John Cabot University- Rome, Italy
Major: Interdisciplinary Health Services
Let me tell you a little bit about my travels during my stay in sunny Italy! My weekends/down time is compromised of either one of two things: study or travel. When I’m not studying for my classes I usually have a weekend or day trip planned, most recently I went to Amsterdam for the weekend with my roommates.When the idea of Amsterdam was first brought up I thought it would be fun; I mean it’s kinda like the study abroad mecca, something that you HAVE to do when you study abroad. I expected it to be nothing more than a city of complete debauchery…I mean when I thought of Amsterdam little more than the red light district and the famous Amsterdam cafes (the ones that don’t sell coffee) came to mind.
Shortly after I arrived, I realized that I couldn’t have been more wrong about the city, for starters the architecture is absolutely gorgeous and isn’t anything like I’ve ever seen before…there are office buildings that were modeled to look like cruise ships! Within the heart of the city I felt as if I had walked into a children’s novel. I walked down cobblestone streets all lined with bikes and baskets of flowers. Bridges and canals are everywhere, it almost seemed like Holland’s version of Venice. I can’t stress the city’s beauty enough, it was so picturesque tiny storybook like houses are squished together along the canals, each house is painted a different color and designed a different way yet somehow manages to still look unified. The city is filled with gorgeous parks full of ponds and trees, the amount of nature in the city was astonishing, I’ve never seen a city so successfully intertwine nature and concrete.
Architecture and landscape aside, Amsterdam is also a very cultured city, there are countless art galleries, museums, as well as historic points waiting to be explored. I went to one of the most famous museums in Amsterdam :the Van Gogh museum. Needless to say I was blown away by the great works of art which call Amsterdam home, it’s one thing to learn about these artists and see their masterpieces second hand within text books or online; it’s quite another to see Munch’s “The Scream” up close and in person. As pretentious as it may sound, it was through this experience that I learned through this visit that I very much prefer Van Gogh’s “Starry night over the Rohne” to the famous “Starry Night”, a revelation which I would have never discovered had I not seen this painting in person.
I felt similarly when I visited the Anne Frank House/Museum. The feeling that I got while walking through the house was indescribable, the confined space I was squeezing through was home to eight people who fled from religious persecution. Learning or reading about the horrors of our not to distant history within a classroom can’t compare to actually walking through the rooms where the Frank family and friends had hid during the Nazi occupation. Walking through that house was like taking a step back in time, and being able to shallowly gain a better understanding of the horrors and constant fear that the Jewish families in hiding lived with every day during the occupation.
On a lighter note, I did of course traverse into the red light district…and saw exactly what you’d expect to see. Besides the prostitutes, there were quite a few novelty sex shops, a shop which displayed condom art as well as some very interesting museums. My roomies and I ventured into one museum cleverly named the “Sex Museum”…..and it was exactly what it sounded like. The Dutch, I came to realize, are a very literal people.
Shortly after our visit to the “Sex Museum” we took a historic canal tour along the city , which again, was gorgeous. The city itself has a very long history, we sailed past buildings built in the 1600s! Amsterdam seemed to flawlessly intertwine its many faces and combine and accommodate almost every lifestyle in a very simplistic and open way. within the city itself, there was never any one particular part of Amsterdam which was overly glorified or ‘in your face’ advertised. It simply was what it was and nothing more. I found that to be very refreshing, Holland is a very beautiful and tolerant place and I very much admire that.
As Aldous Huxley said, “To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” I am thrilled to have learned how wrong I was about Amsterdam and how much more the city had to offer, and I look forward to being proved wrong throughout the rest of my travels.