Hot! 2 Days, 3 Markets, 4 Museums






My time in Amsterdam was limited, so I did my research in advance and didn’t waste a moment in my first few days.

Within two hours of arriving I was at my first market – the Albert Cuypmarkt. It was mostly food – from cheese to fishheads – and food stands with strange local dishes like the sandwiches of herring, pickles and onions. Usually, I’ll always try the local flavor, but had to pass on this. Instead, I had amazing tomato soup at a nearby cafe.

Next I picked up an I Amsterdam card . This tourist pass gives you free access to most museums, a public transit pass and other discounts. It’s a good value if you plan to go to several musuems and use the light rail trams, which I did.

It’s good for 24 hours, so I started in the evening a the Van Gogh Museum during its late night hours. That night, the museum also had a great classical/jazz combo – the Zapp String Quartet – playing in the lobby. The museum was small and many of Van Gough’s classics belong to other musuems. Still, it gave a good perspective to his life and the way his signature style developed. It was also fun to see his works from Arles and St. Remy after my visit there last year.

My next morning I put the card to the full test. I took a leisurely self-guided walking tour that ended at my second market – the Waterloopleinmarkt. This was a full on flea market filled with cheap tourist trinkets, hundreds of crazy T-shirts, bikes, bike accessories, and requisite junk on blankets.

I wandered out of the “looplein” to pass the Rembrandhuis. This museum gets the gold star for the trip. It offered a free audio guide and explained each level of the artist’s house as you walked from basement to attic. It focused less on his artwork and more on the way of life for Amsterdammers 400 years ago.

Even with the free tram pass, I decided to walk more than ride. I wandered past the canals and found a little alley cafe for lunch. Another quick turn and I was near the Begijnhof – a small courtyard with the city’s oldest house. A cat greeted me at the door, so I felt obliged to enter.

The Amsterdam Historic Museum was steps away, so in I went. Videos inside this museum dramatized the growth of the canal system and population in Amsterdam over 1,500 years. I felt pretty dense realizing the city was named for the dam on the Amstel river. I also felt pretty dense wondering why the population dropped dramatically in the late 40s, then remembered the war.

My next museum stop gave me another perspective of mid century Amstel life. The FOAM is a photography museum and was my ultimate destination, despite my detours. It did not disappoint. The main exhibit celebrated the 75th birthday of photojournalist Kors van Bennekom. It was a mix of his candid on-the-street photographs documenting post-war life in Amsterdam mixed with his personal family photos.

It had been a long day, but I strolled through the Bloemenmarkt of flowers before settling in for another Dutch treat – apple pie!

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