Adventures in Amsterdam

Get ready…We’re going to go back in time.  Since my original blogging-on-the-continent plan flopped, I’ll be interspersing my Northern Irish blogs with chapters about my spring vacation!  So first, some more on Amsterdam.

Kathryn and I enjoyed our sightseeing in Amsterdam, and there is much to recommend about this beautiful city!  Each morning, we awoke to the sounds of church bells playing elaborate melodies; as Kathryn remarked, “The buildings sing!”

We got up with some pretty early churchbells Tuesday morning, with the goal of getting ahead of the crowd at the Anne Frank Huis.  It was a lovely morning to walk along the canals, stopping every so often to squint at our map, until we found the museum at about 8:40 am.  It was still twenty minutes before the house opened, but there was already a line forming!  We were glad we had planned ahead and didn’t have to wait too long.

It’s been a while since I last read Anne Frank’s diary, and the exhibits reminded me of how thoughtful, honest and articulate Anne’s writing was.  And is, truly, as people have engaged with her words for sixty-five years now, in over seventy translations.   Her story forces the tragedy of the Holocaust into sharp focus, allowing readers to get to know one bright, young mind who was lost forever in that colossal horror.

At the same time, it is a delight to know how charming and funny and wise Anne was in her writing even in the worst of circumstances.  As a writer myself, I found it incredibly moving to stand in the rooms where Anne wrote and to see the red plaid clothbound diary in which she began her now famous diary.  I also loved seeing the pictures she writes about in her diary that she posted on the walls of the room she shared with Margot: fashion ads, nature photographs, pictures of celebrities like Ginger Rogers and the baby Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret, to name a few.

After Anne Frank, we revived our tired selves with coffee and went to find a far less serious museum: Kattenkabinet, an old house filled with famous cat art.  Part of the draw of this museum was that two real cats actually live there, but they were hiding in the garden when we visited.

We  bought our cat-themed postcards at Kattenkabinet, then had a simple but delicious lunch at Toos and Roos (meaning uncertain): Dutch cheese sandwiches with arugula salad, sweet chutney and warm pumpkin soup.

Continuing the theme of small, quirky museums, we then headed for the Houseboatmuseum, an actual houseboat that’s no longer occupied so that tourists can visit.  I happen to love small, cozy spaces, so I was ready to move into a houseboat!  They have electricity and running water; the only downside is that houseboats require a lot more maintenance than the average house.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the pretty Jordaan neighborhood, eating ice cream and stroopwafels  (sweet wafers filled with syrup).  On our way back to our hostel, we stumbled upon De Oude Kerk (The Old Church), which is a stunning church dating back before the Reformation.  It was originally Catholic, of course, but later was turned over to “the same kind of Protestants as you have in Northern Ireland!” as the docent told us.  Interesting.

We’ll move forward in time a bit when I blog about the next day in Amsterdam, with pictures and all….

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