Ella Smullen: Adventures in Amsterdam–Flying Saucer or Giant Wheel of Cheese?

Photo: Sarah Beane

It’s 9:20 pm on the eve of the final concert in the Royal Concertgebouw. Although I’m sure most of us are focusing on the day ahead, it’s also worthwhile to remember what we did during our adventure in Amsterdam. Although our groups were split up for most of the day, we all enjoyed a walking tour of the city, visited the Anne Frank House, explored the Vincent Van Gogh Museum, and concluded the day with a dinner cruise (dining on pizza and ice cream).

My group began our day at the Anne Frank House. As we entered the sleek, modern foyer of the museum, it was difficult to imagine the scenes that had transpired within those walls less than 80 years ago. The families living within the cramped, now empty walls of the secret annex for over two years left few reminders of their presence following the raid on their home. However, markings on a wall in the largest room of the house are one reminder–they mark the height of the Frank girls during their time in hiding, with Anne growing 13 cm and Margot 1. Seeing those familiar etchings on the wall was one of the most remarkable moments of my experience, reminding me that our visit to the museum was both a sobering journey into the lives of a Jewish family during World War 2 and a message for the future.

After our visit, we walked the streets of Amsterdam. We quickly discovered that although the horses of Brugge were gone, the kamikaze bikers remained. There was a new enemy as well–the wind. We met up for our walking tour near a cheese shop that advertised its wares with a giant wheel of cheese. This excellent marketing strategy was, unfortunately, unfit for the wind. The cheese took off, rolling and flying across the square while our group stood, helpless. Luckily, an employee managed to wrangle the wheel back to the store, choosing this time to keep it inside the window.

After the walking tour (of which I retained much more than the ones in Belgium, presumably because I had more than 3 hours of sleep in my system), we visited the Van Gogh Museum. It was another incredibly genuine experience. Although we only had a couple hours, we were able to explore much of the museum. Van Gogh spoke at length about art and its role in his life in journal entries and letters that were affixed to walls throughout the exhibits. Although his medium might have been different, his use of art as a necessary form of self expression and a method of persevering through difficult times (themes that were emphasized in the museum) resonated with me–we have the power to do the same thing as musicians.

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