Of Blossoms & Boats: Van Gogh at the Hermitage.

Refreshed from our wine-and-cheese induced sleep, Abby and i awoke in Amsterdam ready to brave the cold and wanting to explore. After a delicious breakfast at the hotel (have i mentioned the cappuccino machine?) we took a gander about the southern canal/De Pijp neighborhood, drinking in the quaint little bridges and houses stacked against each other.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some ten minutes away was our destination: The Hermitage Museum. Since the Van Gogh Museum is presently undergoing renovations, the bulk of their collection is temporarily housed here. I’d been waiting to see this exhibit really since my 12th-grade AP Art History class, when i’d first really studied Vincent.

It was sublime. Is there really any other word for visiting with Van Gogh’s work?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Unfortunately, photography was strictly forbidden, so i have no photos to share of the actual exhibit. In some ways, i find restrictions like this liberating because it means i’m truly present with the art instead of constantly fiddling with the shutter speed on my Olympus.

Some of my favorite things we saw, though, were not the most famous members of the collection (like Wheat Field with Crows, though that was transcendent). There was a whole section devoted to Van Gogh’s study of Japanese prints, and his painted recreations of some of the prints in his own collection. To see how these pieces really shaped Van Gogh’s perspective as an artist in his formative years was really cool – especially the harsh angles and vibrant colors.

But lest we forget, the more famous works were also amazing to see. I hadn’t known that Almond Blossoms was painted for Vincent’s newborn nephew. Somehow, this idea that the blossoms were meant to celebrate new life made this work all the more endearing.

And the greens! Oh, the greens! I’ve always been enchanted by Bedroom at Arles­ and its quirky, incandescent spirit (my Art History teacher said once he always felt like the chairs were about to start dancing around the room). But it is even more lively in person – the dark patches outlining the bed and making up the floor are such rich tones of emerald that they illuminate the whole work. I was utterly intoxicated by the greens – the fishing boats at Saint-Marie series had me entranced.

VanGogh_Bedroom_Arles

Bedroom in Arles, 1888.

almond-blossom

Almond Blossoms, 1890.

Fishing Boats at Sea, 1888. (I bought this one on a postcard!)

Fishing Boats at Sea, 1888. (I bought this one on a postcard!)

Some two hours later, we exited the gift shop (postcards in hand, of course) and made our way to Kerkestraat for the (aforewrittenabout) bike tour! Our afternoon was thus consumed by exquisite art and wheeling about town – what more could you want from a long weekend in Amsterdam, really?

That was really the bulk of our first day; the cold was too potent to spend too much time out with the sun going down. We returned to our new favorite bar/café, Onder de Ooivaar, for yet another round of wine and cheese. The next day promised a tour of the Anne Frank House, eating our way through the Albert Cuyp Market, and GIANT YELLOW wooden shoes!

current jam: ‘tout doucement’ feist.

best thing: ravioli.

of note: photos of van gogh’s paintings from here. 

Vivacity and Verve: The View from the Mountain

Any attraction that boasts of free admission or significant concessions for students has, undoubtedly, made its way onto my Bucket List for Edinburgh. There’s plenty of tight-budget-friendly places to see in the city, so with our sense of adventure in tact Nora and i set out to find the most fun for the most inexpensive fare.

Our first stop was  the Scottish National Gallery for no other reason, really, than it was free. Having once flirted with the idea of majoring in Art History, i have a particular affinity for art galleries and, most especially, one with (you-guessed-it) Vincent Van Gogh. When we stepped into the second-floor impressionist room, i went weak in the knees. On a blue wallpaper’d wall, encased in an ornate bronze-colored frame, were two works by Van Gogh. In living, breathing color. I hadn’t even known they were there.

It was sublime.

The Gallery, as it happens, is an exquisite museum. The collection boasts of works by Renoir, Monet, Raphael, Degas, Turner, and Singer Sargent (to name a few whom i love). The space is moveable, breathable, and does that near-impossible trick of making you feel not claustrophobic when in an art museum. Nora and i toddled about, admiring the neo-classical to the ancient and back again for over an hour. (I would love to show you pictures, but there’s no photography in the Gallery!).

We did, however, attempt to ensnare the beauty of Arthur’s Seat in photographic form the subsequent day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Arthur’s Seat, named such for the famous King, is an extinct volcano situated in the heart of Edinburgh. It promised to be an elusively sunny Scottish day, so we set out to hike its peak. With lungs as asthma-plagued as mine are, we had to take frequent stops along the trail – but these afforded us incredible opportunities to drink in the scene unfurling in front of us. The higher we scaled, the more of Edinburgh we could see. In our pink-cheeked, windblown state we were caught somewhere between awe and disbelief at the view.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Can you spy Edinburgh castle? this is near the start of the trail!

About a third of the way up to the summit!

About a third of the way up to the summit!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Salisbury Crags & the city from Arthur’s Seat!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Standing on an extinct volcano.

Standing on an extinct volcano.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Van Gogh’s ability to sculpt with paint is what, for me, makes his work have such life. The colors weave in this complicated dance that verges on the frantic. Van Gogh painted a breathing world, preserving in solitary images unyielding motion and music.

I felt, standing on the peak of Arthur’s Seat, like i was peering into a painting by Van Gogh. Like the tiny lines that bent and curled into the streets were veins in a living, heaving, singing city. Complicated intersections in the deep browns of the buildings and the painful, cold blue of the sea. Endless movement, preserved like a painting far away from the rocky ledge i stood on.

Adventure shot! Thanks, Nora, for this picture!

Adventure shot! Thanks, Nora, for this picture!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s easy to see how Edinburgh, as a place, has ignited such passion in artists across its history. There’s something romantic, something ethereal about its wideness and complexity. It’s enchanting, in the close-knit closes and alleyways juxtaposed to the expansive monolith that is the mountains within the city limits. Enchanting, bizarre, beautiful, and moving.

Part of this quirk and verve to Edinburgh, i think, stems from the castle that marks its heart. Though the castle is far from a free adventure, it’s worth every cent – so to St Margaret’s chapel and Mons Meg we went exploring.

From the castle terrace!

From the castle terrace!

Alas, with all things, there had to come an end. Nora was back to her university early the next morning and i was left to sift through the mountain of reading i’d put off. It has been a whirlwind of color, of light, and of wonderful friendship shared in the fabric of this magical city.

And yet, even while buried in essay-writing, i’m still enchanted. Perhaps that’s the secret to Edinburgh: how the magic permeates, like the curling streets, into your veins. Making you and the city almost inextricable from one another.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Princes Street at night.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Castle at night!

current jam: ‘below my feet’ mumford & sons

best thing: nutella!