Courtesy of 3DFlags.comAmsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam, Netherlands

I know, I know... Amsterdam isn't in Spain. But I did spend one day here on my way back from our Spanish adventure, so naturally I have to include it in this bundle of pictures. The main reason I made a stop over is because I wanted to see some things that I didn't get to see on our 1998 trip. At the top of the list is the Van Gogh Museum, which I was fortunate enough to see this year.

Just a few words about Amsterdam as a city (in addition to what I already wrote in the 1998 set of pictures). It is one of the best preserved 18th century cities in Europe. The architecture shows a distinctly clean, yet grandiose and festive style. The city canals are reminiscent of those in Venice, yet more organized. The people are friendly and helpful, and there are plenty of attractions to keep the visitor occupied. Having only a 1-night layover, I really had to focus and cut down on the sightseeing. I ended up visiting only two things on this trip: the Sex Museum and the Van Gogh Museum.

Now Vincent Van Gogh (I found the proper pronunciation is something that sounds like "vanhohe") was one wacked dude! (BTW, that's the official medical term for his affliction.) Here's a guy who was incredibly talented, having learned to paint and cranked out all of his art in just 10 years. But he gets depressed, goes wacko and slices off a piece of his ear, bounces from institution to institution, and finally shoots himself in the chest. Sad story indeed...

Um... no comment! This was one of the displays in the Amsterdam Sex Museum. Actually, there are two sex museums, but this one is the main one and the one I went to. The museum has an interesting collection of artifacts on the history of sex. They had everything from risqué drawings from Japan and ancient Greece, to Playboys, to bondage clothing and hardcore pornography. This sculpture was found in a room where they showed a documentary on sex and the film industry.

Amsterdam Sex Museum

There's a special section in the Sex Museum dedicated to Marilyn Monroe. This is the Monroe display.

Marilyn Monroe display

The next morning (the day of my departure), I was able to catch the Van Gogh museum right at opening time. This is the modern looking building that houses the Van Gogh Museum. I was worried that the place was closed for a second since there was no one around. That would have been terrible as this was the primary reason for my visit.

Van Gogh Museum

It's unfortunate that we weren't allowed to take photos inside the Van Gogh Museum. So I'm forced to show you some of his art using postcards. Sunflowers (1889) is probably Van Gogh's most famous painting. Actually he painted many sunflowers. This version is one of two he felt worthy of attention. He then made three copies of this painting, one of which is here in the museum.

An interesting side story is Van Gogh's relationship with contemporary French painter Paul Gaughin. Van Gogh apparently got tired of the Paris art scene and moved to Arles. He wanted to start an artist colony there with Paul Gaughin and invited him to come live there. This painting was made to decorate Gaughin's bedroom in preparation for his arrival. (If you ask me, I think Van Gogh had a crush on Gaughin.)

Well after much delay, Paul Gaughin finally arrived in Arles only to get into a huge disagreement with Van Gogh. It is over this disagreement and the dashing of his artist colony hopes that Van Gogh cut off a piece of his ear. Weird!


Vincent Van Gogh was known for his unique style of blending bright colors to convey light and shadow. Many of his paintings didn't use black at all. He painted many self portraits in his day, but this is the only one showing him as an artist laboring in front of a canvas (1888). There's an interesting contrast between the blue of his shirt and the red of his hair. The shadow on his face is actually created with red and green colors. He must have approved of this painting as it's one of only a few that he prominently signed.

Self portrait

In the last weeks of his life, Van Gogh was notably depressed about his financial situation and that of his brother and long-time supporter Theo. Wheatfield with Crows (1890) is commonly accepted as his last painting. You can see the ominous sky as an obvious reflection of his mental state. On July 27, 1890, Vincent shot himself in the chest while out in the fields. Two days later, he died of his wounds with Theo at his side. He was only 37.

Wheatfield with Crows

Amsterdam's pristine architecture can be seen all over town. Even its main train station (Centraal Station) exudes style.

Centraal Station

An impressive church across the street from the train station. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry and didn't have time to figure out it was called.

Church near Centraal Station