I Heart Amsterdam

I Heart Amsterdam

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision

Today we had a field trip to a city called Hilversum, a short train ride away from Amsterdam, to take a tour of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (NiSV).
Here is their website (http://instituut.beeldengeluid.nl/index.aspx?ChapterID=8532).
The NiSV is the home of the national broadcasting archives and houses the largest audio-visual archives in all of Europe! While this may sound impressive, take a look at what the actual facility looks like....

Our group was divided into two groups and we then had a private tour of the facility. It is hard to not have chills when walking down the halls of this place, and this is not only because it is below ground for the archives requires a colder temperature for storage life, but because of the ingenious design.

After our tours we then had a lecture by Roelant Ordelman on a project he is working on involving incorporating digitizing audio and aspects of social tagging. One problem he faces in his work is the disparity of user and technology and he is hoping to fix this by making social tagging a sort of community tagging. In doing this, he is bringing together the wisdom of unnamed experts and thus capturing relevant data and linking this with archival data at NiSV. Simply awesome! One other little tidbit was the Rock N Roll Multimedia Project where viewers tag their favorite artists and in doing so you create a network of clips that you can search for.

Anyway, this trip was simply incredible. Here are some more photos of that day...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Moonlit Run

I am fortunate to have great roommates here at the Bicycle Hotel. They are kind, nice, understanding, and respectful. Here is the BUT, one of them snores more than I can handle. Oh well. Two day into the trip and I still haven’t slept.

Still dark and unsure what time it was I decided I should go on a run to Vondelpark, a “sprawling equivalent to New York’s Central Park” as the Netherlands guidebook states. After getting into my running shoes, my Vibram’s Fiverfingers, I noticed it was only 5am. Why bother just lying there staring at the ceiling so out I went…

It was still very dark and very quiet. There is nothing like exploring a city when the city is still asleep. You see things a little differently this way. No hustle and bustle, no one to get in your way. I turned my headphones on and listened to Gayngs songs.

Upon arrival to the park, which is by the Museum Center or Musuemplein, where you would find the Van Gogh and the Rijsmuseum, Massive Attacks ‘Mezzanine’ began to play. I think this was the perfect soundtrack for the dark and eerie morning, for the park was empty and lit only by lamps with the fountains still turned off sleeping like the rest of Amsterdam. The moon was my flashlight.

The park is filled with ponds and was intended to be an ideal place for strolling and riding bicycles and picnicking all set in an urban area. It does exactly that. All in all I ran about 6 miles, zigzagging my way around the park. I saw maybe six other runners and a handful of cyclist casually riding by.

Running is the perfect time for reflection and I have done some of my best thinking during the many hours I have spent on various trails. Here in Amsterdam at Vondelpark, this is no exception. I often run after lectures for it helps me evaluate them more clearly. I have heard that you tend to remember things better if you exercise. Actually I heard this from John Medina’s book Brain Rules where one of the rules is that “Exercise Improves Cognition.” So that’s what I do and I have found that this works for me.

So I spent much of this run thinking about our lecture from Paul Wouters of Virtual Knowledge Studio (http://virtualknowledgestudio.nl/). His lecture titled ‘E-Research: Scope and Implications’ brought up several interesting points about information research but the one in particular that stood out to me most was this question “Is data being simplified too much?” He went to also ask if the data deluge makes the scientific method obsolete. These are interesting points to ponder over and I find myself still thinking about them each day as I deal with information theories and concepts. Are we simplifying data too much? Is this helping or hindering us?

All in all my moonlit run was an amazing experience that I would not have done on my own in such a way. Really though, I owe it all to my roommates snoring and my inability to tune it out. Thanks Karl. I owe you one. I really mean that too.

PS. Here is the song that started playing when I entered the park at 5:15 am with only the moon lighting my way. Beautiful.

Where the 'I amsterdam' photo is from

08/25/2010 Wednesday…

Greta and I set off for the Van Gogh Museum after lecture this afternoon. We were determined to find out what exactly this Museum Card thing was and hopefully see this Dutch master. Apparently for 39 Euros, or $44 US, the Museum Card, MC, is a free pass into over 400 different museums all over the Netherlands. I am a museum nerd; I love going to them and I love going often. The thing is, however, is that I like to go for only snippets of time, maybe 2 hours here, 3 hours there, and never for a full day. The idea of a full day is too overwhelming and I would be likely to suffer a form of information overload. Fortunately for me I found out that Greta is the same way, so Museum buddies we quickly became.

