Tag Archives: Netherlands

The Beauty of Keukenhof – In Pictures

Seven million flower bulbs, close to a million visitors every season, and a sight that cannot be described in words – that’s the draw of Keukenof.  In these pictures, we present our discovery of this Amsterdam attraction.  You can read more about our visit in prose at http://pauperswithouttravel.com/2012/07/02/keukenhof-gardens-amsterdam-from-bollywood-screen-to-reality/

The Anne Frank House, Amsterdam – A Pilgrimage

Anne Frank Museum, Amsterdam
Source: Wikipedia

By Lakshmi

According to Wikipedia, the word pilgrimage is defined as “a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance.”  Most visitors to Amsterdam have this place listed on their “must do” experiences. So, how does a visit to this spot classify as a pilgrimage and not just a visit to a tourist destination?

On our first visit as a young couple with a tiny baby, we were eager to see Anne’s hiding place, we were curious to learn more about the family’s existence, see the church whose bells she heard ringing, look through her window and see the chestnut tree that satisfied Anne’s longing to be outdoors.  As we walked up the stairs and saw the swiveling bookcase behind which the family hid, it felt like Anne was taking us on a personal tour of her home.  Every page of her vivid prose appeared to come to life with the artifacts on display ably supporting that journey.  We entered the home with the lens of a tourist, a couple who wanted to be able to go back home and talk about having actually stood the ground that Anne lived in.  But as we neared the end, we set eyes on her diary, a personal journey now magnified by its presence in so many languages.  Was it foresight or sheer coincidence that Anne had opined, “I don’t want to have lived in vain like most people. I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living even after my death!”

We were numbed.  None of us said a word.  We had made plans for the afternoon but they were abandoned as we somberly made our way back to our hotel asking ourselves….Why?  Could it have been different?  Why not? Why did mankind have to do this to their brethren?  We termed the visit a pilgrimage, it made us ponder, it made us question, it made us reflect.

Every visit to Amsterdam featured a stop here and on our last one, we were accompanied by our daughters, the older one now the same age as Anne when she wrote her diary.  Each of our kids had read the diary, discussed it in class both individually and more broadly as part of discussions on the holocaust.  They too had reactions not too dissimilar to ours.  But here’s what was different.  We could now relate to what Otto Frank felt when he decided to protect his family.  We thought about our girls enduring something like this.  We imagined the arguments we had over little things and the door banging accompanying it and yet here were girls in the prime of their hormonal changes living in cramped space unable to express freely.  At times, it felt like the book had been a tale, but everything in front of us was a living witness to the reality that had taken place here.  A family had loved, laughed, faced adversity and met their end in the worst possible way…a tragedy created by man.

This time as we walked out, there was more disbelief and sadness expressed.  And a lot more questioning of the events in history.  Questions that sought to seek meaning and bring closure.  There are so many books written on Anne Frank’s life, her family’s journey, the direct and indirect meanings of her words.  And just like us, we believe that for many, this exploration has been a pilgrimage.

To learn more about Anne Frank’s house, please visit their excellent website at:

http://www.annefrank.org/

Vincent Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam – A Moving Tribute to my Favorite Artist

The Potato Eaters
Source: worldartresources.com

Vincent Van Gogh is my most favorite painter.  No ifs or buts.  While I am absolutely in awe of so many different artists, Van Gogh occupies a very special place in my mind and heart.  My first exposure to him was with the “Sunflowers” series of paintings.  Was it my favorite color yellow that drew me in?  Was it the random positioning of the flowers? Was it the distinctive brushstrokes?  Hard to tell, except from that point on looking up his sketches and paintings and reading his letters to his brother Theo became a journey.

And then came my maiden trip to Amsterdam.  I could barely curtail my excitement as I landed up at the Van Gogh Museum.  My husband knew about my obsession.  My father in law probably thought I was a bit crazy to tear up at the sight of a museum.  But, it was a truly special moment for me and what came next was simply awesome.

Do you ever get the feeling from reading about someone or someplace that when you walk in there, everything feels like Deja Vu?  Well, even though I had never set foot in the museum, I felt like I had already been there….many times.

It is very difficult for me to say what the “ultimate” memory was.  To me, it was a gift to be able to see his paintings and drawings up close, to see the brush strokes, to see the vividness of the colors, to experience his madness and his spirit.  There are a few paintings that struck an emotional chord more than others.

– The drawing “The Head of a Woman” which was a prelude to his Potato Eaters along with the actual painting were incredibly moving simply because they were his earliest works at authenticity and very much unappreciated.

– His “Self Potrait of An Artist” when seen up close reflects such intensity and pain in his eyes, that it feels like he is right there a century later.

– An absolutely joyous “Sunflowers” which made me feel like the flowers were on a dancing journey in the vase.

– I’m not sure what the “Skull of a Skeleton with a Burning Cigarette” was meant to convey, but to me it seems like Van Gogh was trying to convey irony, art and some self wit in this work.

– And last but not least, “Wheatfield with Crows”, mentioned to be his last painting.  This was the final painting on my journey and it did its job in flashing the life of an unfulfilled genius through my mind bringing me to tears.

Whether or not you are a Van Gogh fan, if you are ever in Amsterdam, do spend some time at this lovely museum.    It is a beautiful building and an amazing lesson on life and art.  I have been back on every visit and each one opens up one more little known aspect of my most favorite artist on planet earth.

To learn more about the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, click here:

http://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/vgm/index.jsp?lang=en