Van Gogh, Beer, and World War 2...

Folks in Amsterdam are friendly. Super friendly. Down south kinda friendly.  We were assured by these friendly folks that since the “coffee house” scene was not on our agenda, we would have plenty of time to do pretty much everything in a mere two days.

Our first stop was the Anne Frank House.  This was the building where Anne Frank and her family hid for nearly 3 years, before being discovered and sent to concentration camps during World War Two.  Visiting “the Secret Annex,” the part of the building that Anne frank’s father annexed to his business building to hide his family, was both haunting and sobering--A bleak reminder of the atrocities of Hitler and his Nazi regime, and the role that various European countries played to protect their citizens.   The mood in the Secret Annex was a stark contrast to the mood outside along the canals.

We also went to the Van Gogh Museum.  Both Lucy and I are huge Van Gogh fans, and the museum in Amsterdam has 200 Van Gogh paintings, including his only multi-character work, “The Potato Eaters.”

Van Gogh gave the hard-working farmer/peasants in the potato eaters animal-like characteristics, and made them the color of (as Van Gogh himself described it) “a good, dusty potato.”  This painting showed the harshness of farm life, a contrast to other romanticized paintings of farm life, such as Millet.  Due to the great amount of criticism that Van Gogh received, he never again attempted a painting of this scale, and stuck to still lifes and portraits.

The last “museum” that we visited was the Heineken Experience.  This Museum was a former brewery that has been converted into an interactive, multi-sensory experience.  Not only did we learn the history of the Heineken brand, but we got a thorough lesson on the beer brewing process.  We even got to taste barley—one of the essential elements of beer. They also had “wort” tasting. Wort is cooked barley and water—the wort is quite sugary, as cooking the barley extracts the sugar. The sguar is important during the fermentation process.

Lastly, we learned how to “properly” drink beer.

The rules:

  1. Drink fast. If you drink slowly, the bubbles at the top will disappear and your beer will be flat.
  2. Take large gulps.  The bubbles at the top have a slightly bitter taste. If you sip, you will only get bubbles and none of the good stuff!
  3. Tilt your head back when gulping.  The bubbles hit the roof of your mouth where there are no taste buds.