Friday, September 7, 2012


Jeff and I are still in search of van Gogh and the best place to do that just might be in Amsterdam at the Van Gogh Museum. Conveniently, the Heineken brewery is in Amsterdam too, which we've never visited. We've already done Anne Frank's House, the canal tours and the other typical tourist stuff in Amsterdam so this was a quick trip to hit the museum and the brewery.

Along the way we stopped in Frankfurt overnight for the Rheingauer Weinmarkt, a festival we haven't experienced before. So this trip is definite square filler.

The Rheingau region is in the state of Hesse. It lies between the Taunus mountains on the north and the Rhein river on the south and extends from Frankfurt, west to Weisbaden and further to the Rhein again where it makes its big bend to the north beyond Rudesheim. In the Rheingau riesling wines are king.

So we’ve check into our hotel and across the street is this little cafe area. The thing of interest here, at least for Jeff, they serve Henninger beer.

Jeff says his very first beer in Germany, back in 1983, was a Henninger beer. He still has the liter mug that he drank it from.

A reunion of two old acquaintances, Jeff and Henninger.

Finally made it the Rheingauer Weinmarkt. This is city festival in Frankfurt and is located at the western end of the city’s main shopping stra├če.

We’re hungry and need some wine. Riesling and rindwurst go together quite well.

This is the wine menu at one of the vintners. Save water, drink Riesling.

Because it's there.

Strange selection of brezels; poppy seed, pumpkin seed and sesame seed.

Pommes Frites mit Mayo goes with beer or wine. Binding is the local Frankfurt beer/brewery and they actually now own and brew Henninger too.

Four and a half hour drive to Amsterdam from Frankfurt. We’re almost there. The first mention of Amsterdam was in a 1275 document that mentions a bridge with a dam that crossed the river Amstel. In the 17th century Amsterdam became the wealthiest city in the world because of trade that reached around the world. As a result of wars against England and France the city lost much of its stature. With the industrial age Amsterdam was once again revived which continued into the 20th century and today.

We got a great deal at his five star hotel very near the Central train station; Amrath Hotel. Very nice but a little quirky. First time we ever had concierge sevice escort us to our room and thank goodness we did; it was a real maze.

Got our tram tickets and went straight to the Van Gogh Museum. This is the largest collection of van Gogh paintings and drawings in the world and the most visited museum in Holland. After van Gogh’s death in 1890 and his brother Theo’s six months later all his works were inherited by Theo’s wife. She was the driving force in exposing Vincent’s works to the world. Her collection was inherited by her son Vincent Villern van Gogh in 1925. Eventually he became one of the driving forces in the development of Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum which opened in 1973.

Obviously, pictures were not allowed in the museum but here’s a few of the paintings that we did see in the Van Gogh Museum. This is The Potato Eaters, van Gogh’s first attempt with a wide canvas and multiple subjects. He painted this in 1885 and, as you can see, used very dark images and colors.

Skull of a Skeleton with Burning Cigarette, done in 1886, is believed to be an attempt of van Gogh’s at some light hearted humor.

The Yellow House was completed in 1888 and is the house where van Gogh rented four rooms in Arles in southern France. He shared this house with artist Paul Gauguin for two months before they had a heated falling out. Van Gogh had hoped to inspire an artist commune here but once Gauguin left there was no other interest. With his move to southern France, van Gogh began using more and brighter colors.

Self-Portrait in Front of the Easel is one of van Gogh’s many self-portraits; over 35. Vincent had little money to pay for subjects to sit for him and that was the reason for the number of self-portraits. This is one of the few where van Gogh portrayed himself as an artist. The Van Gogh Museum collection includes nine self-portraits.

Landscape with the Chateau of Auvers at Sunset was done in 1890 after van Gogh arrived in Auvers-sur-Oise. He spent the last 70 days of his life in Auvers but completed over 80 paintings during that time.

Wheatfield Under Clouded Skies was also completed in 1890 while in Auvers. The blue sky is just incredible and is wonderfully offset by those little specks of red.

Probably my favorite van Gogh painting is The Starry Night but of those I’ve seen, this, Wheatfield with Crows, is a close second. I love the intense sky and amazing mixture of colors. This is one of the last paintings van Gogh completed before his death on 29 July 1890.

The Van Gogh Museum was wonderful and we left with a print of Wheatfield with Crows.

A ten minute walk from the Van Gogh Museum we visited an old friend, The Bulldog, a nice bar and coffeeshop. In Amsterdam, a coffeshop isn’t like your local Starbucks. This is where you’d go if you wanted something to mildly alter you mind. At places like The Bulldog, in the bar, you can’t smoke but in the coffeeshop you can’t drink beer or liquor.

We just sat out in front of The Bulldog and watched the people. Tomorrow our second big square to fill here in Amsterdam, Heineken.

So we got something to eat and then walked to another bar that we’ve enjoyed in the past. Twenty-five years ago this place was The Hard Rock Cafe; not part of the big international corporate restaurant/bar. Apparently, the big corporate guys finally won out because now it’s called Rock Planet.

