Recap of My Second Visit to Amsterdam

I first visited Amsterdam in 2010 and did most of the “big sights” then. This time, I revisited some favorites and discovered some new ones. My photo album.

Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder (Our Lord in the Attic Museum). Grade: A. It always astonishes me that during the “Alteration” (the Dutch name for the Reformation), Catholicism was more illegal than Judaism. However, in typical Dutch fashion, it was OK to practice Catholicism so long as you did it in your home. This prompted wealthy Catholics to build churches inside their homes. The Our Lord in the Attic Museum represents a well-preserved house church. The tour took about an hour and answered all of my questions. Recommended.

Dutch Resistance Museum. Grade: A. The Dutch responses to Nazi occupation were “complicated.” This museum explains in detail why and how it was complicated. It provided a big-picture review of the situation (the red buttons and the videos) along with dozens of individual stories representing many subcommunities of the Dutch population (often with detailed census counts), including those whose stories are often overlooked. You could do the big-picture highlights in an hour, but I spent over 2 hours diving deeper into the individual stories. The museum answered many of my questions, but I had some remaining. Why did the Dutch protest the Nazi’s initial attacks on the Jews, only to largely acquiesce; but when the Nazis later requisitioned all young Dutch males, the population fought back much harder? Why were the Nazis unable to control the input materials needed for the resistance, such as cameras, film, and paper? Why did the Dutch people and government do so little to help the Holocaust survivors who returned home? Overall, this wasn’t necessarily a fun museum to visit, but it accomplished its goals of telling many sides of a complicated story.

Portuguese Synagogue. Grade: A. I had previously visited the Jewish Museum, which I also recommend, but this time I had a personal tour guide through the Portuguese Synagogue. It was at one point the largest synagogue in the world, and it influenced several other Portuguese Jewish communities throughout the globe. The synagogue itself wasn’t particularly ostentatious, but it remains an impressive sight nonetheless, and the treasure room further demonstrates the community’s wealth and power. 2 hours was a perfect amount of time to appreciate the synagogue, the historic Portuguese Jewish community in Amsterdam, and the tiny community of Jews still using the facilities.

Tropenmuseum. Grade: skip it. I only went because they had a free admission day and I had a small window of time that made this museum a feasible option. At one point, I think the museum was supposed to examine the Dutch history of colonialism. That’s a topic that sorely needs more public accountability. However, this museum seems to have morphed into a general catchall about countries in the tropics…? I’m not sure what the museum’s agenda is any more. The exhibits made no sense to me.

Van Gogh Museum. Grade: A. Still one of my favorite museums in the world. The paintings are amazing, especially in person where it’s possible to see the true colors and dimensionality.

Rijksmuseum. Grade: A*. A tour de force through Dutch history and artistic accomplishment, including many paintings by Dutch old masters like Rembrandt. The asterisk is because I couldn’t stop contextualizing the items on display as the fruits of an economy built on colonialism and slavery, even those items that hadn’t been looted, so I felt some sadness throughout the experience.

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My vegan tour of Amsterdam included:

  • TerraZen. This Japanese-Caribbean fusion place is so legendary, it doesn’t even display its name on the exterior (just the word “VEGAN” on the window).
  • Vegan Junk Food Bar. It’s Instagram friendly with pink buns and purple sauces, but the flavors disappointed.
  • Golden Temple. Indian food, Dutch-ified.

I had some strikeouts on my vegan quests. De Patchka turned me away because they were already overwhelmed with orders. Mooshka was closed for remodeling.