Day 11: Hamster’s Dam

(January 13th)

Today was our last completely free day on the tour! We had an optional bike tour planned for the morning, so PC and I decided to do as the Amsterdamians do. On the way, we had the opportunity to see this beautiful city in the daylight!

It was raining (as, apparently, it typically does in Amsterdam) so we were given these thick ponchos that were really more like tents.

During the tour we saw many landmarks including the I Amsterdam sign, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, Vondelpark, and many others. We also learned about the liberal culture for the Dutch people. They typically allow you to do whatever you want as long as you aren’t bothering anyone else. For example, you cannot legally smoke marijuana outside of your home or the cafés where it is sold, but you won’t get arrested unless you’re caterwauling at a nearby family. For them, as our tour guide said, it’s not about the letter of the law, it’s about the spirit of the law. On that note, it’s hard not to notice the powerful stench of Amsterdamian tourists.

For lunch, we went to a mall that used to be a palace and still looks very much like a palace on the inside.

After that, PC and I and our friend, Kanomi, went to the Anne Frank museum. Before I continue, I should say that I haven’t read The Diary of Anne Frank, I just thought this would be an interesting site to see. For those of you who aren’t aware, Anne Frank was a Jewish girl who lived in Amsterdam before her family was captured during World War 2. She died in Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944.

The Franks lived in a secret annex behind Otto Frank’s offices and store rooms for his jam business. I was surprised at how big the hidden house was!  Going in, I thought the Franks hid there once or twice while they were being hunted down. But no, they lived in the secret annex for a few years before someone anonymously tipped off the Nazi Secret Service. The Franks had a couple of bedrooms and a bathroom to share between Otto, Edith, Margot, and Anne Frank as well as Fritz Pfeffer. There was also an upper level with a bedroom and a living room/bedroom which kept Hermann, Auguste, and Peter van Pels hidden. Of these eight, only Otto made it through the war. Everyone living there had to keep quiet during the day so the workers could not hear them. They also kept the curtains shut at all times and no one could look out the window. This part of the building had to look like no one lived there. The museum does not have the furniture that the Franks would have had when they lived there, but there are images in each room showing what it would have looked like. Instead, the rooms are mostly empty except for videos of people who knew Anne and the Franks, a few artifacts, pictures of family and friends, and quotes from Anne’s diary painted on the walls in Dutch and English. However, the rooms are kept dark and quiet, like when the Franks lived there. I like that the museum shows you a bit of what it looked like, but also what it felt like to live there. At the end of the tour, there was a short video of different reflections on Anne Frank’s life. Someone talked about all opportunities that were denied to Anne when she was alive, like her dream to be a famous writer or even her dream to run around outside and breath the fresh air. They talked about how her would-haves are our opportunities (said by Emma Thompson). They also talked about how she is a symbol of the Holocaust and there were hundreds of thousands of Jews who don’t have a museum or a famous book to remember them by (John Green). She was a picture of innocence, but she wasn’t a saint (Natalie Portman). She was a real person and she thought and felt deeply.

After Anne Frank House, PC, Kanomi, and I went to a nearby pancake restaurant for a snack. Kanomi and I ordered some delicious waffles covered in strawberry or chocolate sauce (respectively), whipped cream, and icing sugar! They were so good! PC ordered poffertjes, which are these tiny pancakes covered in icing sugar. After that, we went to back to the hostel for a break before dinner.

Our final dinner with our tour group was at the Sea Palace, an Indonesian restaurant, which is the largest restaurant on water. The food was delicious and there was so much of it!

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The day finished with a canal cruise! We the boat cruised around the many Amsterdamian canals and showed off some landmarks along the water. We saw the flying Dutchman (a series of water fountains which overlap to form a pirate ship), the many beautiful displays for the Amsterdam light festival, and (of course) the colourful Dutch homes and businesses along the waterfront. All in all, it was a lovely evening.

Also, PC found a tiger.

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