Thursday June 18, 2009

Amsterdam is a city of 70 islands connected by 1000 bridges spanning more canals than you’ll find even in Venice. And today, after a yummy hotel breakfast, we continued our exploration with a magical canal cruise in a glass-covered boat – but not before we’d paid a respectful, thoughtful visit to the museum-plus-hiding-place of Anne Frank.

I don’t know if you’ve read her famous diary (now published in more languages than any other book, save the Bible), but teenager Anne Frank was one of the millions of Jewish victims of Nazi persecution during World War 2. When the German army occupied the Netherlands in 1940, Anne and her family (plus several other Jews) went into permanent hiding in the rear of this building on Prinsengracht. Anne kept a diary right up until 1944, when someone finally betrayed them to the SS. She died of typhus in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, March 1945.

It’s hard to describe the thoughts and feelings that flood your head and your heart as you climb up the narrow staircases and move room by room through this one-time secret hiding place. The horrors inflicted by this monstrous regime and the courage of this young girl stand in painful contrast … and we all came away feeling pretty sober.

Anne Frank

Anne Frank

The Anne Frank House is something you must do in Amsterdam. And something else you must do is look UP – because the gabled rooflines of the city’s old houses are truly a highlight all in themselves. Our canal cruise today gave us endless “look-up” photo opportunities today as we glided along tree-lined waterways, past Burgher’s mansions, twin houses, floating houseboats, and other historic sites.

We followed that with a visit to the magnificent Van Gogh Museum, where we witnessed the talent of this brilliant but unhappy young artist. And then, tonight, we sat around tables at Haesje Claes restaurant and shared a traditional, very yummy, very filling Dutch dinner.

Mmmmm …

PEOPLE NEWS: A couple more people have achieved greatness today and earned themselves a Mad Midlife Honour:

* The ‘Silence is Golden Award‘ goes to Shirley – who must’ve talked too much the day before because she woke up this morning with no voice, a condition which hadn’t improved by dinner time.

* The ‘Snap, Crackle & Pop Award‘ goes to Gavan – who, while attempting to open a packet of muesli during breakfast this morning, managed to cause the entire contents to explode violently, all over himself, the table, and the surrounding dining room. Nice one, Gavan!

TOMORROW: We’ve got more of Holland still to see – this time heading out of the city to picture-postcard Zaanse Schans (a ‘dike village’ dating back to the 13th century) and Edam (famous for its cheeses and windmills). Then, in the afternoon, we’ll board the Prinsendam for our long-awaited Baltic Cruise – yeehaa!

Yours bloggedly – JOHN

P.S. If you want to leave a message for someone in our group, just click on ‘COMMENTS’ (or ‘NO COMMENTS’) under the title for the day’s blog, and type away! Make sure you say who it’s for and who it’s from – and don’t worry: we’ll make sure they get these messages. Also, if you want a better look at our route map and some of the photos here, just click on them and they’ll enlarge – magic!