by clicking the arrows at the side of the page, or by using the toolbar.
by clicking anywhere on the page.
by dragging the page around when zoomed in.
by clicking anywhere on the page when zoomed in.
web sites or send emails by clicking on hyperlinks.
Email this page to a friend
Search this issue
Index - jump to page or section
Archive - view past issues
Journeys : Apr May 2012
Carry-alls crafted from soft pink silk, red patent leather and bold animal prints sit alongside totes trimmed with intricate beading, shimmering diamantes and glistening silver buckles and chains. There are bags in the shape of cars, Coke cans, cats and cupcakes; bags created from old postcards; and bags once carried by iconic celebrities like Madonna. Gazing longingly through the glass cabinets at the impressive assortment, I can’t help but think that it’s a collection that would even make Sex and the City’s Carr ie Bradshaw jealous. More than 4000 handbags and purses, some up to 500 years old, are together in a single museum display recognising each bag’s contribution to the world of fashion. You might expect to find such a collection in catwalk capitals like Paris or New York, but the world’s largest collection of bags is actually tucked away in the alley ways of Amsterdam at the Tassenmuseum (Museum of Bags and Purses). In fact Amsterdam is home to far more museums than most travellers think. And unlike other parts of Europe where museums brim with famous work s of art and historical artefacts, Amsterdam’s more than 50 museums are somewhat more obscure. Yes, there are still plenty of museums dedicated to traditional offerings but there’s also a hash and hemp museum, a diamond museum, a biblical museum, a chess museum and a wooden shoe emporium. There’s also a funeral museum, a tattoo museum, a tulip museum and another dedicated to the history of house boats. These offbeat collections are in addition to more well-known museums like the Heineken Experience, Madame Tussauds, the Van Gogh Museum and the house of Anne Frank, which all draw tourists to the Dutch capital. Fortunately Amsterdam is a compact city and I discovered many museums could be easily explored on foot. Both the Sex Museum and the Medieval Torture Museum are set on the Damrak, Amsterdam’s main str ip. The Sex Museum opened in 1985 as the first of its kind in the world, and was such a hit with visitors that the collection quickly expanded. The museum now attracts 500,000 tourists a year, making it one of the best-visited museums in Amsterdam. Wander ing through the museum’s maze of rooms and hallways spread across multiple levels, I can’t help but giggle at some of the exhibits. A life-sized statue of a man in a trenchcoat flashes his naked bits at me when I walk past and saucy messages are whispered in my ear when I enter a red phone booth and pick up the receiver. Add to that the collection of chastity belts, odd sex toys from throughout the ages, an erotic toilet seat, a giant penis sculpture and numerous images of boobs and bums, and for 4€ (about $A5) I leave thinking that the museum is definitely a fun – and unusual – way to spend an hour or two. If the history of sex doesn’t satisfy then the nearby Museum of Medieval Torture Instr uments – complete w ith inter rogation chairs, a heretic’s fork and about 100 other devices used during medieval times – offers a gory insight into the dark history of society. Wandering between museums in Amsterdam is a pleasure because there are more than 1000 bridges to cross, eye-catching architecture to admire and plenty of cafes in which to take a break. While strolling towards the Tassenmuseum, I lunch on traditional Dutch pancakes drizzled with generous helpings of chocolate syrup. I also stumble upon the city’s famous f loating f lower markets, where sweet smells waft from the rows of colourful stalls set up on gently swaying houseboats along the Singel Canal. A nimated shoppers haggle over fat bunches of roses and gerberas in almost every colour of the rainbow, while others take home bulbs to grow their own tulips. Even watching locals getting cash from ATMs is amusing – cycling is so common that many residents ride push bikes up to the cash machines and complete transactions without dismounting. After more than an hour drooling over luxury handbags, I move to the Heineken Experience for a self-guided tour of the famous Dutch beer factory that sells 1 million bottles a day in over 170 countries. As an Aussie I thought I knew plenty about drinking beer. But it turns out I’ve been doing it wrong. According to well-informed Heineken staff, drinkers must take a big swig of beer (no sips allowed) and then swish the amber ale around the entire mouth before swallow ing it. Our sweet tastebuds are at the front of our mouths and the savoury ones are at the back – so if we guzzle beer rather than swilling it around then we don’t get the full flavour. I leave Amsterdam with newfound beer drinking tips, a belly full of traditional pancakes and a fresh appreciation for sex, death and handbags. And I can honestly say that the Dutch capital really does have a museum for ever ything – proving there’s a lot more to life than just history and art! Destinations April / May 2012 15
Feb March 2012
Jun Jul 2012