Friday, July 20, 2012

Taking in Amsterdam's Culture

Of course we did more than just eat and sit on a boat in Amsterdam. We saw a ton of great museums, including the Anne Frank House, the Van Gogh Museum, the Hermitage, the Jewish Heritage Museum and the Portuguese Synagogue.

The Anne Frank House was very moving. I'm sure everyone knows the story of the family that was forced into hiding for two years by the Nazis--if not, click here. The museum brings the tragedy to life. I highly recommend a stop here if you're in Amsterdam.

The Van Gogh museum, on the other hand, was just OK. I love Van Gogh, but the museum layout was confusing and there wasn't a lot of information. I paid the €5 for the audio tour, but it wasn't very informative. I'd say that you still have to see it if you're in town, but just know what to expect going in.

We did a quick stop at the Hermitage, which was fine because there isn't much to see. This impressionist museum is well done, with a nice, airy layout, but there aren't that many rooms. It suited me fine though; sometimes just a quick hit of culture is what you need :)

The Jewish Heritage Museum and Portuguese Synagogue were really interesting. It was almost surreal though. My experience in most museums is learning about something new--something foreign. This is the first time I've been to a museum that has an audio tour explaining my culture and daily practices (e.g. prayers, traditions, foods). It would be like going to a modern American exhibit and having the audio guide explain that many American families eat dinner in front of the TV. Do you know what I mean? It was both cool and weird.

Portuguese Synagogue

We were too late for tulips this year, but we did see the flower market that had hundreds of bulb varieties for sale!

We only had a few brief moments of sunshine, but we took full advantage of them by laying out in Vondelpark. 

While it was pouring buckets, we ran into the NEMO science museum. We encountered something that neither of us were expecting: a sex exhibit--for children.

I know Amsterdam is known for their open sexuality (see Red Light District), but I was really shocked to see this exhibit. It was called "Let's Talk About Sex" and was designed for teenagers. I'm all for teaching teenagers about sex so that they can make informed and responsible choices, but this was a bit much for me. Is it really necessary to have an entire display on sexual positions and novelty condoms?

Display in NEMO Science Center

"Mounting of an Ass"

There were also peep-show booths explaining orgasms and showing both male and female erogenous zones. And, since it's a hands-on museum, there was a display where kids could use their arms to practice french kissing.

Children practicing french kissing at NEMO
I know it's my puritanical American sensibilities, but I was really shocked by this. What do you think? Is this a healthy attitude to have? Should we have more of this in America? This blogger made some good points about how low teen birth rates and abortions are in the Netherlands compared to the U.S. It's definitely something to think about.

Speaking of the Red Light District, no trip to Amsterdam is complete without a visit to the seedy underside of the city. We didn't spend too much time there--it's just not our scene. 

Magic mushrooms for sale

What I love most about Amsterdam is that it has so many faces. I can sit in a beautiful park on minute, float down the canals another, and watch men buy hookers the next. There's really something for everyone :)

1 comment:

  1. We didn't go to the NEMO, but I feel similarly shocked by the pictures you posted. I think the US as a whole has an unhealthy mindset about sex in the opposite direction. The Dutch definitely have a more open dialog about sex, but I think there must be a middle ground. I am surprised you felt kinda "meh" about the Van Gogh museum. It was one of my favorites. Chris and I also enjoyed the Hermitage. We are a bit jealous that you will get to see the real thing in Russia!