases will tell you what I cannot say in words, that is, how healthy and invigorating I find the countryside.”
3 hours or so went by without us realising, and for the record, that was the longest time I’ve ever spent in a museum!
We spotted a tree that looked like a hand holding a large rock, and after I took a picture of it, I turned around to see Miriam sulking under the umbrella. We laughed as we reviewed the photo I took of Miriam under the umbrella and agreed that that photo was a clear depiction of how the rain makes us feel.
On the way back to Vera’s that day, we played the Rhyme Game — we’d say a word and the first person who fails to come up with a word that rhymes with it, loses.
The word: Door
‘I wish I could say ‘Tour’…,’ I say at one point.
‘Well it depends on how you say it, I usually pronounce it as ‘Tor’ instead of ‘Too-er’!’
So I lost… 😂
I made a mistake!!
Tree Roots was Van Gogh’s last painting, not Wheat Field With Crows, though commonly assumed to be!
‘Van Gogh had already made several drawings of tree roots in The Hague in 1882. He wrote at the time of his wish ‘to express something of life’s struggle […] in those gnarled black roots’. It is tempting to see the same symbolism in these twisted tree roots, painted eight years later.
The work seems to consist at first sight of a jumble of bright colours and abstract forms, prompting some art historians to identify Van Gogh as an important forerunner of abstract art. If you keep looking, however, you make out the tree roots, plants and leaves, and beneath them the brown and yellow of the sandy forest floor, all laid down on the canvas with powerful brushstrokes and oily gobs of paint.
Many people believe that the more dramatic Wheatfield with Crows is Van Gogh’s final work. This colourful painting is a much likelier candidate, however, as he was unable to complete it, which helps explain its irregular, unfinished character. Theo’s brother-in-law, Andries Bonger, described it as follows in a letter: ‘The morning before his death, he had painted an underwood [sous-bois], full of sun and life.’’