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Published: July 15th 2012
Grachten Tour I
Bridge that can be lifted so that higher boats can pass.
Not even 48 hours after arriving back home from Moscow, I left for another conference in Amsterdam, the 8th Conference of the International Test Commission
. I arrived in the city in the late morning, which gave me just enough time to get into town from Schiphol Airport and check into my hotel. From there, it was not even a ten minute walk to the conference venue, the wonderful “Koninklijk Instituut van de Tropen”, the Royal Tropical Institute, a beautifully decorated building.
The pre-conference workshop I attended in the afternoon was pretty nerdy stuff, so I won’t bother you with the details. After the workshop, I walked to the Niewmarkt, a nice square with lots of cafés, bars and restaurants, to have dinner. After dinner, I simply sat on the square for a while, amazed by how many bikes there were. Everyone seems to have a bike in this city, and the infrastructure is extremely good. There are wide bike tracks and special traffic lights for bikes. Cyclists are very confident and cycle at rather high speeds, so as a pedestrian you better be very, very careful. I almost got run over a couple of times, and I usually really look where I’m going. On the other
Grachten Tour II
House boats along one of the canals,
hand, as so many people ride their bikes, there are not as many cars on the streets as in other big cities, and therefore Amsterdam is surprisingly quiet for a big city.
The conference started the next morning, and I attended a number of interesting presentations. In the afternoon, my colleague Maike arrived, and we attended the conference welcome reception together. On the Gracht (canal) in front of the conference venue, a boat was expecting us, and we were taken on a tour and then dropped off at the University of Amsterdam. After having some finger food and wine, Maike and I went to Rembrandtplein (Rembrandt Square) and had a nice dinner. I mentioned before that the city was quiet with respect to traffic. But in contrast to that, the square was not quiet at all, it was very busy, there were many people, and some of them performed dances or played musical instruments. We did not stay up long because we both still had work left to do and had to get up early the next morning to present the poster we had prepared on the topic personality, performance, and the quality of life. In the afternoon, I
The Amstel Hotel
One of the best hotels in Amsterdam. We stayed somewhere else ;-)
gave a talk on a study we had conducted on the controllability of faking in personality testing. The next day, Maike talked about another study on instant feedback in ability testing.
The conference ended on Thursday afternoon, and I went to the airport with Maike because she had to fly back home, while I picked up my mum whom I had invited for a long weekend in Amsterdam. On Friday, the weather was really nice, and we went on a hop on hop off boat tour with three different routes. The combination of this tour with a visit at the Rijksmuseum gave us a good first impression of the city. Founded some time in the 10th
century, it began to grow rapidly from the 16th
century onwards, and it did so by putting another belt of canals (or “Grachten”) around the city centre, and another, and so forth. The canals are flooded three times per week using the locks so that there is fresh water again. People say that they are about three metres deep. One metre of water, one metre of mud, and one metre of bicycles. In spite of the railings that run along the canals, there
Peaceful courtyard where the Beguins lived, single women who performed good works but did not live in a convent.
still seem to be a number of cars that plunge into the canals every year, let alone bikes. Many famous artists lived in Amsterdam at least for some years, and so the Rijksmuseum has many famous paintings from Rembrandt van Rijn, Vincent van Gogh and Frans Hals. There is, for example, the famous “Nightwatch”, which shows Rembrandt’s incredible ability to use light and shade in his pictures.
After leaving the museum and a stop-over at the Hard Rock Café, we continued our boat trip and ended up at the modern and fantastic Public Library. I am always amazed by libraries with many books, they have a wonderful atmosphere of knowledge and quiet. The Amsterdam Public Library has many corners in which you can sit down and read, and there is even a piano everyone can use. Mum and I had dinner at the Sea Palace, a swimming Chinese restaurant that is a replica of the famous swimming restaurant in Hong Kong.
On Saturday, we went to the Van Gogh Museum, and only then I realised that this artist painted all his pictures within a period of time no longer than about ten years. He suffered from a disease
... where there are many painting for example from Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Hals.
that may have been a kind of epilepsia, but we don’t really know. Due to this disease, he had to spend some time in a psychiatric hospital and finally shot himself. Very sad story. His brother, by the way, died not long after Vincent. They had been very close. Rembrandt’s life was a real contrast to Van Gogh’s life, as we learned when we went to the house he lived in for many years. Rembrandt was not only an artist, but also an art merchant. He had a big house, students he taught how to paint, and a family. But still, he was bankrupt when he died.
We tried to get into the Anne Frank House, the house in which she hid with her family during the Second World War, but there was a huge queue in front of it. So we decided not to go in there. Instead, we took a walk through the beautiful quarter of Jordaan, where it is peaceful and quiet, and where there are many nice cafés. It seems to be a quarter where lots of artists live. We loved it. And we had a look at the Begijnhof, where women who had dedicated
... now a museum.
their lives to God, but who did not take the finals vows, used to live. It was a beautiful and peaceful courtyard.
We had some sandwiches left over from lunch that we had taken with us, so we could have dinner on a bench in the Vondel Park, named after the “Dutch Shakespeare” Joost van den Vondel. It is a nice place where people spend their free time exercising, barbecuing, sitting and reading, or just walking or sitting on a bench. When it got dark, we went for a walk through the famous Red Light District. There, the prostitutes stand behind windows, only wearing bikinis and waiting for customers. Of course, there are also many sex shops as well as bars. There were many tourists who apparently just wanted to have a look and who were not interested in the “business” there. I read that about two thirds of all tourists coming to Amsterdam want to see this famous district.
On Sunday morning, it was pouring down with rain, so we went to the Amsterdam Museum. We were very lucky because there was a fabulous non-permanent exhibition on Amsterdam’s history. We received a piece of paper with a
View from the Public Library I
... onto the harbour with house boats, with the city in the background
QR code on it, and there were a number of video screens that would play short videos whenever we put the piece of paper onto a certain spot – of course in our language! There were also many interactive parts, for example touch screens. We could lift a small model horse that had plunged into a canal out of it again or ride a bike in a street in the 1920s. There was another special exhibition on the trade partnership the Netherlands have with Turkey. This partnership started 400 years ago, so there is an anniversary to celebrate!
After a nice lunch in the museum cafeteria, mum and I went back to the hotel to get our luggage and then caught a taxi to the airport. It was busy there, and as it is a very big airport, we had to do a fair bit of walking, but then left perfectly on time, mum back to Stuttgart and myself back to Hamburg. What an interesting and wonderful week! Amsterdam is definitely worth a visit!
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