Had an early start this morning and went to the Anne Frank Huis first. I love this place with all the history and suffering that happened here. I read Anne Franks diary when I was about 10 and to imagine the scenes while you're reading, is different to actually seeing and being in the house itself.
The place had a museum as well as the house itself and the museum part was nice as it had some items that were in the house, paperwork and videos from the people who helped to hide the families. The outside of the house is undergoing some maintenance so was covered in scaffolding etc so I couldn't get a picture of the house itself. You are not allowed to take photos inside either.
The house was stripped of its furniture by the Nazis once the people in hiding were all discovered and sent to concentration camps. It was Otto Franks (Anne's Dad) wish that the house remained unfurnished when the house was opened to public. There are still sinks and some cabinets and toilets that are still remaining though. Walking through the bookcase and up the hidden stairwell is very surreal. Its hard to imagine 8 people living in this small area for 2 years and never stepped foot outside.
I could keep going on about the house, but if any of you are ever in Amsterdam, this has to be on the top of the list of things to do.
Next I went on another free walking tour where we walked past the:
- The Old Chuch (Oudekerk - The Dutch are not very imaginative when it comes to naming things, eg. Westerkerk for West Chuch)
- The Red Light District.
- The Jewish Quarter.
- Anne Franks House.
- The Dutch East India Company (or VOC, you know the one that sailed eveywhere around Asia. The building is now the University of Amsterdam)
- The Begijnhof Convent (This place is beautiful and right in the middle of the city. Its like a little closed off community)
- The Widest Bridge and Smallest house (only 1.8 meters wide!)
After that I went back to the hostel to put some more clothes on. The day before was so hot, but today was so cold and I had shorts and a tshirt on!
Then I left to do a free walking tour of the Red Light District! This was probably the funniest tour I've been on so far.
- The world's first Stock Exchange (Did you know the VOC was the first publicly traded company?)
- A Poeflokaal (tasting bar as at one stage hard liqours were banned in Amsterdam so they created 'tasting bars', kept everyone happy)
- China Town.
- Where jazz legend Chet Baker plunged to his death. (out a hotel window)
- Smart Shops, Condom shops, Video Cabins, Sex shops (we didn't actually go in, but they had funky stuff on display!)
- Elite Street (where the women in the window are supposed to be better looking)
- The Bulldog (The Dams first coffee shop)
- Former HQ of Hell's Angels
- World's first Sex Theatre.
- De Dampkring (Coffee shop where Matt Damon, George Clooney, Brad Pitt hung out in Oceans 12)
Alot of the sex theatres and businesses in the area are being shut down because apparently they cannot prove that some of the money they make is clean. Actually they are slowly trying to shut down the whole red light district, but of course alot of people who work there are against it. They say if its shut down, then prostitution will just be pushed back on to the streets. Over here they are a pretty tolerent society, as long as you don't push your beliefs/habits into othe peoples faces then they will accept it. Just like alot of coffee shops will not stick out their window "Marajuana for sale!" etc. Its very discreet so that everyone can get on with their everyday life.
Another example of the tolerant society here is when a long time ago, the city decided to become Protestant, many of the catholic churches were taken down. However, quite a few 'hidden churches' were built inside houses that look unsuspecting from the outside. So for the Protestants, Cathlocism wasn't being pushed in their face so they were able to turn a blind eye and accept it.
Amstedam architecture is a very interesting as well, their houses are built at an angle, some purposely, some tilting due to the soft land (Amsterdam is below sea level). The houses have small doors, so each house has a hook near the roof which they use a rope to create a pulley system and that is how they move things in and out of their house through the windows.
Till next time...