We decided to take the Tram to the park area called Museumplein. It is called this is because not only is the Van Gogh Museum there but also the Rijksmuseum and Stedelijk Museum and the Concertgebouw. On the Tram Greta was approached by an older Israeli couple, tourists just like ourselves, who were headed to the Van Gogh Museum and needed help finding it. They weren’t sure where they were in relation to the museum. Amsterdam is a very confusing city to tourist because of the narrow roads, long long street names, and canals. Luckily, the Israeli couple asked the perfect people because that’s where we were headed, plus we are “Information Professionals” :) Before our eyes our group of two just doubled into four.

I walked side by side with the woman as we neared the Museumplein, talking to her about my time spent in Israel. I had traveled there for two weeks, going all over the country one summer back in high school. It was nice hearing her talk about what it is like there now, versus my time there over ten years ago. Talking to her made me want to go back. We finally said goodbye to our new Israeli friends and parted ways as we hit the Museumplein, Greta and I going left while they went right. The park center was enormous and there were people setting up for some big festival.

We made our way into the museum and wandered for a few hours inside. Sadly, you are not allowed to take photos. The museum was completely packed and it was hard to see some painting up close, but even still, I was amazed at just what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe I was seeing the real paintings of Van Gogh, paintings I studied while an Undergrad in Art History classes and paintings you see on friends’ living room walls or journals.

A few hours later, once our thirst for Van Gogh was satiated, we made our way to the gift shop and found some little gifts. I ran into the Israeli couple again, saying a quick hello and then we made our way out to the park to decompress. Housed in the east side of the Museumplein was this IAMSTERDAM sign. I knew we had to get some photos of it and with it and off we went…So there you go.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Koffiehuis Van Den Volksbond

First group dinner at Koffiehuis Van Den Volksbond, Amsterdam.


We had our first group dinner at this wonderful place off of Kadijksplein. We took the tram to Amsterdam Centraal and snaked our way to the restaurant.

The food here was incredible! My starter was the green salad with baked goat cheese. This was followed by Haas Sirloin Steak with whiskey-green pepper sauce and fried potatoes and then several desserts, mine being the Pistachio ijsparfait (basically Pistachio ice cream).

Through the cooperation of friends around me, we made great use of the ‘I’ll share my dish if you share yours’ technique and so I tried the risotto. It was incredibly flavorful and done perfectly. Here are some photos!

We spent almost 3 hours eating and talking. Taking time to enjoy your meal and the company with you is a very Dutch way of doing things. There is no rush to clear the tables and the check is not forced at you as is the way in the States. We arrived in the sunlight and found ourselves leaving in the moonlight.

With my belly full of wonderful food and my mind full of new ideas and overloaded trying to take everything in, I found myself too wired for bed, even though at this point it was 11pm. Last night I slept better but not soundly, but I think tonight will be different.

One last thing before I go...my room at the Bicycle Hotel is on the top floor, the 4th floor, up the steepest and most narrow stairs I have ever witnessed. The upside to being on the top floor is my spectacular view of the city street below. I will leave you with this shot from my window I took yesterday afternoon, once the rain abated.

08/24/10, Tuesday, Albert Cuyp Straat Market

@ ,,het koffiehuis’’

I walked into the café and the man at the counter asked if I wanted espresso, apparently remembering me from my previous visit. He already knows what I like, after just one day. The man is very much a Marina type of guy-somewhat reminiscent to the Erik the Viking Vampire of True Blood fame: tall, thin, and mysterious, also very much European.

After my espresso yesterday morning I walked back to the hotel in the downpour. It rained hard for the next few hours, really hard in fact, soaking everything and everyone. I had to take a warm shower and change when I got back to the Bicycle Hotel.

Breakfast each morning is provided for us at the Bicycle Hotel: bread-white or brown- cheeses and salami and also a plethora of spreads, from their version of Nutella to apple spreads and jams and even some chocolate sprinkles. There is also cereal, but just no fruit to be seen. I may stop at the grocery store today and pick some up.

We were planning to have lecture in this park next to the hotel. It is called Sarphatipark. Sadly the rain wasn’t letting up.

We had class in the lobby’s hotel instead. After breakfast and having re-charged with a make-shift power nap before lecture, we went on our own way. We had a group dinner at the Koffiehuis Van Den Volksbond (http://www.koffiehuisvandenvolksbond.nl/) at 6pm so we were set loose. I used the time to go off on my own and further explore-going to the Albert Cuyp Market hoping to find some gifts, postcards, and maybe some fabrics and clothes.