Rock Planet or Hard Rock, it’s pretty much the same; old rock music and rock videos. Still an enjoyable place to have a couple beers.

This place is right next door to the Rock Planet. Everything the smart partier needs.

Next day after breakfast we’re on our way to catch the tram to Heineken. Here are a couple obligatory pictures. The Central train station and bikes; very smart photography, one picture two squares filled.

Skinny Amsterdam buildings, bikes and canal; three in one.

Here’s something you don’t see very oftern.

Just got off the tram and walking to Heineken. Beer is no longer brewed on this site. Some of these buildings date back to 1867 when the original Heineken brewery was built and continued operations here until 1988. Today, Heineken’s main brewery is on the outskirts of Amsterdam.

This old brewery and tour is now called The Heineken Experience.

Luckily, Jeff had bought tickets on line so while the 150 people in line waited to buy their tickets we just walked in were able to do the tour ahead of the crowd.

Jeff at The Heineken Experience.

Every brewery tour has one, the explanation of the four main ingrediants of beer; water, malted grain, hops and yeast.

Now we're in the old brewery.

Heineken’s old, huge copper brewery vats.

This was a nice touch, a vat of cooking wort. Let’s you get the smell of the process . . .

. . . and see what it looks like.

When we stopped for the first tasting they had a host that explained the proper way to drink beer. DUH!! After that explanation Jeff was asked to demonstrate. No problem!

Lots of interactive stuff in The Heineken Experience. Here I’m creating a Heineken music video.

Jeff on a Heineken delivery bike.

The Heineken experience is done, souvenirs bought.

After dumping off our accumulated souvenirs at the hotel we wanted to visit a couple traditional Dutch bars. This is Arendsnest (Eagle Nest) which only serves beers brewed in The Netherlands.

At Arendsnest we sat outside on the edge of the canal and watched the tour boats pass by. Here we sampled two pilsner beers Neubourg and Hertog Jan.

Then we went inside to see what Arendsnest looked like and it was very nice; light wood, copper bar fixtures and crystal lights.

Inside we tried a Nouvelle Blond, very hoppy, and St. Christoffel, a cloudy pilsner.

Another obligatory picture of skinny Amsterdam buildings.  At the top of the middle and right building you can see a beam sticking out of the building.  Because the steps in these buildings are too narrow and too steep they attach a rope and pulley to these beams so that when folks move in or out they can hoist boxes and furniture to and from the windows. 

Another thing that Amsterdam is well known for is their Frites with mayonnaise. Man, that little guy makes me hungry.

Luckily here's one of Amsterdam's best Frites production lines.

Oh yeah!!! That is going to hit the spot.

Second bar we wanted to visit was In De Wildman.  Really nothing special other than a nice place to sit outside and watch people go by.

And did we drink In De Wildman?  A Jever and a Westmalle; a German beer and a Belgium Trappist beer.

Supposedly, as of 1 September tourist were no longer going to be allowed to purchase marijuana in the Amsterdam coffeehouses. So we figured we'd investigate. We're just south of the city's famous red light district at another, and the original, Bulldog. The new law, implemented by the national government, which businesses and local politicians in Amsterdam are not happy about, requires all coffeehouses to be private clubs. Each coffeehouse is allowed 2500 card-carrying members and only members can purchase pot. Those members are expected to very quickly become local folks from Amsterdam which means tourists will not be able to either become members of a coffeehouse or buy marijuana.

So now we're in The Bulldog coffeehouse. This is their selection of marijuana and hash and the description of the taste and type of buzz it provides.

Here's the price list of the marijuana and hash that they sell at The Bulldog. You can see the maximum they can sell to any one person is 5 grams. An ounce is 28 grams, so you can see that the top marijuana on this list, Candy Kush, costs 12 Euro for 1/28 of an ounce.
Strictly investigating. This is 1.5 grams of the White Widow. They were very nice in The Bulldog. Showed it to us, let us smell it and they would have sold it to us too. They told us implementation of the new law has been delayed so that the mayor of Amsterdam can hopefully have the entire issue readdressed.

Done with our little investigation we walked into the red light district. This is the sign outside of just one of the many businesses in this area.

These red light windows are where scantily clad and, for the most part, quite pretty women advertise their trade. Interestingly, in this building to the right of the red lights are very nice and probably quite expensive apartments. Seems like kind of a strange place to live with hookers right next door every night of the year.  Most of the red light district is a series of narrow streets and alleys with these women of the night just a couple feet away behind glass doors trying to entice men, women, and couples into their little working areas just behind them.

Well, we made it back home and Jeff is going to model his souvenirs. A very nice green hat from Heineken.

A very nice blue hat from The Bulldog.
Well, I'm sure those hats were quite anticlimactic.  Amsterdam, like always, is great fun and there's so much to do and see.  We're quite happy that we made the drive and finally visited the Van Gogh Museum and Heineken brewery. Over the next couple weeks the really big fests will be here, Bad Durkheim's Wurstmarkt and Munich's Oktoberfest. Can't wait!!