The next morning we were up early, packed and ready to go when the breakfast area opened at 7am.
Being the A-Train Hotel, model trains were displayed everywhere and the breakfast and reception area were decorated like a train station.
This is the type of place I prefer to stay, with “local color” as opposed to an anonymous, homogeneous hotel that could be anywhere. I was delighted to find traditional European breakfast fare: hard-boiled eggs with little egg cups to eat them from; fresh whole fruit; an assortment of sliced meat and cheese; a large pitcher of orange juice; and cornflakes in a dispenser. There are so many things that I like about Europe, and their breakfasts, which leave your tummy feeling healthy and content, is one of them. Again, I vowed to change my own breakfast fare upon returning home.
They also had a mechanically interesting toaster, where you put your bread in one side and it moves around inside on a little ferris-wheel type set up, groaning the entire time, and where your bread would eventually emerge from the other side perfectly toasted. They also had a wonderful Keurig-type machine where you chose, vending machine style, from a large assortment of coffee drinks and hot chocolate, and by simply pushing a button your desired drink was automatically dispensed.
Jack chose to stay behind as Vince and I took off on foot for the Anne Frank House. I had read the book once again, before this trip, to better understand what happened and to better appreciate what we were about to see. It sort of astonished me to realize that her story had taken place after my husband was born, which brought home the fact that this had happened not that long ago! It seemed more likely to me that something that horrific must have happened a long, long time ago and that we are long past atrocities like that. That is a very naive view of the world coming from the perspective of having lived in freedom my entire life. All one has to do is to turn on the news to find that even today, people are being killed and persecuted for who they are, and this is part of why travel is so valuable. It opens our eyes and forces us to take a broader view of things, instead of existing solely within our own, insulated world.
At this time of the morning, the streets of Amsterdam were quiet and peaceful, the canals still, a few people out sweeping the walks or having their morning coffee.
I love early morning…it’s my favorite time of the day when everything is new and full of promise.
We admired the architecture as we walked along, and appreciated how people will pull up a few cobblestones in front of their stoop and plant hollyhocks, or other hardy plants that bloom in a riot of color.
We paused at the Homomonument, a memorial commemorating all gays and lesbians who have been persecuted for their homosexuality.
It is located in a plaza in front of the Westerkerk, an impressive Protestant church with a bell tower that is mentioned frequently in Anne Frank’s diary.
A memorial to Anne Frank stands in its courtyard. Both are a visible reminder that the people of Amsterdam want everyone to be able to live peacefully together.
We spotted the Anne Frank House by the line already forming outside, before it opened. We had purchased our tickets online before leaving home. People greeted each other in line, some visibly jet-lagged, with this being their first stop after arriving from a long flight.
At last the doors whooshed open and we entered a lobby area filled with photographs and display boards. From there, we watched a short film that told the story of Anne Frank and her family. Then, in small groups, we were escorted through the downstairs offices and then up the narrow canal house stairways to the adjacent attic area where the families hid for over two years.
Everyone was quiet and somber; it felt as if we were in a sacred place. Docents talked about each of the rooms we visited and people had an opportunity to ask questions. One of the most powerful sections for me was at the end, when the family was discovered. The only one who survived was Anne’s father. He was given Anne’s diary and in a film, talked about reading it and reliving the experience through Anne’s eyes. He was shocked at the animosity Anne expressed toward her Mother, feeling it painted an unfair image of her as viewed by an adolescent without the broader perspective of growing up and becoming a mother herself. He was also embarrassed by Anne’s writing about her own budding sexuality, even though she had shared much of what she was doing with him. The thought immediately struck me about how complicated and dangerous it would have been for everyone had she become pregnant. As close as Anne and her father were, he said that “you never really know your own children.” Eventually, he agreed to allow the heavily edited diary to be published, to help ensure that nothing like this ever happened again. Eventually, the unedited version of the diary was published as well.
If you would like to learn more about the Anne Frank House, and take a virtual tour, please click on this link.
As we left the Anne Frank house, the city was waking up, the street were filling with cars and trams and bicycles and dogs. Jack was waiting for us at the Hotel. We collected our luggage and bade farewell to the A-Train Hotel, telling them that we would be back in a couple of weeks.
We now expertly wheeled our luggage across the street, through the train station and onto a train, zipping south through the green, flat countryside to Rotterdam, where our ship awaited to take us on the next leg of our journey.