Having been to Amsterdam 29 times over more than a 20 year period, it seemed appropriate to explore beyond the quaint and serene canals of Amsterdam. Typically before I teach my course, I only have the weekend to take in sights while I acclimate to the seven-hour time change. After nearly thirty trips, it is getting more difficult to discover new activities that I have not experienced. On my most recent trip, I decided to split my weekend between Amsterdam and The Hague (Den Haag in Dutch).
On Saturday, I was able to find an Amsterdam museum exhibit that I had not seen before, one of Leonardo da Vinci. Da Vinci was one of those unique individuals who was not only an accomplished artist producing well-known masterworks, but also a talented inventor as well. This exhibit, while it explored both talents, prominently featured his inventions.
Included were hands-on, accurate replicas of many of his inventions that allowed one to explore the insightful creations of the inventor. It was truly amazing to see some of the ideas he came up with that pre-dated actual inventions by hundreds of years (think flying machines, gliders, and mechanized rolling wagons). One exhibit was of an unique 8-sided mirrored booth that allowed viewers a 360-degree view of themselves, reminding me of a house of mirrors at a fair.
It was quite an enjoyable display, particularly for someone like myself most interested in science and inventions.
My next new activity on Saturday was a visit to the Amsterdam Royal Zoo, the Natura Artis Magistra, oldest zoo in the Netherlands. When I looked up all of the top Amsterdam sights on Trip Advisor, I ran across many of the familiar ones that I had been to multiple times over the years. But the Artis zoo was one very high on their list that I had never visited.
It was a beautiful day and so was able to see many interesting animals. Knowing that my grandson particularly liked giraffes, I snapped this photo especially for him.
The Zoo also had an excellent aquarium and when I heard numerous people clamoring “look, its Dory”, I knew I had to get a shot of the colorful Blue Tangs.
Between these two enjoyable outings and walking to dinner, I was also able to log a new personal record for the week on my Fitbit although I missed achieving my second 25,000-step day by about 1,500 steps.
On Sunday morning, I set off on my “beyond Amsterdam” adventure. As is often the case when I travel by train on a Sunday, track maintenance precluded me from taking the most direct route to Den Haag and so had to make a connection through Utrecht adding about 30 minutes to my commute. But I had the whole day so it didn’t matter that much.
Although I have been to Den Haag multiple times, most recently to tour Madurodam, I still knew I could find some new activities. First on my list was the Mauritshuis museum, the Royal Picture Gallery. It was listed as number #1 on Trip Advisor so I knew I couldn’t go wrong. I also selected it, as it was less than a half-mile from Central Station in Den Haag. I was pleased to discover several well-known paintings of extreme interest to me.
First was this one by Rembrandt which was of particular interest to my siblings and I when we had been to Amsterdam a couple of years ago. I had seen a print of it before but seeing the real work was amazing.
I knew this painting by Vermeer, probably his most famous, was a part of the collection and so anticipated discovering it for some time as I strolled through the galleries. When I found it, I examined it from several different perspectives and wherever I was, it appeared as if the girl had her eyes directly on me. Even when I glanced back from the door leading to the next room, she hauntingly seemed to follow me.
But my most exciting discovery of the exhibits was this small painting by Carel Fabritius, entitled the Goldfinch.
This was a Pulitzer Prize book I had thoroughly enjoyed reading several years ago about a fictional, multi-year secretive journey this painting took outside its rightful home in a museum. It was as if I had found a long lost friend in finding this painting. For anyone who has not read the book, it is probably hard to grasp the significance of this small painting but just like the Girl with a Pearl Earring, it was a book that had made the painting so well known.
Over lunch, I explored what to do next. I had considered seeing an M. C. Escher exhibit but when I discovered that the Louwman Automobile museum was within reasonable walking distance, it was an easy decision.
My walk from the Mauritshuis took me through a heavily wooded park, Haagse Bos, an urban park on scale in size with Central Park in New York. It was nice that it was mostly shaded as this was the warmest day for me in the Netherlands.
At one point, I came upon a clearing with a large historical marker. When I approached it, I discovered from the photos that this was a secluded launch site for the German V-2 rockets that rained down on England in World War II. Given how poorly many of the Dutch were treated during the war, it surprised me that such a marker had even been erected.
Once I reached the Louwman, my first car to see was a classic “split-window” Corvette, a quite rare car. Ascending the elevator to the third floor where the exhibit started, I was presented with many firsts.
The museum was arranged in chronological order and housed some of the oldest and most unique automobiles any where in the world. Having over 250 cars on exhibit, in a word, it was HUGE.
My main interest was more modern cars but even here I found unique examples I had not seen.
As I rounded one corner, I began to hear Elvis music, very familiar sounds for someone from Memphis. Of course they had to have one of his customized cars.
Another car of interest to any Bond fan was the original James Bond Aston Martin featured in the early Bond films.
To say the museum was overwhelming is an understatement. Towards the end, I could only glance at some of the displays as I traversed the three separate floors.
But upon finding this unique car, I had to pause to take in its unusual design.
On my return trip to Amsterdam, while awaiting my connection in Utrecht, I realized this was the interesting train station that I had seen in miniature at Madurodam many years ago.
As I relaxed on the last leg of my train ride back to Amsterdam, I reflected on what an enjoyable day I had had. Over all the trips I have taken to the Netherlands, it always seems that I could find something new and interesting to do. With the photos that I captured over the weekend, I felt that I had permanent reminders of yet another successful adventure.
While there are always things I enjoy doing multiple times on my visits, on my next trip, I will definitely explore even further beyond Amsterdam for new adventures.