Amsterdam, Holland

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Before I dive into the post, I need to say a little something on the hurricane disaster relief efforts in Haiti.  If you’ve got the money or time to spare, please donate.

Yesterday the three musketeers hit up Amsterdam, because regardless to what you might have thought, my home base is an hour train ride away from European sin city.  The city was covered with snow, and many of the canals had even froze over.  I’m sure this is a view of the city rarely seen by tourists.

Sinking frozen boat fail.

We went to Amsterdam with the sole intent of viewing the Van Gogh Museum, Rijks Museum, and (of course) the Red Light District.  I seriously contemplated being an art history major–I devoured the prerequisite course I took in college, and my entire Spanish art history class in Granada (taught all in Spanish too!).  Knowing about the history of art makes viewing the actual pieces a much more memorable experience.  The Prado in Madrid, for example, blew me away after my Spanish art history class intensive.  Even though I knew very little about Dutch art history, it was still very cool to see Remembrandt and Vermeer in the Rijks Museum.  Sadly, Vermeer’s famous The Girl with the Pearl Earring was not on display for our visit.

Rembrandt’s famous painting Night Watch at the Rijks Musuem.

The Van Gogh Museum ended up being, for me, even more mindblowing, because for as much as I’d always admired Van Gogh’s work, I had never known that he was a self-taught artist.  Learning this made me admire Van Gogh even more than before.  Even though this is his home museum, it should be noted that his famous works such as Starry Night are not located at the Amsterdam museum.  Another surprise within the Van Gogh Museum was a guest exhibit on the Belgian painter Alfred Stevens, yet another artist who has won a place in my love for art.

Reflections, by Alfred Stevens
Now for the juicy part:  the Red Light District.  After wandering around a bit, we finally found this notorious district of Amsterdam, and I’ll admit that it’s much smaller than I expected.  Still, it was abound with sex shops, sex theaters, coffeeshops reeking of pot, and scantily clad women seductively dancing behind glowing red doors.  There were not many out on the night we were there, so I can only imagine what it’s like when the weather is warmer and the crowds are booming.

Amsterdam by day

I also seemed to have been unaware of why it’s called the red light district.  Some discussion on its origins are on Wikipedia“In the 19th century, the term “red light” was associated with the red lanterns carried by railway workers (which the latter left outside brothels when they entered. The workers could quickly locate the lanterns for any needed train movement.) Another suggestion for origin were the red paper lanterns (a color associated with sensuality) hung outside brothels in ancient China for identification. The color red has been associated with prostitution for milennia.”

Today, we trained two hours out to the Roermond Designer Outlet area and checked out another ice sculpture festival, this time themed around classic stories. See some favorites below (more on Flickr!).  I also had my first Dutch herring, and as fishy as I smelled for the rest of the day, I look forward to having another soon.  Did you know that raw herring is a Dutch delicacy?  You can order of raw slices (served with potent raw onions), and you eat it from below by pinching the tail and holding the fish above your mouth.  It’s quite delicious…cheers!

Notre Dame and the Hunchback
Gulliver’s Travels
My favorite–Captain Hook and the Croc!
Pretty nighttime scene outside of Roerdome.
Amsterdam_Dutch Clog
Me in a traditional wooden Dutch clog (100x the size necessary)
Holland Casino Ice Bar
Kirsten, Adam and I taking shots of jäger in the ice ba.  Everything including the bar, stools, and shot glasses was made of ice.

Suzi Pratt is a Seattle event, food, and travel photographer available for hire. She is also a contributing writer at Digital Photography School and runs a blog teaching others how to start a photography business.

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