Let’s go to the museum: Banksy & Lichtenstein

Let’s go to the museum: Banksy & Lichtenstein

The weather was pretty poor again today. Rain is just a permanent feature here in Amsterdam. So both myself and my lunch meeting Alexandra were well showered when we met before my museum tour. But heh, why not hit a museum in this weather? Since i failed again to just walk into the Rijks & Van Gogh museum due to so many others thinking likewise, I opted for the private museum MOCO (well, more an art gallery) displaying Banksy as well as a special Lichtenstein display. The ticket isn’t included in the museums pass, but you get a discount (from EUR12,50/adult to EUR10). So let’s look at some of the works …

Banksy: My kind of artist

The street artist Banksy is well-known by now, mainly for his outdoor work. He did, however, also do indoor art that is mainly on display here in Amsterdam. Originally from Bristol (UK) in the 90’s, he is by now a well (un)known street artist famous for his graffiti’s and to an extent political activism. His true identity remains somehwat mysterious though there are some clues (link). Most of his famous works rely on the stencilling technique, which Banksy claims to have invented while hiding from police. It appears logic though that a technique as fast as this makes sense for a ‘hunted’ street artist. A full run-down of his biography and art work you find here. I love his art, his message and have a few specimen decorasting my kitchen wall. All copies of course ;o)

Link to Banksy street art locations in  London

“Graffiti is one of the few tools you have if you have almost nothing. And even if you don’t come up with a picture to cure world poverty you can make someone smile while they’re having a piss.” 

–  Banksy, Banging Your Head Against a Brick Wall

“A lot of people never use their initiative because no-one told them to.” 
― Banksy, Wall and Piece

 

Lichtenstein: Well, if you like pop art …

Lichtenstein was a modern artist from the New York (1923-1997) most well known for his comic book style and heavily featured in advertising to date. Full biography here. I am personally not a huge fan though I appreciate the clarity of his work to overly abstract modern art. In any case, nice to some of the art having last seen it I believe in Tate Modern, London, where I spent a lot of my ealry month in London (summer 2002), as I lived in an appartment just on the other side of the Thames across Millenium bridge.

Pop Art looks out into the world. It doesn’t look like a painting of something, it looks like the thing itself.
– Roy Lichtenstein

 

Moco museum

Moco stands for modern contemporary museum. Located in Villa Alsberg on Mueseumsplein, it was designed in 1904 by Pierre Cuypers. He also designed the centraal station and the Rijksmuseum. The private museum is currently backed by Lionel and Kim Logchies using their international network to bring art to people.

 

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Koningsdag in Amsterdam: Oranje rules

My first King’s day in Amsterdam started the Thursday evening before the event with plenty of parties happening all over town, but especially on & around Rembrandtsplein. Dutch classics either live or DJ (incl. loads of German song melodies with Dutch lyrics) played pretty loudly. I didn’t stay too long though that night, as Jan had invited me to the annual autorodeo event in his village of Rouveen. Right after that crazy event I made my ay back to Amsterdam and spent the rest of King’s day with class mate Abdo (Lebanon) and his friends in the hugely crowed city center.

See here for my Autorodeo expierience in Rouveen

What’s the Kings day about – history? The King’s day (Koningsdag) honours the birthday of the prevailing leader of the Dutch royal family. It used to be Queen’s day (30th ApriL) until 2013 when King Wilhelm-Alexander officially took over the reign. The Netherlands have been a kingdom since Napoleon created a pet-kingdom for his third brother Louis, but since the Dutch liked to have a king, the task was handed to the Oranje family who had been instrumental in winning the 80y war against Spain.

What’s the Kings day about – practice? Essentially the whole country puts up Dutch flags, dresses in orange, organises concerts/festivals and drinks a lot of beer. A huge party from cities to the countryside. Amsterdam was a mess day time (people) and nighttime (rubbish), but things went mostly orderly. A fun fact is the huge amount of laughing gas sold all over the place. It almost seemed there were more empty gas cartridges than beer cans!

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I really enjoyed Thursday night, but the actual event was a little too busy for my taste and I was glad I spent much of the day on the auto rodeo. But nice to see the Dutch going wild altogether.

