It’s only in front of the easel while painting that I feel a little of life
— Vincent Van Gogh

I left Amsterdam with a new appreciation for artists and writers—specifically, Anne Frank and Vincent Van Gogh, whom I owe my inspiration to this past weekend. If you haven’t been yet to Amsterdam, here are the four #basic touristy things I did, yet loved and treasured every second.

  1. Cruise Canal

    This is where I learned that about 60,000 bikes are stolen each year in Amsterdam, and saw the white bridge that was used in the James Bond movie, “Diamonds Are Forever.” There’s about 250 bridges in Amsterdam, and many, many, many bikes. The houses that lined the streets had gables and pulleys at the top, which were used for the residents in the top floor to move their bulky furniture. I instantly imagined a sofa and a washing machine being hoisted to the top

    We passed a quaint park on our canal cruise. Lush green grass and puffy coated doggies were sitting with their owners casually next to a cement statue. The sunlight danced on the tip of the water, while bikes above the canal waited patiently for their owners.

  2. The Heineken Experience

    For someone who doesn’t like beer, I thoroughly enjoyed the interactive exhibits. Not to mention the vibrant and energizing bar at the end. You get two free beers with your tour, with interactions through the entire museum, if that’s what I can call it, and lots of great picture moments. For me personally, I was more intrigued by the Van Gogh & Anne Frank House, yet my friend Kenzee said she loved the Heineken Experience more. She enjoys beer and learning about the history so she was fascinated by the entirety of the tour. So all in all, it really depends what your interests are but nonetheless I enjoyed myself.

  3. The Van Gogh Museum

    Standing in the presence of Van Gogh’s, Boulevard de Clichy, I was able to feel and see his brushstrokes up close. It’s if I could see the movements of his wrist, gripping his brushes, twisting and turning with each brisk stoke. His color palette of dull pastels in this specific piece, were a mixture of dull blues, purples, burnt orange, and some greens. His complementary colors were in full effect. Written on the wall in one of the rooms, “People say that it’s difficult to know oneself - but it’s not easy to paint oneself either,” quoted by Van Gogh, and i stood absorbing his words for a minute. Based on his paintings, it was intriguing to see his progression of his mental illness in his work. His paintings would get more darker through his years, with the exception of his cherry blossoms that he painted for his newborn nephew.

    Sitting in the middle of the room, there was a group of little students with their teacher and a Van Gogh puppet. It was easy to infer she was teaching the work of this great artist. My smile grew, as they spoke in another language, absorbing information about an artist and culture that is still alive and breathing—and handed down to another generation after 100 years.

    I stood in the middle of many renowned works of art with utmost respect for a man who created such depth with his art for people to enjoy, not just himself. He used his art as an outlet for his personal trials and each painting takes us on his journey through life. Through his mental breakdowns, not to mention slicing off his own ear, he reverts back to art no matter the circumstance. Until his last breath, he was pursuing what he adorned, and I have nothing but admirable respect for that. My only wish is that he would’ve been able to know the impact he would have on many artists years later, including myself. My eyes glossed over a bit and I slowly walked from painting to painting, with chills running down my spine, pondering life as we know it without Vincent’s renowned paintings.

    Last but not least:

  4. The Anne Frank House

    My brain doesn’t have the capacity to fathom the entirety of our universe. Just as it is hard to fathom the millions of lives that were taken during the holocaust. I saved this for last as it was the most thought provoking experience. As I stood in Anne Frank’s room, where scribbled her life on paper, breathed, and hid for more than two years in the secret annex, it was difficult for me to resonate the significance of that moment. One really can’t describe being in the presence of historical building that held such hope, life, despair, and loss.

    As we were walking through their bathroom, which the members of the secret annex weren’t allowed to use during the day due to the running water that would give them away, I caught a glance in the mirror. The same mirror a 14 year old Jew looked into. A Jew who didn’t get to grow up to be 21, my current age.

    While Anne died in a concentration camp, she wasn’t the only Jew with dreams and aspirations and hopes of freedom. It makes me wonder, how many girls wrote their stories as well, but we’re never given the chance to share their voice as it was stripped away. At the end of the museum, there was a display of the books that were translated in 60 languages. The display held physical books, but also displayed the profound impact her words had; her boldness, frankness, and courage. In the gift shop there were tiny little diaries. They were for people to write their own stories. It hit me again just like Van Gogh—Anne didn’t know the impact she would have. She left this earth unknowing of her courage and influence to upcoming generations.

    I walked out of the museum to fresh air and a beautiful scene, lights reflecting on the water with the boats silently rocking. I sat on the curb reflecting and absorbing and giving those lives lost the respect they deserve. I realized I so easily entered and left that house but Anne frank and her family didn’t have that luxury and we’re not given that simple privilege of sunlight or fresh air.

My heart was heavy, leaving the museum, but I left with a newfound purpose to instill in others, the same encouragement and passion both artists had instilled in me. Just as Van Gogh and Frank used their passions as their outlets to the hardships of the world, I hope this reminds you to use your passions as well.

PS: Janine and I stumbled upon a restaurant named, Rakang. A local was having a smoke outside and tells us, “best tai I’ve ever had.” To which we respond, “down” and head inside for the best chicken pad Thai I’ve ever had. If you ever find yourself in Amsterdam, I highly recommend. Cheers!