Sunday, August 05, 2012

A tower with a view and a room without one

Friday evening

Back in the hostel, writing a quick blog post before I set out for the bus (leaves at 11.15 pm). I think today was the best day I've had in Amsterdam, whether because of what I did or because I've caught up on sleep and am a bit less grumpy, I don't know.

I had a bit of a slower start to the morning, it was after 10 or even close to 11 by the time I got into town. I started off with a quick wander through the red light district. It was apparently too early for the prostitutes in windows, that or I wasn't in quite the right bit, so I missed those, but walked past a few coffee shops which were already open for business. I recognised the smell from police burnings (which is a lame joke about a specific incident that happened in NZ that I've already used on the blog before, but for some reason I still find very funny. If anyone cares, some guys were once caught smoking dope in the toilets at Parliament and the guy that dobbed them in said he recognised the smell from police burnings. Which is just the nerdiest thing ever. Him saying that, not me telling the story - I'll let you make up your own minds on that.)

Another wall plaque
Rambling aside, I went to the Anne Frank house and once again found that the line was too long for my likings, so instead I went next door to the Westerkirk and bought a ticket to climb up the tower at midday. It was actually quite a steep climb, but broken up in to convenient stages where the guide (you can go up max 6 at a time) explained various things about the tower and the bells and so on. I don't seem to remember anything that she said, must have been due to walking past those coffee shops.
Even the churches were getting behind gay pride! I didn't realise when booking that it was this weekend, so unfortunately I missed the parade on Saturday. Oh well, these things aren't much fun alone anyway

The huge organ inside the Westerkirk. "Huge organ" sounds dirtier than it should...

Views from the tower

After coming down from the tower, I checked the Anne Frank line again, still too long unsurprisingly, and decided to stay in the church for a free organ concert at 1. I assumed that it was going to be on the massive organ, but apart from one song, it was all on the little one. It was quite nice, I'm not the biggest fan of classical music, but yeah all good. Most of the audience seemed to be listening to it with their eyes shut, which I found more than a little creepy, but maybe that's the done thing at organ recitals.

STILL a big line after the concert, so I just wandered around looking for lunch. Imagine my surprise when I found a pie and mash shop! I don't know when the last time I had a pie was! These, of course, were a bit fancier than your NZ petrol station mince and cheese number, but very good all the same. I had a small chicken pie with mash and, as the menu described it, "groovy" (gravy).
Mmmm, pie

It was getting a bit later in the day by this stage, so I decided just to suck it up and go wait in the line for the Anne Frank house. I probably got in it at about twenty to five, and it only took twenty minutes or so to queue up, so not too bad. I came out again at 6.15 and the line was the same length as when I went in, so that made me feel better.

I'm really glad I went, it was very moving. I started tearing up as soon as I got in and saw some big photos of Anne on the walls, and I cried a few times thereafter. I didn't see anyone else crying, so either I'm just a big wuss or they were very discreet. You start out in the warehouse/office bit which would have been filled with people coming and going, most of whom did not know there were people hiding upstairs. Then you head up into the secret annexe itself, before coming out to an exhibition showing some more of what happened to the Franks and the others in the annexe once they were found and a display of the diaries themselves (there are several, plus Anne started rewriting the original diaries with the intention of publishing something after the war).

There are more rooms than I remembered (it's been a long time since I read it) - two stories plus an attic - but all the rooms are really quite small. I couldn't imagine being stuck in there 24/7, having to stay absolutely quiet all day and not let any lights show all night, with 8 people. The rooms are kept empty at the wish of Otto Frank, I think they said to show what was lost rather than putting it back to "normal". It's so tragic that they got so close to the end of the war before being discovered and killed. There was a really sad interview with Anne's best friend who was in a slightly better part of Bergen-Belsen than Anne and was able to talk with her through a fence. She was saying that she wished Anne had known her father was still alive, as after the death of her sister she had nothing left to hope for, and she died just a month before the camp was liberated.

Photos weren't allowed in the house, but I snapped this horrible Slavic version in the bookshop. It would be utterly tasteless to suggest that they chose to depict her shortly before her death of typhus, so I won't

From the Westerkirk tower - Anne Frank's house is the white one with one window in the foreground. It seems amazing that none of the workers or anyone thought, "hmmm, this house is a lot taller on the outside than the inside", or at least not for a long time (it's still unknown who betrayed them to the Nazis)


  1. Glad you stuck it out and went to see the Anne Frank house---I was starting to get worried you wouldn't! I remember the line looking long when I was there too.

    1. I must have gone past about half a dozen times before I went in, but I definitely didn't want to miss out in the end.

  2. What a day to go to the Anne Frank house. August 4th, the day the secret annex was invaded by German officers and The Franks were exposed. I can understand why you were emotional. I certainly would be. I'm glad you braved the long line and shared your experience with us. Thanks, Gwan.

    ...and how progressive that the church recognizes Gay Pride!! That's really amazing. I never thought I'd see that, at least not in my day.

    1. I didn't actually make that connection at all, what a dolt. I want to go back and read the diary again now, I don't think I've read it since I was a teenager and I don't think I've read the unedited version either. It will be even more powerful being able to picture exactly what it was like.

      I know, it was cool to see. I didn't realise it was Gay Pride at all at first, so I was thinking "wow every bar in Amsterdam is a gay bar??" until I found out why there were a few more rainbow flags around than usual (I assume). Ha ha!


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