amsterdam

dates: 19-28 march 2006
mode of travel: austrian airlines to vienna then to schiphol, amsterdam (this was a terrific flying experience, such a shame they dont fly out of australia anymore. vienna airport is the pits, and schiphol is amazing!)
stayed at: hotel aalders, jan luykenstraat, near museumplein
conference: european social science and history conference, RAI conference centre
paper presented: ‘larrikins, labour and the creation of the new human subject, sydney 1870-1900’

i have mixed feelings about amsterdam. in some ways it is so quintessentially european, so old and beautiful in parts:

and then so cheap and nasty in others.

by far, the best thing was the art, all those rembrandts and vermeers

i was staying near museumplein and this was perfect for me. just a short walk to the beautiful concertgebouw:

a groovy little underground supermarket, the van-gogh museum on one side:

a gorgeous big park full of dogs and people playing football and the rijksmuseum  (under renovation) at the other end:

(the stedjelik was closed for renovations when i was there). i spent most of my non-conference time in this building:

the van gogh museum, which tells a beautiful and emotional story of van goghs life and work, and downstairs has a special events gallery where there was a breathtaking exhibition comparing rembrandt to caravaggio. ive never cried so much over pictures in my life! a life altering experience.

the cafes (not the ‘coffee shops’ which i didnot frequent!) were interesting, you can smoke inside and that made me kind of ill, but i found some nice little outdoor ones on museumplein (on the one day the sun came out!),

and in the city i hung out mostly at this place near the university, cafe de jaren:

they make a nice tomato soup and a pretty boy wanted to practice his english so he was ok when i ordered a cafe latte! i also had fun pretending i was a famous writer listening to jazz at the cafe americain:

but overall the food experience in amsterdam was kind of dismal, especially given the absolute refusal of the dutch to write or speak anything in english. and it was expensive. instead, i spent a lot of time walking cobblestoned streets over picturesque canals:

checking out groovy markets – this is the famous Spui bookmarket:

buying fresh tulips at the Bloemenmarkt for my hotel room,

and finding out that australian chocolate was considered worthy of its own shop (no im not joking):

i took the obligatory ‘canal bus’ tour on a wild and rainy day and we headed up the amstel:

and out into the north sea apparently:

which was kind of freaky. overall, i found amsterdam kind of overwhelming. this was my first overseas trip by myself, it was a huge conference, 1300 people, and only a few aussies. it took 28 hours to get there and back. i got a throat infection. i couldnt figure out how to use the strippencarts on the trams, and i nearly got run over by both a tram and very rude cyclist. for the most part, the dutch themselves lived down to expectations, being mostly rude and pushy. i didnt feel safe on the streets, there was a lot of sleaziness just below the surface, and internet access was hard to find. i had trouble ordering food, and i felt like an idiot tourist. i was an idiot tourist.

overall, i would  go to amsterdam again, and im glad i went in winter when it wasnt full of boozy english tourists, but i would go with someone, and i would learn some dutch!


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