Monday, September 14, 2009

Wanderlust in Amsterdam

Amsterdam is a beautiful city, really. I wrote about it during my trip to Amsterdam six months ago; this visit, the second one this year, hasn’t been any less exciting. There is much to do and see here; it’s a big city that boasts millions of restaurants, pubs, one very famous sex museum which I passed on as I’m not a big fan (of museums), lots of windows separating between you and women dancing half naked in front of you – be it out of choice or force – a heavy subject I am not going to delve into here, lots of coffee shops in which coffee is pretty much the last item anybody would purchase.

The first place I went to was the Anne Frank Huis (“The Anne Frank House”). I wanted to visit this place in my previous visit six months ago, however the line-up was so big that I wasn’t sure that I’ll get in before I die. This time, however, the line-up was bearable so I decided to pay a visit.

For those of you who don’t know, Anne Frank was a young girl who, at the time of the Nazi rule in The Netherlands, hid with her family in the annex of a house by the canal until the family has been ratted out, resulting in the deportation of her and her family to concentration camps. During that period, she wrote a diary which received worldwide attention after World War II; I have never read her diary but surely am going to as soon as I return to Canada.

The Anne Frank House is, well, the house in which the Frank family hid. It has been “converted” into a museum, with much of the original house contents intact. There are wonderful items on display there, including Anne’s original diary, and other items that demonstrate what life was like for Jewish people in Nazi-controlled Europe. Various short clips show how Jewish people were treated, and the horrors they went through. A must – however not easy – watch, for anyone with the desire to get a glimpse into this condemned stretch in history.

It was also the first time I actually seen a real “yellow badge” – a badge painted yellow, shaped like the Star of David with the word “Jood” (in English: “Jew”) written on it in black. Jewish people were forced to wear this badge in public.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, as an individual who grew up where I did, I read, and know a lot about the holocaust; however, I have never yet seen it in my own eyes. The sight of the “yellow badge” shocked me. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of its existence. It’s just that, when you actually see those things for the first time, everything you learned, read about and heard about suddenly receive context and it overwhelms you.

Excerpts from Anne Frank’s diary are engraved on the walls. Truly chilling paragraphs, and the mind can’t fathom that such a young girl with such a good heart had to live through that hell – while still maintaining state of being optimistic. Makes you think, huh. Put things in perspective.

The center of Amsterdam is best explored by foot or bicycle. Cars are out of the question – leave them at your hotel (I’m saying “Hotel” because, if you own a car, you must be a visitor. I can’t understand why residents here would own cars). Pack a small backpack with essentials and go roam the streets, upon its bridges and canals.

I took some photos. This is Kalverstraat, the main shopping street. In Dutch monopoly, as it turns out, this is the most expensive street:


And, not much unlike Delft, you get these pretty views pretty much everywhere you go in Amsterdam:


Later I stopped for a latte at Coffee Company, right at the central square – that’s where I started writing this post. That’s where I met Sandra & Laurie (hope the spelling is right) and the three of us engaged in a nice conversation. It only happened that I ran into two beautiful ladies dealing with tax advice in Holland. These kind of things can really only happen to me, I guess.

Here we are:


It started raining and I became tired of walking, so I decided to return to Delft. Marched towards Amsterdam Centraal, bidding this wonderful city goodbye… hope I get to visit again before I proceed with my journey.


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