Let’s say that I made it to and from in one piece.
I left Bath at 8.30pm, meaning that I sadly had to miss the final for Battle of the Laughs, which I was gutted about, because I was really rooting for the other comedians who were battling their way into the hearts of the students, to get that all important Summer Ball gig. But, we set off into the night, snuggled in blankets and munching snacks in the hope that we’d go to sleep on the coach. Alas, we didn’t, even though I took my sleep medication. But we got onto the ferry, and sailed away into the abyss of Europe.
That said, we got into sunny Amsterdam at 8.30am, after twelve gruelling hours on the road. After dropping our bags off, the intrepid explorers decided to go grab breakfast.
It was lovely to nibble on a light snack whilst beginning to re-read Diary of a Young Girl, as it made sense to read the story of a brave young woman going through a terrible experience, whilst walking the streets she would of known and loved. We had plans to visit The Secret Annexe the next day anyway, so context was needed.
After that, we decided to have a wander around our surroundings. We were really lucky to be getting such amazing weather, to be honest! I brought my posh DSLR camera that I got for Christmas, so was very able to play tourist for a change, and get snap happy. I’ll show off a couple of my favourite ones:
It was so lovely, that I agreed to hire out a bike with a couple of my friends for a couple of hours. Considering that I hadn’t cycled since I was fourteen, I was pretty nervous, especially as I’d spent quite a bit of the morning watching all the locals whizzing around like pros (seriously, some of the kids were on their smartphones, on Facebook, whilst moving!). So, after being shown how to use the bike locks (which we soon forgot) and how the brakes worked (that would prove to be rather handy!), we set off. It wasn’t long before I was wobbling all over the place, half on the pavement, half on the road. My shoe kept falling off in the middle of the cycle road, and we went the wrong way down a one-way path (doh!), and then we had pandemonium trying to lock and unlock our bikes when we went off for dinner (a lovely Italian place!), before I managed to get the hang of cycling, by which point, we had to give the bikes back. At one point, I had Dutch cyclists swear at me (it sounded like they were, harsh tone of voice!), so I swore back in English (though a mother did have to cover her daughter’s ears, whoops!), and an older gentleman came up to me in the street and said “You need to learn to ride bicycle. Get off pavement!”, when I thought I was on the road… DOH! I did try though, which I guess was the main thing.
The next day, we bought 24 hour public transport tickets, and set off to find the Anne Frank House museum.
It was another beautiful day, as we boarded our first tram, and trundled off to Dam Square, where we’d have to walk for another ten minutes to find Prinsengracht, where the museum was. We got there at about 10am, to discover a massive queue! I’d hoped at that time in the morning that it wouldn’t of been so busy, but I forgot for a moment just how famous Anne and her beloved diary is. Anyone who is anyone would want to come to see the place where Anne and her fellow hiders lived until that fateful day when they were captured.
This was the queue at around 11am! It just got madder and madder as the minutes ticked by. Although, that said, listening to the bells of the church that Anne used to love made me feel more determined to swallow my impatience, and get through the queue and into the Secret Annex. But, I did bring the diary with me…
It kept me busy whilst the queue shuffled slowly forwards. But we got in, and that was the main thing. We read out extracts of the diary, as well as the afterword, when a couple of my friends asked if Anne survived the war unfound. Unfortunately someone did tip off the hiders to the Nazis, who took them away to the dreaded concentration camps, and only Otto, Anne’s father, survived.
We were not allowed to take photos inside the Secret Annexe, so this was as far as the camera got. However, I agreed with this policy even if my friends didn’t, as you don’t want to ruin the experience by taking lots of photos and disturbing other visitors, not to mention that some artifacts get affected by light damage, especially when subjected to flash photography (see, there’s the old museum volunteer in me coming out!). But seeing the postcards on the wall, the books they read, the maps on the wall where they tracked the progress of the Allied forces, brought it home for me, that these were not just stories on a page anymore, but real people, and real lives. This was even more emphasized, when we got to the room where Anne’s original diary is kept, in a glass case, for all to see, as well as pieces of paper where Anne had written short stories, or her draft of the novel she was writing about the Secret Annex, based on her original diary.
I then had to pop back home, as my card started playing up, because I needed more funds to be loaded on, which meant I missed out on the canal cruise I’d wanted to go on, which was a shame. But before then I bought the film made in 1959 about Anne’s diary, as well as a graphic biography of Anne’s life, which I simply couldn’t bear to leave behind. We went out for one last time, to another lovely Italian restaurant, where I had a really nice calzone. We wandered the streets of Amsterdam as the nightlife awoke, before turning in for the night, as we had a long journey ahead of us for the next day.
And then we left Amsterdam the next morning, at 11am. We travelled back into England, which took us longer than planned as we got stuck in traffic. But we soon made it, and lugged all our suitcases and bags back into our rooms, before I flopped into bed.
It was a wonderful experience, and one I would love to repeat. I’d better start saving up for going back, I might persuade Josh to go with me, I think he’d love the laid back vibe of the place, not sure if he’d want to hire a bicycle though…