Some stuff I wrote down while in Germany.
"I sit here on a train from Amsterdam to Prague, between naps and failed attempts at reading my brother's 12 yr old blog from when he traveled Europe. While earlier I could not stay awake to read more than a few pages (I swear its not boring), it has inspired me to start writing again after a brief hiatus."
"You are now entering the falcon's mouth. Amsterdam.
For those of you who haven't been there, its a place unlike any other. For those of you who have, its an experience you won't soon forget.
There are several things that stick out to me about Amsterdam. First, the city streets flow unlike any other. Bicyclists run the streets here, with cars yeilding to their greener bretheren. Several main roads fan out along a series of canals. In between are dozens of alleyways are shops packed like sardines and floods of tourists and coustomers migrating through all day long. The stores sell everything from Donners and terrible pizza (I bought a slice for 4 euro just to see it reheated in a microwave), to fashion and fine jewlery to infamously mind-altering chemicals or 15 minutes in heaven.
When wandering the streets for the first tim, let the roads take you. See something interesting and follow it. You will end up somewhere you've never been and eventually get spit out somewhere near the train station. From there you can b-line back to your original location. At night things get even more unusual when reddish ping lights dot the streets tempting all those who walk past. Significantly less attractive fellows also get involved offering other temptations, pharmacuticals if you will. Then at a certain hour, lets call it 2am, the bright lights go out, vendors close their doors, and quite quickly the customers follow suit. before you know it the streets are empty. Of the few characters that are left, many of them budget bicycle salesman, are harvesting their inventory of misplaced bicycles for tomorrow. Remember the flow of the streets from earlier. Try to force your way back in a straight line and you're bound to wander in circles.
In Amsterdam nothing is what it seems. Coffee shops don't sell coffee and clever names like Grasshopper hint at transactions taking place. When you enter a tiny store in an alley you quickly see how deep the room is, providing new products you never would have guessed (my favorite was a headshop that sold bottled water and snacks in the back). To me this is what makes Amsterdam such an interesting place. The more you poke and prod and stare, the more something new pops out at you and changes your perception.
The second day in town, I along with 2 friends I met in our hostel (Jeremy and Patrick), took a trip to the Van Gogh Museum. Its been ages since I've been to an art gallery, infact I cant even remember the last time I've been to one. It was amazing to say the least, and I can see how Amsterdam influenced Van Gogh as well as the gallery itsself.
Having taken several architectural design classes, the first thing I noticed was the layout of the space. Its amazing how once you pass security, there is not one sigh telling you where to go, but yet everyone goes to the same place and flows in the same direction.
The gallery loops around a central staircase, allowing the visitors to look at each painting one at a time for as indepth or as skimmingly as they please. I saw every painting, but only took the time to really look at several paintings. Just like the shops in Amsterdam, Van Gogh's paintings tell several stories.
I am by no means an artist or even a person who claims to know anything about art or art history, but I can see the talent in Van Gogh's work. My favorite piece is what I believe to be his self portrait. From afar, the painting looks extremely life(and almost photo)-like. When you look very closelyyou see tiny brush strokes of bright reds and blues and orange. Its like magnifying a computer screen and seeing the red, blue, and green lights that make a pixel and eventually an entire image.
My stay in Amsterdam was the first time in recent memory that I truely felt how unique and different a culture and their people are. It was a very unique experience. All the excitement kept me up pretty well so I'm ready ot move on and get some sleep."
Amsterdam Flag. Notice the XXX.