It has been a few years since we visited Amsterdam, Holland. I was young, just 16. We had studied world history in the 10th grade. Which is bad, because I wasn't as interested in history until after we went to Europe! Seeing history alive and all of the places we had read about made it really jump off the pages of the history books!
Our first stop on our European tour that summer was Amsterdam. Like I mentioned, I was 16 and traveling with my parents, my grandmother, my aunt, uncle and 2 young cousins, so it wasn't a fun teenager kind of trip. But boy was I wrong! Being with my family was an absolute blast and we look back fondly to those memories often. We visited all the typical tourist sites, including the Tulip factory and fields, took a boat ride down the canal, the cobblestone streets of Amsterdam and of course the Dam Square. But my absolute favorite was visiting the Anne Frank House. The secret annex her family and others hid during WWII.
The building is normal-looking, it looks like all of the other buildings on the canals. You enter the building without a lot of ornaments or decor. The illusion is to take you back to the 1940s to understand the isolation and condition of where the family lived. It’s hard to imagine living in such tight corners. Never to be allowed to go outside. Having read the book the year before in school made it a much more chilling experience. One, I highly recommend you experience. If you do plan a trip to Amsterdam, read the book before you go. Even if you’ve read it in the past.
The museum itself is very sparse. Otto, Anne’s father, didn’t want a lot of things taken into the annex. He wanted the experience to be chilling not realistic. Most of the annex part of the museum is empty except for display cases holding things that the families kept with them while hiding. Chilling is the room Anne shared with Fritz. You see her posters hung up, the posters that showed she was in touch with Hollywood and all things teenagers love to follow. Reminders of a life she had and a life she dreamt of.
Walking through the annex as a 16 year old with a car sitting at home, all the luxuries of the late 1980s (far different than today), air conditioning, cable television, cordless telephones, malls to shop in, extra curricular activities for school and so on, was humbling. I can’t tell you how moving it was because it was just that intense. Knowing that what you were looking at was their hope of a new life after the war. The hope of long lived life that would not be. The hope that they would escape the horrors they had only heard of. Knowing that they didn’t survive. That their annex was found, they were taken to camps and ultimately all but Otto were killed. It’s a chilling experience at any age, but especially young.
This is why I love travel. Why I love to introduce new and different things and places to as many people as possible. To see history come alive that I had just read was inspiring. We read about Europe, other countries, other states and sometimes we get a glimpse into these worlds through television and movies. But at a time when news wasn’t 24 hours and the internet didn’t exist, seeing history alive and in person was truly an amazing experience.