I spent last Friday afternoon in the city of.... AMSTERDAM.
Most of us were pretty exhausted from all of our traveling that we had been doing the past few weeks, and so we decided to stay in Maastricht for the weekend and take a day trip to Amsterdam on Friday. It's only a two and half hour train ride away, which is not too bad all. So Friday morning, over a dozen of us Baylor students found ourselves waiting at the train station in Maastricht, anxious and excited for our day in Amsterdam.
We arrived at this fancy shmancy train station in Amsterdam around lunch time:
After walking to the main city square, we discovered that there was a Sand Futbol tournament going on. So we sat and ate our packed lunches while we watched these boys play some futbol.
And, in case you didn't already know, they take that futbol SERIOUSLY over here.
However, I had never seen Sand Futbol before, and it looked really painful. These kids were getting sand in their eyes and ears and they play barefoot without shin guards or anything, so i'm sure most of these boys had bruises the next day. But, hey, it was really entertaining to watch.
This futbol field looked temporary though and so we decided that Amsterdam was probably hosting this tournament in preparation for the upcoming Euro Cup, that is currently happening over here (I'm sure you ALL have been keeping up with that tournament, right???). Well, if you ever get the chance to watch the tournament this month, cheer for Holland's Flying Dutchman!
Holland apparently isn't really that good at futbol, but there is definitely some strong support for their team. For example, this is a street I pass on my way to class every day....
Holland's futbol team's color is orange, in case you can't tell....
Anyway, back to Amsterdam.....
After eating lunch, we made our way to the historic Anne Frank house. Her house in which she hid and wrote her diary had been converted into a museum, which was extremely well done. If you're ever in the area, I highly recommend going through it (but get your tickets ahead of time!). It was a very powerful and emotional tour of her home and really makes you think and reflect. I hadn't read the diary since 8th grade but, after going through the museum, I would love to read it again. I think we all need the occasional reminder that our lives, no matter how short or terrible, can still be significant. And it is how we respond to difficulties in world that changes the world.
How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
After completing the tour at Anne Frank's house, we decided to just wander and see the city a bit. I think that simply walking through a city is the best way to get an accurate impression of the culture and city. And, during our walk, I basically decided I didn't really like it. Don't get me wrong, the architecture there is awesome and I really liked the canals running through the city. But, even though the buildings were incredible, they looked they needed a good washing. Basically, Overall, I felt like the city was dirty and polluted. I felt like most everyone there was smoking something, which made it difficult to catch a break of fresh air. And I like breathing. And so I probably wouldn't ever move to Amsterdam.
here is a lot of darkness there and, in a way, it's important to be aware of it. It really makes you think. And pray. Which I found myself doing a lot. We all have heard about the Red Light District a lot, but to actually be there and see it, I realized how sad it really is and how much hope and prayer that city needs.
At the end of the day, I ended up going to the Van Gogh Museum. Van Gogh is one of the most famous Dutch artists and I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to see his paintings! The museum was four floors and took a couple of hours for me to walk through, but I loved it! We've all seen his paintings in our textbooks and on posters, but it is so incredibly humbling to stand in front of the real thing. I'm not much of an art expert, but I could definitely appreciate his work.
Van Gogh, like Anne Frank, had a rough life and was never granted the honor that he deserved during his lifetime. But, even amidst his tragic life, he produced art that not only changed the art world but has affected generations.
Here are a few of my personal favorite works of his that I got to see in person:
We went straight to the train station after the museum. I will be back in Amsterdam in a few weeks with my Dutch Art History class, and I'm looking forward to seeing the city again.
I really don't want this blog post to give Amsterdam a bad reputation. It is a city worth seeing. I really enjoyed learning about all of the history that took place there. And even though, on the surface, I perceived the city as a very polluted and dark place, I was able to find important and interesting things to do in the city, I just had to look around for them.
And, as I was thinking about it on the two and half hour train ride back to Maastricht, life is a lot like that sometimes. Life might appear hopeless and tragic, like it did to Anne Frank. Or you may feel insignificant and misunderstood, like Van Gogh. And you may feel surrounded by darkness and sadness, like I did while walking through the streets of Amsterdam. But there is always, always, always hope. We just have to go looking for it sometimes.
But as for me, I will always have hope.