Feb. 6, 2016: Amsterdam
Another day of exploring Amsterdam, with its many canals…
… and bicycles…
… and windmills…
… and its idiosyncratic architecture.
One type of “bicycle” we encounter is more of a customer-propelled bar on wheels. It has seats and pedals for about a dozen people and a bar in the center where they can enjoy a brewski while getting a bit of a workout and seeing the sights. It combines the best of all worlds, or at least a few of them.
Makes you wonder, though, how they manage to stop at intersections accurately with so many feet on the pedals and most of them attached to drivers who are a bit tipsy. Presumably, the sober attendant standing in their midst has a great deal of control over that. Let’s all hope so.
And we come upon an honest-to-goodness yellow submarine. Eat your heart out, Ringo Starr.
The sub was once moored on the Seine in Paris, where it served as a gay bar. (A few bad puns come to mind, which I’ll tastefully keep to myself.) It’s been in Amsterdam for the past few years, where its owner has been battling red tape for the right to keep it here. A couple of years ago, the powers that be decreed that it must go. But it’s still here, so evidently the owner found a loophole or a good lawyer or both.
There’s a museum for tulips, though we can’t imagine how they pay to get in.
And there’s a torture museum, which sounds like delightful fun, but we decide not to hang around for it.
Another thing that Holland/ The Netherlands is famous for is its cheese. Which Kimberly samples some of, but it doesn’t agree with her stomach that well.
And oh yes, naturally there are wooden shoes. In all colors and sizes.
One shop (actually more than one) has a very large wooden shoe out front that goofy tourists can climb inside for a photo.
Which is, of course, an experience we can’t resist.
This shop is located in Dam Square, the major hub of hubbub that seems even more crowded today than it was yesterday.
Yet we still manage to score a spot on a bench to park our butts long enough for lunch. Dutch treat, of course.
We also browse through the dizzying assortment of shops along the canals.
Where we find a rather imaginatively conceived pair of swings to cool our heels.
The highlight of the day, however, was a stop at the Anne Frank House. It’s a rather nondescript building compared to many of the other more distinctive houses in the neighborhood; it now sits next door to a restaurant.
On the other side is the attached museum through which you gain access to the house. The line to get in goes around the block; a two-hour wait is not uncommon. We actually made reservations online last night, but our time isn’t for a couple of hours yet, and we decide to wait in line to see if we can get in before then — taking turns in line while the other one ambles around in the neighborhood. Our plan works; we’re inside after about an hour.
The museum is spacious, with many photos and other exhibits, a cafeteria and other comforts. Videos are playing constantly, including the only known video footage of Anne, a 20-second clip of her at age 13 (only a few months before she went into hiding) excitedly peeking out an upstairs window to get a glimpse of a couple of neighbors in their wedding attire. She was just another happy-go-lucky teenager with no inkling that the world was about to change so drastically and tragically, or that she would live only a couple of more years, or that during her brief time remaining she would develop a powerful literary voice that would inspire people the world over long after her death.
Finally it’s time for our small group to enter the house itself, which sits in front of a canal facing another row of charming houses on the other side.
But the family was not able to enjoy that view once it went into hiding. They mostly just saw walls, though a bit of sky was visible through an attic window.
Photographs are not allowed inside the house itself. So these photos of the interior are borrowed from the attraction’s official website.
First entering the main part of the house, we are ushered to the entrance to the “secret annex” — a small stairway concealed behind a bookcase.
The secret upstairs rooms where the group hid was stripped of its furnishings when the Nazis raided it after being tipped off by an unknown informant. It was the wish of Otto Frank, Anne’s father, that the house be left in that condition. So that’s how it stands today, with virtually nothing left except photos and other items attached to the walls.
Anne, like most teenage girls, was fond of movie stars, so you can still some photos of them that she had attached to the walls in her room.
On one occasion, the quarters were temporarily restored to the way they looked back then so their appearance could be documented by a photographer. Then they were stripped bare again.
And here we have Anne’s room. The place where an amazing little girl sorted out her experiences and reflections and hopes.
The cramped quarters packed with tourists actually enhances the experience for once.
After making our way through the secret annex, we find ourselves in an area with more exhibits. And among them is… the diary itself. No matter how much you’ve heard about it, nothing prepares you for the emotion you feel when you actually see it in front of you.
Taking this tour reminds you, in case you’ve forgotten, what a screwed up placed the world can become. But it’s ultimately very uplifting, because it also reminds you what a difference one person, even a child, can make.
Well after dark, we start making our way back home to Beverwijck. First we stop at the Albert Heijn supermarket again to stock up, cramming all the compartments on our coats with goods.
On the train back, there are a couple of rowdy teenage boys, about 13 or 14, who we’re guessing probably don’t belong in the first class compartment. At least their behavior certainly isn’t first class. But nobody comes to boot them out.
We’ve discovered a little problem with our transportation schedule for tomorrow. Since it will be Sunday, the train from Beverwijck to Amsterdam doesn’t leave early enough for us to make a connection with our train to Paris. But we’d seen on our host’s Airbnb listing that he is willing to help with various arrangements (and he did pick us up at the local station when we arrived) so we ask if we can hire him to drive us into the city in the morning. He cheerfully agrees to do so for a mere 15 euros. That would be an approximation of bus fare, but it’s quite a bargain, as we were expecting to spend more in the range of taxi fare — 50 euros or more. Thank you, Joost.