Our day started off with a nice walk along the Prinsengracht canal – slowly making our way towards the Anne Frank Huis. Maybe you read this story growing up, maybe you know it well, maybe it’s vague, and maybe you haven’t heard of it at all. Anne wasn’t really anything special. During the war time over 350,000 people were in hiding in the Netherlands. Many of them Jews, though they were not the only group to be discriminated against during the war. And Anne’s family was one of them. German Jews who came to Holland, one night they went into hiding into an Annex behind a warehouse in a business district of Amsterdam. For 25 months 8 people lived in tiny quarters. One backed bathroom. Little room to move. Little fresh air, little sunlight. But there was Anne. And Anne has a pen and some journals and she wanted to be a writer. And so she wrote. She kept a diary of her experiences, but also wrote a story and poetry. She wanted to be a published writer one day. But for most children like Anne in the war, that day never came. Anne and her family were taken, after someone reported their hiding. First to Auschwitz, then to Bergen-Belsen, where are 16, she died of typhoid. Her sister, her mother, died as well. But her father Otto survived. And when it was safe he returned to Holland to find a friend had gone into the annex and claimed Anne’s diaries after they were taken by the Nazi’s. Knowing her dream to be a published author – her dad borrowed the money to publish the diary of Anne Frank – now available in 65 different languages.
Anne herself wasn’t special compared to the other’s who’s stories have been forgotten. She just had a father who loved her so much he wanted to make her dream come true, even if she wasn’t there to see it. Her story shares insight – it gives a face to the statistics and facts of World War II. It helps paint a picture as to what it was really like for one family, in one place, under but one set of circumstances. We were lucky enough to work with a museum educator and hear the details of Anne’s story, and to skip the VERY long line and walk through the place she once called home. Unfortunately no pictures were to be taken inside. But the images will remain in our minds for years to come.
After our time with Anne, we took a lunch break before heading to the Rokin Jetty for our canal tour. We then spent the next hour seeing Amsterdam from a different perspective – the water! The main canal – the Amstel – connects the Rhine – a major river running through Holland. The rest of the canals were built over a series of decades, each 3 meters deep. End to end the Amsterdam canals are over 100 km long, and there are 1200 bridges found to spam them in the city. Canal houses are tall and narrow – because taxes were paid for the width of the house on the street, but not it’s depth or height. This is why houses had “free” apartments in the back (like the annex Anne lived in). At the top of the houses are a variety of gables, and a hook for a rope to pull up any furniture through the windows. As we learned quickly – hallways are narrow and steep in Amsterdam, so no furniture is going up those stairs!
The canal tour provided a much needed break for the feet, but we hit the pavement soon again – this time walking to Dam Square to see the Palace (Koninklijk Paleis). When the royal family is away you can walk right up to the front door, and take a walk around inside. Much marble, beautiful chandeliers and art on every wall. An honour to walk the red carpet in the Dutch Royal Home. From here we headed to the touristy Bloemenmarkt. A great location to purchase tulip bulks – but also a home to wooden tulips, magnets, hoodies, key chains, and of course, Starbucks. During our time on this little street the rain came with a vengeance. It began to subside just in time for our walk to dinner at Loetjes.
As you can see our days here in Europe are busy ones. After dinner the majority came back to the hotel to begin to unwind and pack (as tomorrow we are headed to Belgium!). A few students joined Ms. Kenkel at the grocery store – who was purchasing supplies for tomorrow’s picnic. But Jayde and I went off on our own mini-adventure – the hunt for Dutch candy.
Now, google maps can be helpful. But is doesn’t always know the best shortcuts or most direct option. So this quick errand turned into a LONG walk. We ended up taking a detour through the beautiful Vondelpark – one location I had yet to visit in Amsterdam. So this was a welcome surprise. But even without that little gem, every step would have been worth it (I won’t show you a picture of my candy in order to prevent the extreme jealousy that would arise). On the walk back we stopped at Albert Heijn for some Vla – and brought it back to the hotel for a pre-bed snack. I’m sad to be moving on to Belgium tomorrow, if only because I want another night of Vla.
So there it is – one long but excellent day In Amsterdam (with about 14 km of cobblestone canal side strolling and power-walking). Looking forward to visiting a little more of Holland tomorrow, before resting our eyes in the home of Flanders Field.