A good night’s sleep instantaneously dims whatever nightmare has taken place the evening before. Ah yes, it’s all coming back to me. That walk, room 101. I’m still peeved about not having my kettle, cups and milk. The receptionist tells me I need to pay for a canal room to have these luxuries. I consider upgrading. I only wish I’d had a canal room last night. There is a rather long list growing of people who should have experienced a trip from the window to the canal bed. Never mind, it’s all part of the travel experience.
I find myself next door at Molly Marys Irish Pub, drinking tepid coffee and cereal with milk now warm. Bleary eyed and scooping the last spoon of coffee from the cup, it dawns on me, that I’m in an Irish pub smack bang in the middle of Amsterdam. I wonder what sort of person wants to visit an Irish pub in the middle of a city teeming with pubs serving Belgian and German beers by the bucket load. I keep forgetting, those tourists. Better they had stayed at home.
In day light all is crystal clear. I can wave to myself (almost) from the hotel to ‘Amsterdam Central Station’. Less than a 45 second walk, but mine took almost 1hr and 45mins. Maybe my parents should have pulled me from my favourite history classes at school after-all and sent me to orienteering classes 101 for dummies. (Learning about dead kings and queens hardly seems useful in the 21st Century.)
Amsterdam is a picture perfect city. Small winding alleys, canals at every turn. So far I have done absolutely nothing useful except walk. (Well, my heart is probably saying thankyou for the exercise.)
It’s worth giving myself a quick lesson in traffic control, falling into the traffic will earn me a boot from a car on my left side instead of the right, results in the odd near miss. So I now have a bit of OCD occurring, and keep looking meticulously up and down the roads before crossing, just to be on the safe side. Not only am I fighting cars, but I have the push bikes to contend with as well. Merrily chained to canal fences in their thousands upon thousands, happily breeding as the day goes along, all 600,000 of them scattered throughout the city.
I manage to navigate back to the Tourist Bureau. I’m sold a 3 day all inclusive pass for all the buses, metros, and trams at a bargain price of €12 throughout Amsterdam. And I decide it’s worth splurging on a map of Amsterdam for €2.50. I don’t want future episodes like last night re-occurring.
I now have my neatly written list of must see tourist attractions & 2 hours later (because we know by now my map reading skills are crap) I find myself at the door of the ‘Bagijnhof’, also known as ‘hofs’. These are the closest thing to finding your very own ‘secret garden’. The ‘hof’ is an oasis of quiet and calm in the middle of a frantic city. Just turn a handle to your medieval doorway, and inside is the calm of a quaint chapel and gardens peppered with small quaint Dutch style houses, with their elongated A line roofs and quaint rectangle windows.
It’s 1578, the Catholic Church in a haze of revolution and hatred was banned and replaced by the Protestant church. With Catholics now banned from public worship. ‘Hofs’, were built by the wealthy, usually housing small Catholic chapels for worship, (a definite case of out of sight, out of mind.) and provided housing for women who were widowed or impoverished. Such generous charity, was imposed with conditions, and the women who lived in these oasis of calm seem to spend a lot of time praying, going to church, were banned from drinking and took vows of celibacy. Basically, you’re widowed, poor, and you have no fun at all left in in this world. (Is anyone else noticing here, how the men in history never have to suffer this tedious boredom and life of piousness?)
Then it’s time for a bit of aimless wandering and I stumble upon the ‘Anne Frank’ museum. I stand outside for a long time. I’ve been told I should come here, I really am hesitating, and I’m not keen on reliving someone else’s hell. Finally, I go in and spend a good hour and an a half going through the museum and seeing the actual apartment where Anne Frank and her family lived. What can I say? Not a lot. You live three floors above a factory. You’re trapped, like a hunted animal, sitting in a gilded cage. It’s only a matter of time. You can’t see sunlight. You can’t speak during the day. You can’t move. Make a noise. Use a toilet. Go to the tap and get a glass of water. You are a young girl. You have no friends left, because they are already gone. You can’t go shopping. Go to the beach. You’ll never feel a breeze or the sun on your face or see a blue spring sky. You’re never going to fall in love, get married, have a house or children of your own. You’re only going to get 15 years here on earth, and 3 of them will be lived in petrified fear. You’re being hunted just because you are deemed different, all because someone else said so.
I leave the Anne Frank museum, depressed, sad, and extremely frustrated. It really is like a bad dream. You survive from 1942 hidden from the world and suddenly you’re found concealed from a world you gave up on in the August of 1944, and once found you know you’re going to meet almost certain extermination, you’re traitor an unknown stranger. What human being betrays another, knowing that by doing so you sentence your prize find to an almost certain death, all because the world has decided you’re different, barred from living with the rest of us, because you are decreed ‘un-human.’ The ultimate irony here of course is that the British liberated the concentration camps in 1945 not quite one year later, after Anne Frank’s capture.
The only way I can justify such a horrible travesty of justice and unfairness in my head, is that we each have a destined path to walk during our short but infinitely different lives on this earth, a journey unique for every individual, each of us guided by the invisible hand of fate along the way.