After finishing meetings in Berlin on Wednesday, my colleague and I flew to Amsterdam for another series of meetings there. These meetings could not have been more different! The Berlin meetings were formal (in a conference room), highly contentious and underscored by deep distrust between the two parties, but the Amsterdam meetings were casual (in coffee shops), friendly and very collaborative.
The Amsterdam meetings were also blessedly short. When we scheduled them, our Dutch counterpart had forgotten that it was a holiday. He was gracious enough not to cancel the meeting, given that we'd made the effort to fly to Amsterdam specifically to see him, but he also recognized that all of us might be interested in having a free afternoon. So we covered the key points that would benefit the most from in-person discussions, and then we split.
I began by dragging my colleague to the Van Gogh museum. He's from Texas and this was his first time in Europe. Before the trip he had told me that he had no interest in exploring the towns, eating delicious food, or seeing art (one hour in a museum is all he could handle). Obviously my job was to bring this benighted soul into the fold, and I figured that Van Gogh would be a good way to do that: It's a small museum and focuses on telling the story of Van Gogh. You really can see a range of the artist's work and evolution over time. The exhibitions do a good job situating Van Gogh in art history, and I was able to add more commentary to help Steven connect. And the great thing is that he got it! He paid attention and started noticing things ("That harvest scene looks like where I went to school in Kansas"), then started having opinions ("I don't really like that outlining as much as when there's no outlining"), then asking questions ("But why is this important as art?"), and then finally making his own interpretations ("These paintings from late in life seem to show lots of sunsets, as if he knew he was on his way out"). When we left the museum he turned to me and thanked me for taking him; he said he had no idea art could be so interesting and cool. Warmed the cockles of my heart.
After that we parted ways. He wanted to find a windmill and some tulip fields; I wanted more art and food and city exploration.
|This is the street where our Dutch publisher lived. We met him at his house and then
went around the corner to a coffee shop to talk.
|Amsterdam's Museumplein -- a giant lawn surrounded by terrific museums
|We started with the Van Gogh museum.
We had to wait in line for about an hour before we could get in.
|The Rijksmuseum is next to the Van Gogh.
Here is were all the really great traditional Dutch art lives: Rembrandt, still life, etc.
|The Concertgebouw, where the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra plays.
Sadly, they didn't perform on the one night I was in town.
|Next best thing to a concert? Why, lunch in the concert hall's restaurant.
I had a quiche.
|One of the many canals lined with adorable, narrow canal houses.
|Frites! Because wandering through a foreign city is hard work.
(It's been so long since I had good Belgian frites --
I'd forgotten just how good they are!)
|Panoramic street view. From here I accidentally walked into the red light district... It was awkward.
|Amsterdam is easily the most bike-friendly city I've seen in Europe or North America.
They have dedicated bike lanes, where the traffic is heavier than in the car lanes.
And the bicycle parking lots are massive.
|Hidden garden glimpsed through an ivy-covered iron gate.
I love that they take this much care to make a beautiful garden.
After what felt like miles of walking, I needed a break but didn't want to go back to the hotel yet. My first instinct was to find a performance, but none of the orchestras, opera or ballet had a performance that night. So next best thing: Movies! I found a cinema downtown that was showing Pitch Perfect 2. I bought a ticket and had a great time watching that silly show with a bunch of chuckling Dutch fans.
Next morning it was time to come home. One quick flight from Amsterdam to Seattle, nonstop. We left at 10am and after 10 hours of flight landed at 10:50am. I love time travel like that!