I like to travel as a temporary local. I’m not big on tours, I hate walking around with my nose in a guidebook, and I like eating in restaurants that locals go to, not ones that cater largely to tourists. Staying in a apartment in a residential neighborhood far from the center, I can mostly blend in well at local shops and markets, at least until someone asks me something and I stare at them dumbly and say “English?”
But yesterday I proudly wore my tourist hat.
I started at the Anne Frank house and museum. It opened at 9:00 and I had a ticket for 9:00, but when I got there at 8:45, there was already a long line of other visitors with 9:00 reservations, and everyone I chatted with was from the US or Canada.
Needless to say, it was a profoundly moving experience. The space where Anne and her family and four others hid for three years is so small, and it is completely empty today. There are scale models that show how the rooms were furnished at the time, but Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the only one of the eight who survived, insisted that they remain empty to symbolize the void left behind by those who were deported. On the walls of Anne’s room are the original newspaper and magazine clippings she hung, pictures of movie stars, art, Princess Elizabeth of England. Downstairs was a warehouse, and while the workers came each day, the residents upstairs had to be silent, couldn’t run water or flush toilets or even walk around. Even having read the diary and seen the play, I don’t think I ever had a concept of what life was like for them.
The museum also includes a lot of videos, of Otto and of other friends and schoolmates who survived. And at the end is a longer film that shows various writers, actors, and others sharing their experience of visiting the Anne Frank house. The most important takeaway, I think, is what Emma Thompson says:
All her would-haves are our opportunities.
Following my visit to the Anne Frank house, I had a three-hour walking tour I signed up for a while back. There were only seven of us on the tour, so it was really personalized and interesting.
One of the other people on the tour, a recent college grad on a solo tour, had previously gone to Norway, where I’m heading next, so we got to talking, and then we had lunch afterwards and I told her I had a reservation for a canal boat tour and she decided to come along, and they ended up having an empty space for her. Then we wandered around a bit longer before I had to go meet this other guy for dinner, but we exchanged emails and will probably meet up again later in the week. (She heads to Paris on Friday, the same day I head to Oslo.)
The canal boat ride was in a small boat with just ten passengers, and it was fun and relaxing. And the weather all day was spectacular, cool and mostly sunny and very pleasant.
While I was walking to the restaurant, a man came up to me and said, “Are you Lane?” It was the guy I was going to meet. (I’d sent him my photo.) So we went to the restaurant (recommended by Rick Steves as one of the best places in Amsterdam for rijstafel). It was clear that they cater to a lot of tourists, but it was still amazing.
After dinner I took the tram back home and promptly fell asleep. So I’m blogging today, Wednesday morning, while I’m doing some laundry. Today I’m going to head to Haarlem for at least the morning, and then try to get to some museums and see some other sights when I get back to Amsterdam.