This post was a hard one to start. I didn't know where to start. Plus, I wasn't all that enamored with Amsterdam so I don't quite have much feeling invested in posting about it. But I'll still post pictures and those of you who have been there before can tell me what I missed, and if I should have loved it.
When we first drove into town, we were told that there aren't many places to park so you should park on the outskirts of town and take some sort of public transportation in or bike it in. We didn't end up taking our bikes and we kind of weren't really "into" seeing this town...so we didn't really want to invest in it (time, energy and money). Anyway, we got near enough to the Anne Frank House because that's what we wanted to see the most. There were lots of museums (Van Gogh, Rembrandt, etc.) but I think I'm just burnt out on seeing museums and tours with children. You really can't focus while they're there and I just thought that I wanted to get in and out of there. And I'm not kidding you, with all the fun the Eurocamp had to offer, the kids were way more interested in that. So, we just wanted to spend a few hours here.
Walking around town to find Anne Frank's house.
Anne Frank House
We got there pretty early as it was the first thing we did. We barely had to wait in line to buy tickets. But very soon after we got there, a huge line started forming.
We weren't all able to go in at the same time, because we had the dog. So, Xanthe and I opted to sit on a bench outside and eat our lunches (we had each packed our own lunch that morning so this was a good time to eat and sit and talk). It was quite fun spending some one-on-one time at different moments with each girl.
(Xanthe & I eating our lunch. Anne Frank House is behind her across the canal.)
This view is from the other side, the side of the House. You can see Brian and Spencer and Xoe who have just crossed to the other side to go have their lunch while Xanthe and I went in. I just love the red storefront.
As much as I didn't love the "downtown" part of Amsterdam, I did love the houses and how their roofs lined the skyline. I loved the canals too. Way different than Venice. Much quieter.
I don't really know how to describe the feeling of going into the Anne Frank House. We (I) had read a Behind the Diary book, that had pictures and commentary from her dad who was the only survivor of the 8 who lived in the house. There was also a commentary about the whole timeline of Hitler. I learned more from that short 5th Grade book than I did in all of Junior High and High School.
It was very humbling to walk into her house, and I actually get choked up a few times. There is no furniture, at the request of her father (
I think he never wanted to see it the way it was again)
, but even still walking through the tiny corridors and the steep stairs, has a simple humbling quiet feeling about it. To live 24/7 in the same small rooms with 7 other people and not be able to make a noise during the day, or have a peek out the darkened window would have driven anyone insane. It's amazing to me, and makes me appreciate, the two families who lived there so much more. And makes me truly understand why Anne's diary has received such acclaim. To be able to stay so positive and functional as she did is beyond me.
They also showed videos of people who knew her and they were talking about who she was, or how they helped hide the family. In addition, there were videos of the actual holocaust...videos of people who lay dead in the streets while others just walk passed them, or pits with hundreds of dead bodies. I've always had a hard time with the topic of The Holocaust. I've never watched Schindler's List (by choice) and couldn't even make it through a movie we had to watch in High School called "The Holocaust". It makes my heart hurt and I can't even wrap my brain around it to understand it.
So, yes, her house was very humbling. We also saw books they read, schoolwork of the sister, and the original "Growth Lines" they drew to see how big she and her sister were getting. There were also the original pictures on the wall that she had pasted from magazines to somehow decorate the walls to make it a happier place.
I have no idea what to say next...I'll just leave it at that.
Amsterdam is a huge biking city. There was some statistic I read that 75% of the residents own and ride their bikes as their only form of transportation. The books were right when they said there were bikes EVERYWHERE. Chained to whatever didn't move. I wish I would have gotten a picture of the bike racks at the train station. Thousands of bikes. It looked like a sea of bikes. But these next two pictures give you an idea of how prevalent they are.
After the Anne Frank House, we went walking around to the nearby sites. The palace was nearby and the train station as well. I guess one of the reasons I didn't like this city is it felt so dirty. It was unlike the other European towns we've been to. Not only did the souvenir shops have such raunchy displays (remember, this is the city with the Red Light District) right there in the open for the girls to see (mugs with the handles made out of male genitals, that kind of thing), but the streets felt dirty and there were funny smells of pot (yes, pot is legal in Amsterdam) wafting from dark storefronts. I'm no prude, it just set a different standard. There was also so many other things, like an oil rig built right next to the train station. It just didn't feel like they took much pride in their city. Although, I think they might be trying to rebuild it. They are introducing a new "city motto" that is being used by their public transportation and public facilities. So, I think they're trying new things. This place just wasn't my favorite.
This was one of the only buildings I could get where there weren't construction vehicles or wires running all around them...as well as vendors and people smoking pot outside. Here are a few more pictures. This is the trains station.
Spencer pooped out about halfway through (which is great because he never takes naps on the road). Check out this picture of how he loves to sleep nowadays. Even in the car. He covers just his face with a blanket. I tried spreading out the blanket to the rest of him, and in his sleep he moved it back up. It was quite cold even, but he didn't want it. He really is sleeping under there, I promise.
This is one of the meltdowns typical in the our daily travels. At some point, the girls just lose it. They're great for awhile, but then either their feet hurt, they're hungry or they...simply don't know what's wrong. Xanthe here is complaining about all the people who keep bumping into her and stepping on her feet. She was informing me that she's "not going to move ANYMORE for them. They're gonna have to move out of MY way!"
And, of course, what would our travels be without the infamous Xoe and Xanthe souvenir shopping? I couldn't take many pictures because inevitably I got a picture of women's body parts, bongs or naughty t-shirts.
The girls were pissed that I NEEDED to take the next picture of them. Can you blame me? How amazing are these hats? In the end though, like mother like daughter, they were joining in and trying to find aprons and outfits to try on to match. The storekeeper wasn't too happy about it so we just left.
Meeting a group of missionaries outside the Queen's Palace (the palace is on the right). The whole thing was covered by tarp and scaffolding for repairs. Buzzkill. We had a good conversation with the missionaries and it was fun "picking their brain" as to how it was serving a mission in a city like this (pot legal, Red Light District). They had nothing but positive things to say. Go Elders! Way to keep it light.
Xoe and Xanthe were thrilled when they saw this upper scale shopping mall. For those of you who follow their Facebook account, they belong to this online fashion design game called Stardoll. (That's the only reason they joined FB is cuz Stardoll gave them all this free stuff.) They knew all the designers that were listed on the front wall. Ones I had never heard of, and others I had. They even knew who Donna Karan was. Wow. (This picture was taken in between the Queen's Palace on the left with the scaffolding, and some other church building.)
And this next picture looks like a happy one, right? Well, it is. But it was right at that time when Brian informed us that we were officially lost from our parking garage and that our GPS had stored the wrong address. Xanthe and I had insisted we had been right around the corner from it about a half an hour earlier. But Brian didn't remember some of the monuments that we were passing when he first drove in, so he thought it was further down. It was kind of a buzz kill walking all the way back to the car that literally was right behind us if we had just turned around as we were walking. Too funny. And of course, I made him eat crow.
I think Brian and I might go back and visit again, maybe during the summer when Xoe and Xanthe are in the states. We can get to know a few other places to go, and also visit some other places so when we come back with the girls we'll have the whole thing planned.