Autorodeo on King’s day in Rouveen

Jan had told me about the auto rodeo tradition in his home region already while we were fishing in Russia and invited me to this years show down in Rouveen. While not ideal, given King’s day celebrations I wanted to attend in Amsterdam, I hopped on the 2h train  & bus over to this pretty village in the East of Holland not far from Zwölle. What a crazy sport really, but with 80+ cars competing it was pretty lively though less than last year. I guess the scrap metal trader will have a busy Monday …

 

Autorodeo – A hobby that needs a lot of passion

So what exactly is autorodeo? Basically guys like Jan and his friends buy old cars for little money and fix them up for the race. For one, that means they need to be able drive. Secondly, there are plenty of safety requirements to be met. So they reinforce chiefly the area around the driver (frames, cushioning but also moving gas tank into the center of the car etc) and rip out most of the rest (no passenger seat, back seat, windows …). Lastly, the cars are decorated including a common team colour (for Jan & co it was black) and some more freestyle decorations such as sayings or little drawings – at last it’s all for fun. In Jan’s case, this process took 6w (I hear less for his friends).

 

Autorodeo (Jovink En De Voederbietels) 

Met de pens vol gif, stoa ik an de start
Zes cylinders brult onder mien gat
Zo hard ak kan, trea-j ik op ‘t gas
‘t Volk dat steet te kieken hult zich vast
Kogellagers die uut mien piepe barst

Terwij ik vol gas deur’t gres hen jank
Beuk ik alle volvo’s in de flank
De duuvel is veur mien doodsbang
As ik de trekhoak in mien buurvrouw hang
Iedereen beukt al wat halen kan

[…]

The race – last car running wins: Once the cars are ready (& inspected) they are typically grouped into power classes (in rather Dutch way, this meant a ‘small’ & ‘large’ group in this event) and the race can begin. Usually for autorodeo the race takes place on a grass field surrounded by a trench (as opposed to bangers mostly in the UK that go on asphalt & use more powerful cars). There are typically several races culminating in a final and in this region there is also the crazy race at the end – every car that can still drive is permitted. Once the cars get going they crash into each other in order to force others into the trench and / or demolish their car so that it can’t race anymore. Whichever car survives longest wins. Simple. Key is to fix broken cars quickly in the intervals in order to get another try to make the finals – here a good team, a huge dose of pure force and a bit of improvisation are absolutely key.

 

By the way, the guys got their bottoms kicked today by a girl who if I am not mistaken won on two occasions. Respect. Fun day out. Thanks go to Jan & his Rouveen gang. And here a video of today’s action. Enjoy.

 

 

P.S. Some Dutch people seriously wear wooden boots (Klompen). Hilarious isn’t it?

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Team Schöfferhofer in Amsterdam

Team Schöfferhofer has managed its first outing though not the entire team on this occasion, as Felix sadly had other commitments. So it was down to max, steve and myself to light up Amsterdam. And so we did. My school time is now also up as i managed to get to B1 level in just 4 weeks. Next up is King’s day (27 April) when the country dresses up in orange and parties non stop to honour their king.

Team Schöfferhofer: The idea to do something else than just family occasions & christmas parties together came about last christmas. I guess it’s fair to say that everyone was up for it right away. Amsterdam was a good option to start as neither of us lives too far away with steve in Copenhagen and max studying in freiberg. Definitely easier than meeting in say Bangkok or Medellin … for now, anyway. 

First up, we nailed the weekend weather wise. Summer temperatures from thursday through sunday. The sunburnt faces of steve and max tell the pretty story well! Thursday we had say good introductory night in the center (which unavoidably includes the red light district being the center). The old sailor and excalibur made for good places to hang out, at least until they closed. 

Friday, Steve and Max went on a free tour (see Amsterdam walking tour: Fun facts) while I dragged myself to school on this fine day. By late afternoon we were back together and enjoyed a pretty hot afternoon. After loads of bitterballs (basically our main source of food for the entire weekend) and a few beers we explored town a bit more, but didn’t make it a too big one in the end. 

Bitterballen (plural of bitterbal) are a Dutch meat-based snack (similar to a coquette), typically containing a mixture of beef or veal (minced or chopped), beef broth, butter, flour for thickening, parsley, salt and pepper, resulting in a thick roux. It is usually served with mustard. See wikipedia for more.

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Cycle tour in & around Amsterdam: Saturday was again looking great and we all felt in reasonably good shape. Our aim was to get on the bikes and cycle to the Ijsselmeer (great suggestion Max), some 15km away. Technically speaking we didn’t go to the Ijsselmeer, but the Markermeer since the Houtribdijk dam split the original Ijsselmeer into two (since 1975). The ride was pretty enjoyable. First through the north-eastern center of the city and then out into the nature on cycle path along canals and relaxed suburbs.

