Hello dear readers. Last I left you, Chris and I were just finishing dinner in Amsterdam and were on our way to the Anne Frank house. When we got to the Anne Frank house, the line was indeed long. We took our place and waited. It was a surprisingly short wait for how long the line was, only 20-25 minutes. The outside of the house has been modernized, but apart from the lobby and the fact that they built another exit onto it, they’ve worked hard to keep the interior in its original condition, with a few extra things added for the purpose of the museum (e.g. diary excerpts on the walls). We started the tour in a room showing a video with a voice over reading parts of Anne Frank’s diary while pictures from the war and the interior of the house are shown. From there you work your way through the building, starting on the lower levels where the offices for Otto Frank’s business were. There is no furniture left in any of the building, but there are scale models showing how each room would have been furnished at the time. There are pictures throughout the house showing the office workers and those who helped the ones in hiding, there are also the previously mentioned diary excerpts on the wall. You’re touring the house and then before you know it, there’s the bookcase. The bookcase that was used to conceal the entrance to the secret Annex where Anne’s family and the others hid during the war. I can’t explain the feeling of facing that famous bookcase. It’s the original bookcase, there’s a sign asking that it not be touched. There are even old file folders on the bookcase. From the minute we entered the house I felt very emotional, but this was by far the most emotional moment of the tour for me. The bookcase is pushed forward so visitors can enter the annex.
You have to duck a little bit and take a big step up as you’re entering the annex behind the bookcase. In front of you is a very steep staircase going up to the second level of the annex, but there are 3 rooms on this first level. The first room is the one that Anne’s parents Otto and Edith shared with Anne’s sister Margot. There is a small map on the wall with little pins in it that Otto used to track the progress of the allies during the war. There is also a section on the wall that shows markings where Otto and Edith kept track of Anne and Margot’s height during their time in hiding.
The next room is Anne’s room, the one she shared with Fritz Pfeffer (who she referred to as Mr. Dussel in her diary). There are a bunch of pictures on the walls that she’d pasted there, they’re now protected by plexiglass. Being in this room, it’s hard to imagine having to stay in it alone for so long, let alone share it with a man you barely know. The next room, reached through a door off Anne’s room, is the bathroom. It’s bigger than I imagined it would be, but still incredibly small to think that 7 people had to share it. Next, it’s time to climb the incredibly steep and narrow staircase (it felt more like a ladder) to the living/kitchen/dining area which was also where Mr. and Mrs. Van Pels’ (referred to as the Van Daans in Anne’s diary) bedroom. Such a small area to be the main hub of activity in the house; again, hard to imagine! After this room is Peter Van Pels’ (Peter Van Daan in the diary) bedroom, which is incredibly small. There is also the ladder to the attic here, but visitors aren’t allowed to go up there. There is a mirror in the attic that you can see from Peter’s room that allows you to see the whole of the attic without actually going in it.
Peter’s room is the last of the secret Annex and the original house. There is an exit off Peter’s room that was added after the war because of the large amount of visitor’s they were receiving at the house, it helped to have another place for visitors to exit instead of having to turn around and go through the whole house again. While that is the last room of the original house, it’s not the end of the tour. There are a few other rooms at the end that have different items of the Franks’ on display, including Anne’s diary and pages from her other notebooks, and the paper that shows the Franks’ names amidst the names of other Jews that were arrested at the time. There is also a video of Anne’s childhood friend reminiscing about her time with Anne and when she saw her in the concentration camp before her death, and another video of Anne’s father Otto talking about when he first read her diary after her death.
The Anne Frank house was an incredibly moving and emotional experience for me. Nobody is allowed to take pictures within the house and after being there, I actually think this is a very good thing. It would be too distracting if everyone there were snapping pictures like crazy and I think it would take away a bit from the emotional aspect of the experience. There is a gift shop after the tour as well as a place where you can buy coffee and a snack. I’ve read online that some people think this is tacky, but I don’t think it is. They need money to keep up with renovations of the house and to pay their employees. I appreciated the gift shop, which is actually a book shop; they sold several different books about Anne Frank, as well as her diary, and postcards.
After visiting the Anne Frank house, we took a rickshaw tour from Dam Square. This was so fun! I recommend it. It was 20 Euros and was a half hour long. It rained while we were on it, but he had a plastic cover he zipped up so we weren’t affected by the rain and we still got to see Amsterdam at night. It was awesome! Even when someone else slammed into the back of us with their bicycle.
We went back to the hotel for the evening after our rickshaw tour. The next morning, we got up and ready, packed our stuff, and checked out of the hotel. They kept our suitcase behind the desk for us so we didn’t have to lug it around Amsterdam with us all afternoon. Our first stop Monday morning was the Red Light District. Our rickshaw driver showed us where it was the night before, but he said they aren’t allowed to ride into it on their tours (which was fine with us, we didn’t want to go at night) he just wanted us to see the red lights glowing. You may want to avoid this next paragraph if you don’t want to read about the seedy area known as the Red Light District!
The Red Light District is famous for its seedy sex shops, brothels, and bars. While neither of us were after what it had to offer, we just had to get a look at it. What’s really bizarre about this area, is that it’s a stone’s throw away from Central Station and it’s not as though there are big signs saying “Welcome to the Red Light District!” So it’s easy for anyone to stumble into it completely on accident. Be aware of that if you’re traveling with kids, you’ll want to map the area so you know where you need to avoid. We turned a corner from a street that was full of innocent souvenir shops and before we knew it there were sex shops and yes, prostitutes standing in windows in their underwear. Even knowing that that’s what it’s famous for, it’s quite shocking to see it firsthand at 11 o’clock in the morning. There were shops advertising marijuana for sale, sex toys, and everything else you can imagine. There were store fronts with images of nude women promoting the latest toy for sale. It was eye opening for sure. We didn’t stick around. We took the next turn we came upon and exited the Red Light District.
After the Red Light District we were going to check out a museum we passed called the Medieval Torture Museum, but one step in the door showed that it seemed to be pretty low budget so we passed. We wandered the streets, checking out the different dessert shops, restaurants, and souvenir shops. We ended up taking a rickshaw again, this time a taxi, to the Hard Rock Cafe to check out the shop and possibly have lunch. We skipped lunch as the prices were high, we weren’t that hungry, and the food didn’t sound all that wonderful. We walked over a bridge and across another street to Vondelpark. We didn’t wander through much of Vondelpark, but what we saw was very pretty!
We took a taxi from Vondelpark back to Dam Square so we could return to our hotel for our luggage. We took a tram back to the World Fashion Center and our car. We were pros for this tram ride, it was much easier than the first time. With that, we left Amsterdam behind. We drove back to Calais, caught the ferry, enjoyed dinner and sunset on the ferry, and were home by 12:30am.
All in all, we had a lovely time and felt like 2 days was plenty of time for what we wanted to see. There were some other places I would have liked to see the inside of if we had longer, but I didn’t feel cheated that we were unable to do so. If you’re thinking of visiting Amsterdam, I doubt you’ll regret it, just be aware of all the things I mentioned if you’re traveling with young kids. Also be aware that you will smell marijuana many many times during your visit. I’m glad that my first European experience was a road trip to Amsterdam. I can’t wait for the next adventure!