Europe 2016 - Amsterdam
Updated: Jul 12
After a whirlwind travel day, I finally arrive at my motel. I didn't expect much because it was called a motel, but it was actually quite nice. It was modern, yet inviting and completely remodeled. The window in my room is the entire wall with very high ceilings as well. To get the lights and TV to work, you had to put your room key into a slot on the wall. The TV then turns on automatically. The screen shows fishies and plays smooth music. The first time it happened it startled me.
I was starting to get a little burnt out from all the travel, so I stayed at the hotel for the rest of the evening. I had food delivered to the hotel and waited in the bar for it to arrive. The hotel lobby/bar area has a ton of glorious chandeliers. Also, I was finally able to get real alcohol! I ordered a Cuba Libre made with rum called Havana Club.
Today, I went to the Anne Frank House. Super fun fact, I have never read the book. Yes, it was a requirement in school, but I probably read about 15% of the required books.
I am glad I booked ahead of time. The day of line was long and most of the times were sold out. The museum was quite packed. You kind of followed the person in front of you moving from room to room. You start at the bottom and work your way up over the hidden staircase into the apartment. It was getting quite hot in there with no air flow and that makes me claustrophobic. I moved quicker through the rest of it to finish. It ends in the gift shop, so I bought her book.
When I walked out of the Anne Frank House, I saw a sign for the Tulip Museum right across the canal. Tulips are my FAVORITE flower!! I was elated! I crossed the canal and entered into the Tulip shop. I asked if tours were still available as I didn't pre-book, and they were. I paid a few Euros and milled about until my tour time.
While The Netherlands are known for their tulips, they did not originate there. Tulips grew wild in the Tien Shan Mountains and were cultivated in Istanbul in 1055. In the 15th century, tulips were among the most prized flowers; the flower was the symbol of the Ottomans. While tulips had probably been cultivated in Persia from the tenth century, they did not come to the attention of the West until the sixteenth century, when Western diplomats to the Ottoman court observed and reported on them. They were rapidly introduced into Europe and became a frenzied commodity during Tulip mania. Tulips were frequently depicted in Dutch Golden Age paintings, and have become associated with the Netherlands, the major producer for world markets, ever since.
1st pic: the canal between the Anne Frank House and the Tulip Museum
2nd pic: in front of a giant tulip picture. They basically took a pic and made it into wallpaper. No, I didn't realize until later that I have a tulip crown on my head
3rd,4th, 5th pics: from the tour.
After leaving the museum, I headed to Dam Square. When I was almost there, I could hear someone playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipe. I went in search of where it was coming from. I turned towards the square to see 1 man in a Scottish kilt playing it. I could have stood there listening to him all day. Alas, I had to go on another tour.
This was a free walking tour of the city. Our guide was Sam. We started the tour in the red light district. Sam explained to the 12 of us how it all worked, what the different lights meant, what the current position meant, etc.
We literally walked all over the city. Sam told us about Rembrandt and his antics. We learned they pull an average of 10,000 out of the canals each year. While the canals don't look clean, apparently, they are. The Princess recently swam in them for a charity swim. Amsterdam houses are so narrow because they get charge by the city on the width at the bottom. Height does not matter. Since the land is swampy, most houses are leaning.
1st pic: Some cool architecture. You can also see them leaning a bit.
2nd pic: Panorama of Dam Square
3rd pic: more cool architecture
4th pic: Random swan in the canals
5th pic: Yes I know its kind of hard to see but that is a chandelier in a house boat
6th pic: Back in the day when a lot of people still couldn't read, they used signs like this to show what kind of business it was
7th pic: Lots of crooked buildings here
8th pic: Darth in Amsterdam
9th pic: just stunning!
10th pic: The royal palace. Yes, the king lives there.
11th pic: Central Station
After the 2 hour walking tour, I went off to the grocery store to find some Drop. Drop is Dutch black licorice that is a bit salty. I was then off to find something for dinner. One of the "must try" foods in Amsterdam is Dutch Fries. Fresh cooked, thick cut fries with a garlic sauce like an aioli. The restaurant owner was nice and chatty. He gave me some ideas of things to do in my limited time there. When I left the fry place, I see a dessert spot across the way. They had poffertjes (mini dutch pancakes), and they were also on the "must try" list. I got them topped with Nutella, strawberries, and fresh whipped cream.
Up next was a canal cruise the fry owner told me about. We took off right in front of central station.
1st pic: where the boats leave from.
2nd pic: Used to be a guard tower but when it stopped being used as such they made it less intimidating looking.
3rd pic: These very crooked houses are called the dancing houses. They are now protected and any work done on them has to be approved by the city. Even to just change the tile.
4th pic: Parts of a very pretty bridge.
5th pic: This one house touches 3 canals
6th pic: beautiful sunset from the train back to my hotel.