After finding some decent postcards, I wandered around looking for a nice place to write. It was no longer raining but the wind was in full force, narrowing my search for indoor coziness. Eventually I found a bar (mistakenly with no food service) that was perfect. The bartender was almost 70 (like Nick from Nick’s Bar in Gilbert, MN) and his 5 customers were all old men. I felt right at home. I ordered an Amstel and found a spot to do my writing.

One of the patrons took a liking to me and was very chatty. The only problem is that I don’t speak any Dutch. He had a very heavy accent and spoke only a few words of English. Once he realized I had no idea what he was saying to me, we mostly communicated through the use of gestures. He was simply fascinated with my handwriting, and in particular, the fact that I wrote left-handed. He was also curious to whom I was writing these postcards to. “Momma, Sista, Broother, Fawther” he kept repeating to me, as if he was practicing how to say these words.

I tried asking him about Genever (Dutch Gin made with Juniper berries) but he didn’t understand. I showed him the word, Genever, in my book, hoping he would recognize it, but that was of no help either. He then took my travel book, Lonely Planet Netherlands, and then walked over to the menu trying to match up the words in my book with the words on the menu. Two other men got up and joined in, trying to make sense of what I was looking for.

It was interesting that no one spoke English and I suspect this is due to their age because just about everyone else I had met tended to be a lot younger and spoke it well. In the end, we all determined there was no Genever to be found there. Maybe I will find some later tonight. After writing my 10 postcards I set out to mail them. It takes .93 Euros to mail a postcard and is worth every coin.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Morning stroll

08/23/2010 Monday Albert Cuypstr. Albert Cuyp Market 7:15am Market yet to open. @ ,,het koffiehuis’’

So I am up. Early….very early…

I went to Stumptown Coffee but it wasn’t open until later, so I settled for a photo.

I settled here at ,,het koffiehuis’’ to have a morning espresso and I have a feeling this is where I may find myself most mornings.
Maren made a wonderful discovery while browsing through iAmsterdam.com (http://www.iamsterdam.com/), the Tall Boat Festival!

There were more boats than I could count, but the truly impressive ones were the old wooden sailing boats, some of which they allowed you to walk on। To cap off the night there was a gigantic fireworks display, so many in fact and so loud that they terrified a little girl. Eventually you couldn’t see the fireworks explode anymore due to the clouds of smoke. To add to that, the smoke began to engulf the huge bay and we were also engulfed. I was particularly impressed with just how many people there were. Also everyone was drinking and walking along the canal-which made me a little thirsty- only adding to my hunger issue. Maren, Greta, Maggie, Moritz (her sweet) and I made our way along the canal and eventually found a place for food and beer. I had a bratwurst with grilled onions, spicy ketchup and a dollop of mayo. Oh, plus a Heineken.

It was nice looking back on my first day. Weird there is so much ahead of me. So now I just sit here, enjoying my espresso with sugar, watching the rain-RAIN-fall hoping it will let up since I am wearing sandals. So yeah it is raining pretty hard right now but I could care less. I am in Amsterdam!

Later after breakfast at 8am at the Bicycle Hotel, we will get our bikes. Then we have a lecture from 10-1pm and then who knows. So much to do!

I am impressed with the way in which people ride bikes here. On bike racks people sit sideways. Little kids strapped on the front and back sometimes. Total control. NO helmets-love it! Average speed seems around 5 mph. Super casual with bells on every bike. Also there are two locks on each bike, one built into the rear wheel and one chain for the front wheel and frame in which to attach to a pole. OK time to go back to BH for breakfast. Still pouring.

I may have to change when I get back home!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

My first day in Amsterdam (08/22/2010)

I flew into Amsterdam only a few hours ago and haven't really slept. It is about 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I went out looking for some coffee to tide me over and stumbled into Coffee Company on Govert Flinck Straat. I walked in and they are playing She & Him, one of my current favorite records and I feel like I haven't really even left the States. The song was 'You Really Got A Hold On Me" and it was quite interesting hearing American music on the radio. I figured I would be inundated with Dutch, that Dutch would be everywhere and used in every conversation, and in some cases this is true, but so far all the music I have heard has been in English. I wonder just how much of this culture is bilingual???
After ordering my small Americano for 2 Euros 30, I sat down to people watch. I think I will be spending a lot of time on this street, 1e Van Der Helst Straat, because there are cafe's everywhere and people are sitting enjoying themselves chatting.
More to come later. For now here is that song. Oh Zooey and M. Ward.

My arrival in Amsterdam and the Bicycle Hotel