Medieval Treasures and Night Watch Crowds – Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

It would be hard- though not impossible- to be in  Amsterdam and not visit one of the many amazing museums located there. For me, the struggle was real when it came to deciding between museums like the Ann Frank House, The Van Gogh Museum, and even the rather esoteric Museum of Bags and Purses. Thankfully this heartbreaker of a decision is something tour guides are well aware of and during the morning walking tour I took the guide our group had helpfully suggested that if you were pressed for time and you really could only visit one museum, the best choice would be the Rijksmuseum.

Reasons why this would be your best bet? It’s the largest art museum in the country (and one of the most visited), has a total collection of 1 million objects that span the years 1200 to 2000 – 8000 of which are on display to the public- and it even has three paintings by Van Gogh so that you won’t completely miss out on the experience of seeing one of his paintings here even if you can’t make it to the Van Gogh museum. The museums collection is focused on arts, crafts and history- which made it all that more fantastic for me because while I like art museums, wandering hall after hall of paintings can lose it’s appeal for me after a while. That being said, plunk me down among armoire, cabinets, tapestries and other objects with historical context, add in piles of documents/bank notes and throw in some letters and you’ve got my attention for probably an eternity. That stuff is like cat nip to me and this museum not only had it in spades but its also one of the most beautiful buildings i’ve ever been in.

Almost inadvertently, I started out in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (1100-1600) section, on the ground floor 0 and spent a really peaceful hour slowly perusing the objects on display at my leisure. As you can probably tell from the photos, very few people lingered in this section- though to be fair,  few areas of the museum were really crowded, probably because it was around 1pm on a weekday when I visited. Not really having much of an idea of where I wanted to go next I decided to skip the first floor for the time being and head to the second floor, where the much lauded Night Watch is located.

I found the crowds here in the Gallery of Honor and more specifically in the Night Watch Gallery . I won’t say the Night Watch isn’t spectacular to behold in person, but it’s a bit like the Grand Canyon in the sense that no matter how magnificent it is in person, it’s been well and truly hyped up to an almost dizzying degree so that it can’t quite match up to what you have pictured in your head. The presentation though, thats unexpected and truly breathtaking.

An inside joke for friends- of course I love any depiction of Caesar getting stabbed as the final assignment in the worlds worst/best group project

I eventually finished up in this part of the museum, took a quick break on one of the many cushy benches scattered around and made my way to the 17th Century hall, passing through theThe Great Hall which I didn’t take any photos of, because honestly only video can really do justice to how amazing that hall is. Hopefully I can get around to putting together a video compilation of the trip that will include that clip but for now, just take my word on it, it’s unexpected and just that close to heavenly.

~m

Among Cold Marble Stares and Brightly Coloured Walls- Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh

The day started with a cluttered bed in a beautiful hotel room on the quiet and calm outskirts of Edinburgh… and the realization I had lost one of my credit cards somewhere on the flight from Paris. One of my only two cards, as I had left the others at home because yes, you guessed it, I didn’t want to risk losing them. Sometimes my life is a quiet riot of irony. So after turning my luggage inside out and rummaging through every crevice possible, I called my bf (who turned out to be the real MVP of this trip) and we came up with a plan to overnight my other cards to Amsterdam. After that I booked a taxi to actually go and begin my day, by meeting up with my penpal-turned-good-friend Rob who had taken a train up from Manchester to meet up with me in Edinburgh.

After an impromptu stop to exchange some euros for pounds we found ourselves outside the The Scottish National Gallery . If you’ve followed this blog at all over the last few trips i’ve taken, you’ll know that if there’s a museum around even just a teensy bit interesting, i’m there.

We checked out the Northern Renaissance and Gothic Renaissance exhibition first, though separately because Rob said he liked to go at his own pace. Considering I was photographing every other piece on exhibit it was probably for the best, though I did rather miss the chance of having someone to enjoy the descriptive placards with- I think this exhibition was my favorite both for the aesthetics and the inadvertently humorous stories being told through the scenes on display. Once done there, we headed back down to the first level to pursue the rest of the artwork on display.

As you can see from these photos, the crowds were minimal even though it was a late Saturday morning. The atmosphere was serene and there were whole rooms where it was just me peering up at the gigantic paintings, the stoic statues beside them looking down like silent guardians. These two paintings above are part of the “Constable & McTaggart: A Meeting of Two Masterpieces ” exhibit and are even more beautiful and awe inspiring in person.

The Rococo to Revolution section was a real treat for me to wander, featuring some personal favorites like The Campbell Sisters dancing a Waltz (1st photo, statue on the right) by Lorenzo Bartolini and The Ladies Waldegrave by Sir Joshua Reynolds (3rd photo, lower left) . The last photo is from the Seventeenth – Nineteenth Century Scottish Art exhibit.

Even knowing I would be heading to Amsterdam next, I still spent a goodly amount of time in the Dutch and Flemish Art section. Two other personal favorites here, Flower Still Life with Bird’s Nest  by Jan van Huysum (2nd photo)  and  A Singing Practice by Gerard ter Borch(last photo) . 

We met back up near the front after which I made a dash into the giftshop (ok to be perfectly honest I stopped in at two giftshops here because I have no impulse control) and then we headed back outside to seek the next adventure, which turned out to be a walk towards a market he was interested in visiting, lunch and caffeine for me and then a walk right back to where we had started to go visit the National Museum of Scotland.

~m