Today is the day I have been looking forward to. The whole reason I went to Amsterdam.
I was up early to get ready, finish packing, eat breakfast, and check out. I took the local train to Central Station where I took a larger train to Haarlem. It was lovely, short ride.
I got to Haarlem before 9a, so I found this adorable chocolate bar/cafe to sit at for awhile. You order your flavor. The chocolate is a square with a spoon stuck in the middle. They bring it to you with a cup of hot milk, and you stir it until it dissolves. I ordered caramel chocolate and a croissant drizzled with chocolate fondue.
1st pic: my yummy food and drink
2nd pic: the signs on the bathroom doors
3rd pic: the mirror says "Laugh as much as you breathe, love as long as you live"
4th pic: A traffic jam in Holland 😂😂😂 Bikes have the right away, then pedestrians, then motorcycles, then cars.
Once I was done with my snack, I continued on to the Corrie Ten Boom Museum. Oh my gosh, there it is! Ten Boom Jewelers on the glass window and door in the front. Just like back then in the book, shop in the front, house (now museum) in the back. Since I was still a little early, I continued my walk to Grote Market, its actually a square. The church the Ten Booms went to is in that square. I checked out all the amazing architecture before headed back to the Beje. Corrie called their home the Beje. A Beje is a watchmaker store and it is famous in many countries all over the world. Her father, Casper, was a watchmaker.
They let you in just a few minutes before your tour time. We were taken right into Tante Jan's sitting room. There the guide told us the history of the house and Ten Boom Watches. She told some of the story of the "Hiding Place" as well. Once the guide was done, we were allowed to look about the room before continuing on to Corrie's room. This is where the actual hiding place was. They opened the wall up some so people could see inside. The guide said we could get in if we wanted. The rest of the group was hesitant, but I jumped right now, almost literally. Wow that place was so small!! Only 2.5 feet wide and about 6 feet long. We got all 5 of us on the tour in there and it was a bit snug. I could only imagine how comfortable it would have been in there with 6 people, some clothes, no water, only a few biscuits, no sanitary bucket, and not being able to make any noise. There is no way people could sit unless it was one at a time. Sleeping was out of the question. These people also had to be skinny and agile because even getting in and out of there had to be difficult. Plus, they had to be quick with the Gestapo banging on the door.
Even without the hiding place, Corrie's room was very small. About 6 feet wide and maybe 7 feet long. The Beje was essentially 5 levels. 3 on the house side plus 2 levels for living above the watch shop. The stairs between the levels are steep, narrow, and winding. Corrie seemed to run up and down them with ease. I almost tripped just walking up and down them.
Since there were only 5 of us in the tour, we were able to go to the roof landing. This is where the laundry was hung. Every once in awhile, the people in hiding were able to go up there for fresh air. However, they had to sit or squat very low to not be seen.
Back down the stairs we went to Williem and Betsie's rooms, Corrie's brother and sister. These rooms are now used to display items like ration cards, the letter Corrie wrote to the man that turned them in, the suitcase Corrie filled with Bibles and took to communist Russia. On the wall above the doorway was a map. It showed where Haarlem is and where other key cities, work camps, and concentrations camps were. The other side is a map of part of Europe and approximately how many Jews were killed in each country. 100,000 in Holland. 3 million in Poland. Seeing this made me very emotional. I was very heartbroken and sad, very angry that someone thought this was a good idea, sad that more didn't try to stop it.
Corrie not only wrote the book, "The Hiding Place," she also never stopped sharing her family's story until the end of her life when she literally could not speak. Corries died on her birthday, April 15th in 1983, at her Shalom House in Placentia, CA. Corrie asked to just be buried in the back yard with a simple headstone that said, "Jesus is Victor."
We walked down to the dining room where they have the rest of Corrie's books for sale as well as a blessings box. The guides are all volunteers, so any money donated is used for the upkeep of the house.
1st pic; Tante Jan's sitting room
2nd pic: The hiding place. The opened the wall so guests could see it. As you can see the fake wall is made of brick so it wouldn't sound hollow. The green in the back is the real outside wall.
3rd pic: They got in and out if the hiding place via this trap door in the back of a bookcase.
4th pic: The trap door from the inside worked on a pulley system.
5th pic: Its only 2.5 feet wide and about 6 feet long. 6 people hide in here for several days with no water, only a few biscuits and no sanitation bucket
6th pic: A plaque that now hangs in the hiding place
7th pic: Some of the ration cards
8th pic: Ten Boom Jewelers is still in business but not ran by the family but a close family friend.
9th pic: The Beje
10th pic: Plaque on the side of the house
I walked back to the train station to head to my hotel. I collected my luggage and took a taxi to the airport. Goodbye, Amsterdam. Back to Paris.
- Wander With Mekela