Among Van Goghs, Witches and Bicycles

I took advantage of the November holiday to do some sightseeing in the land of cheese, chocolate, bicycles, windmills and canals. No sooner had we arrived in the Netherlands than we headed for Bruges, in Belgium, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000, and then on to Amsterdam, where as well as a lot of canals and bicycles there are also plenty of museums.

Buildings in Bruges. Photo: Pau Baños | A windmill in the heart of Amsterdam. Photo: Cristina Martín

There we decided to pay a visit to the Van Gogh Museum and see its collection. The rooms seem thoroughly northern in their logic and order; clean, austere and well arranged by period, they guide the visitor through the oeuvre of the great Dutch painter. The permanent collection includes more than 200 major works by Van Gogh, plus countless drawings and letters. The temporary exhibitions at the moment are “Snapshot: Painters and Photographers 1888-1915” and three displays: “East-West: Japan and Japonaiserie”, “Van Gogh’s Studio Practices: Reused Canvases” and, on the top floor, “Bedroom Secrets” — a fascinating exhibition about the conservation and restoration of the 1888 painting Bedroom in Arles, restored in 2010, including a full-scale 3D reproduction of the actual room.

Bicycles with a view of canals. Photo: Pau Baños | Brochure and tickets from the Van Gogh Museum

In order to delve a little deeper into the culture of the Dutch people, so closely linked to the sea, we also visited the recently reopened Het Scheepvaartmuseum (the Netherlands Maritime Museum). This was a real discovery! Housed in the largest building of Amsterdam’s Golden Age of, constructed in 1556 as a warehouse for the Dutch navy. The museum is an excellent example of rethinking the collection in the way it perfectly combines tradition and new technologies, bringing together historic artefacts, vessels and display cabinets with virtual presenters, video projections, interactive boards and social networks, not to mention the museology, whose care for detail bears witness to the pride the seafaring Dutch take in their identity. A highly recommended visit for both young and old, and a great way to get to know the history of Amsterdam.

The Maritime Museum and the Amsterdam Ship Museum moored at the quayside annexe of Het Scheepvaartmuseum. Photos: Cristina Martín

Cristina Martín

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