We made it to Blijburg aan Zee for lunch (=bitterballs) and relaxed in the beach bar. I need to go back there some time in the evening. Seems they have some good parties there! While we enjoyed the views, weather and beers … others went further with many people hitting the water (pretty cold as we would find out later that day). Proper Ostsee vibe! We took a slightly different way back and rode mostly along a dam to get back to Amsterdam. Good decision for we got to see the Ij brewery (Brouwerij Ij) with its windmill, which supplies the beer for my local pub back in Haarlemmerbuurt.

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Indicative route … poor navigation skills & sightseeing curiosity added to the mileage

Once back in the city we headed for Rembrandtsquare to watch a bit of footie (ManU vs T’ham in FA cup semi’s) and, would you believe it, ate something else than bitterballs … 3x sushi please! That actually tasted healthy. Football was a bit dull, but after stopping in another cool place (the bushdoctor) the evening kicked off in good fashion.

First Steve succumbed to his 80’s music desire. Just imagine Rembrandt square around which you’ll find plenty of bars. One of them was already pumping late afternoon while the others just got going slowly. It was a bar that let’s say attracted the generation of our parents more than people of younger age … what a laugh! Can’t quite recall which other places we visited (naturally crossing through the red light district again & stopping at my favorite pub -De Sluyswacht) before we eventually headed home.

On the way we also tested the waters of the IJ river. Cold exercise! And good to have Max giving a helping hand to get Max & myself out again. Pretty slippery stuff. I guess the folks in my local corner pub were a little confused by the wet hair given it hadn’t rained in days (for a change). But surely, after a swim in the Ij we deserved a beer from the Ij brewery. Tasty!

And then the first Schöfferhofer outing was almost over. After lunch and a stroll in Vandelpark and Museumsplein, Max went to the airport while Steve & I watched the other FA cup semi – Chelsea vs Southampton (2:0) before he also left for Copenhagen.

Good stuff! Next time hopefully with Felix. Apparently its gonna take us to Tallinn, where Max will study abroad. Can’t wait!

Dutch course done: This week also marked the end of my second level Dutch language studies. Having skipped the A1/A2 course, I ‘graduated’ with B1 (intermediate). It was fun studying with Katya, Abdo & Akin as well as our teachers. Good luck to everyone & hope to see you again. Now we need to put theory into practice. Maar dat is nu geen grote probleem meer, denk ik! And remember: ‘Mannen en ook vrouwen zijn mensen’.

Leiden: Windmills, students & Rembrandt’s home

Leiden is a pretty city with its beautifully maintained center, its canals and windmills. The town also has a nice vibe going, especially once students flood the bars and cafes after university. For a change, even the weather was kind and it appears that spring has finally arrived with tulip fields blossoming left & right of the train-line from Amsterdam. 

To get to Leiden is easy. Just hop on one of the many trains from Amsterdam Centraal and enjoy a 45min ride through the Dutch countryside (EUR20 return). What i enjoyed most were several tulip fields in all sorts of colours that you can see on the way to Leiden. Not quite as many as in Keukenhof, but nice nonetheless. The tulip period runs from mid-March to May in Holland … so hurry if you want to make it this year!

A few facts about Leiden: Leiden has some 124,000 inhabitants and its history goes back to the 9th century. It boasts the oldest university in the Netherlands founded in 1575 (celebrated independence from Spain) and its student population remains a defining feature today with 28,000 students (in Leiden & The Hague). It’s old town is second only to Amsterdam and a pleasure to wander around in.

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn – Leiden’s most famous son: Born as the son of a miller in 1606, it became clear early on that Rembrandt wasn’t cut out for this and just wanted to paint. So paint he did! His birthplace in Leiden is marked with a plaque though is not really that exciting. For the interested, you can follownRembrandt’s path a visit hit Latin school and other places (see here).

What to do in Leiden? Apart from just walking about, I recommend visiting the Volkenkunde Mueseum (that is, if you feel like checking out non-Dutch stuff), Molenmueseum de Valk (nice views & good info about mills in the area) the Burcht (interesting historic site with a view as well).

Windmills in Leiden: Windmills have been used for many purposes prior to the industrial revolution when wind energy was replaced by steam power. In Leiden, as in other places in Holland, you can find poller mills. These serve the purpose of machinery as well as keeping the water out given Holland c30% of Holland is below sea level.