Amsterdam Journal Day 2: It’s pronounced “Van Hoe-gh”

Did you know Van Gogh is pronounced “Van Hoe-gh?” Like, with as much phlegm at both ends as you can possibly muster? I didn’t know that until today.

We walked to the Van Gogh–pardon me–Van Hoe-gh Museum and I’m amazed we made it alive. The bikes are out of control in Amsterdam. Thousands of bike riders all zooming along, whipping past pedestrians and one another, staring at their phones, indifferent to traffic rules. It’s like L.A. traffic without the pollution.

They are NOT kidding.

We managed not to get run over and made it to the museum at opening time. Little travel tip – don’t go late to the Van Gogh museum. By the time we left around noon, the line to get in was absolutely ridiculous.

I hate to admit it, but overall I was a little disappointed in the museum. Not that the paintings aren’t great to see, but the museum itself is a little ho-hum. On top of that, it offers a stupid multi-media tour thing on smart phones which means 80% of the visitors stand around in zombie-like groups blocking the paintings but not looking at them. Instead, they’re looking at those blasted phone tours. Worse than this though? The merchandising. Museums need to keep the doors open of course, but I’d say they more than jumped the shark at the Van Gogh. Dog harnesses? Snack foods? Ugh.

Dog water tastes better out of a Starry Night bowl.

Who knew abject poverty could be so delicious?

Post-Van Hoe-gh, we took a waffle break at a little cafe in the park nearby. Fresh stroopwafel and a Belgian waffle with Nutella. Mm mm! Oh, btw, I learned just today that the Netherlands and Belgium were once a single country. Duh. Guess I should have paid attention in high school history class.

Our next stop was the House of Bols to go on a genever tour. Genever being the precursor of gin and a Dutch invention, it’s a pretty big deal in Amsterdam. At HoB you get to test your sense of taste and smell (smelling all the different Bols tinctures) and at the end you get a genever-based cocktail. Mine had little edible ball bearings in it.

Smells like a passion fruit baster.

Drinking tours seemed like a good idea after that, so we next walked to the Heineken Experience. We’d hoped it’d be like the Guinness Experience in Dublin, but it wasn’t. It was definitely related–probably created by the same exhibit company–but only distantly, sort of like a less-accomplished second cousin. There was no tour guide and you had to take yourself through the exhibits. A big chunk of those were sports-related too, since Heineken’s been a FIFA sponsor for 20 years. Snore.

We did get to continue testing our olfactory sensitivity there though, thanks to this one visitor who had the worst B.O.! Seriously, we had to keep dodging away from him whenever he’d come near because this dude reeked. How can you carry a cloud of stench that intense around you and not know it? Aside from that, the worst part of the experience came at the end. when we were supposed to get to try different kinds of Heineken, including rare types we’ve never seen, and all they offered us was….Heineken. Nick was seriously mad about that. He sulked for a good ten minutes.

Mad, mad, mad!

Lunch was several hours late by then, so we started back toward the hotel looking for some grub. We were too tired to be all that picky so we stopped at a little pancake place and had bacon and ham & cheese pancakes with this molasses-y syrup. Good stuff. The pancakes are kind of eggy like a crepe, and the syrup works well with the savory ingredients. That place proved another thing people everywhere have in common – hipster servers are always more interested in talking to each other than serving the customers.

Late afternoon, time for another nap!

We got back up and went out again around 8 o’clock to look for some dinner. Fortunately, this time of year there’s a lot of daylight left in the evening. It doesn’t really get dark until around 10, so we had plenty of time to find the perfect restaurant. Good thing too, because we did it again—drove ourselves nuts trying to find the ultimate dining experience. We even sat down in a little Italian place and then left when it seemed they would take too long/the service wasn’t great.

We walked and walked and finally I accidentally looked to my left down an alley and eureka! I spotted a brewery, the Winkel en Brouwerij de Prael. They had food too, so we ordered a flight of beers, a charcuterie platter with Dutch beer cheese balls, brown bread and sliced meat, then the house milk stout and double IPA.

Yay! Meat, fried cheese and beer!

Service was again uneven. The servers were friendly, but didn’t think to bring us napkins or utensils and we had to keep stopping them to ask for stuff. They also gave us the wrong check (much lower than ours) but we were too honest to take advantage of it.

Our last stop was a small bar on a corner with around eight tables and a six seater bar. A friendly old bartender poured us some genever (mine was some kind of fruit variety) and Nick a beer too, and we sat and soaked in the atmosphere for a little while before going back to the hotel.

Goooood stuff.

Comments (1) »

  • Ken says:

    Oh my gosh, you made me realize that it’s been 18 years since the time I visited Amsterdam. Like a whole person could have been born and gotten old enough to vote in that time. I bet I wouldn’t recognize a thing.

    I definitely remember visiting the Heineken museum and the Van Gogh museums, although as a 22 year old my expectations were much more easily satisfied (half an hour of free Heineken refills? Sold!)

    If you have time, don’t forget to visit the world’s first comic book store (probably)


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