While I used my weekday mornings to explore Utrecht and do my homework, the weekends were free for longer excursions. I went to Amsterdam (twice), the Hoge Veluwe, Haarlem, Den Haag, and Maastricht. Thanks to the trains and my museumkaart, which gave me free entrance to the museums I wanted to visit, I managed to cram a lot in, particularly a lot of art.
Amsterdam (part 1): The main purpose of this trip was to visit the Rijksmuseum, and I actually went with a classmate. After spending a few hours in the museum, we walked around Amsterdam for a bit. The Rijksmuseum focuses on older Dutch art, most of which was painted before Georgia was even a colony. The art was also a neat way to learn about Dutch history, particularly how they interacted with the rest of the world. For a small country, Dutch explorers, traders, and conquerors certainly managed to make their way around the world.
The Hoge Veluwe: This excursion was actually through the school, which was helpful since it is not as easily accessible by train. The Hoge Veluwe is a national park with bike trails and numerous free bikes. As you ride along, the woods slowly become more scrubby and then change into sandy dunes. Also situated in the park is the Kroller-Muller museum, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Their collection includes works by Impressionists as well as more modern artists. The highlight is a section of works by Vincent van Gogh, which was a first for me.
Amsterdam (part 2): This time, I went solo and planned a route beforehand. I started out at the Van Gogh museum, whose large collection is organized so as to tell the story of his life. It was interesting to see his transformation, and inspiring, though sad, that such beauty could be created in the midst of madness. I also checked out the Rembrandthuis, which has been restored to look as it did when Rembrandt lived there, and ran into a streetmarket with cheap books for sale. The Resistance Museum may have been the most interesting place I visited that day. While it presents a significant amount of information about the Netherlands during World War II, it does so through the experiences of actual individuals. They also had a temporary exhibit on the Dutch-Indies during the war, which taught me a lot about both the war and Dutch colonization in the Pacific.
Back in the center of town, I visited a few churches: Ons’ Lieve Heer op Zolder, Oude Kerk, and Nieuwe Kerk. Ons’ Lieve Heer op Zolder is a Catholic church that was hidden in an attic after all the churches were converted into Protestant ones. Nieuwe Kerk is not actually new: it was built because the people of Amsterdam, at the time just a time, wanted a more impressive church in line with their aspirations. It is used by Dutch monarchs for weddings and coronations, and at the time of my visit housed an exhibition over its use by the royal house.
Highlights: Van Gogh Museum, Verzetsmuseum (Resistance Museum)