Staying up until 12 didn’t do me much good. I don’t know what kind of logic we used when we concluded that since the tickets would be released on the day it would mean at the exact start of it. I reloaded the site multiple times, scrolled through Instagram a little and reloaded again. Of course, nothing happened. But at least my reading in the dark had worked great, I had held the little fake tealight under the words I was reading and read just fine. My hands were just about to fall off from the cold though, but I couldn’t put the book down.
Another downside of having stayed up late was the toilet visits. We did have a toilet on the boat, but it was one where you had to pump water in and out of the toilet yourself, manually flushing. This wasn’t the problem, the problem was that you had to open the toilet hole, and then close it again after use - he had warned us that not closing it could actually sink the boat, as you were creating a hole in the boat. And me being the idiot I am, I forgot to close it. So I woke up suddenly around 5 am, somehow remembering that I hadn’t closed it. I hurried to the toilet that by now was almost overflowing with water from the canal. I pumped it out and closed the hole. The problem had been solved, no harm done, but the mind always throws away all logic in the dark. And at 5 in the morning, lying in bed, my mind was convinced that even though I had closed the hole, the harm had been done - my mistake was irreversible. I imagined waking up soaked through by cold, dark water. Every time the boat creaked or the water made the tiniest splash I was sure that the boat would tip over, I was even convinced that the walls of the boat had started tilting more and more. I was also imagining that great white sharks inhabitated the canals of Weesp, but that was a whole other level of paranoia.
Finally after a good mental scolding, though, I did manage to fall asleep again, but all in all I hadn’t had the luckiest of nights.
When we woke it was freezing. Under my duvet and sleeping bag liner it was cozy, but my slightly wet hair was stiff from the cold, and it took awhile for me to actually throw the covers off and hop into my cold jeans. The boat reminded me of a luxurious tent, and I almost felt like I was on a tent trip again.
We were out the door in no time and took the train to Amsterdam in 15 minutes. In the train we waited in queue for Anne Frank’s House tickets around the opening time at 9, but when we got through it still said sold out, and I had lost hope of getting to see it.
In Amsterdam we walked past the Dam square to reach restaurant Greenwoods. It was a popular place and I understood why: the portions were huge and tasted great. We simply couldn’t finish it all, which was a pity, as I hate wasting food.
Around 11 am we walked on, passing Anne Frank’s house on the way, going into a quirky shop filled with all different kind of funny bits for the home and finally reaching the Van Gogh museum at our reserved time: 12.15 exactly - the tickets had cost 18€ per person!!.
The museum was really great and for once organised in a straightforward and logical way. I found out that we weren’t allowed to take photos when taking this one though,
as a security guard came out of nowhere and hissed very angrily at me for it. Later on, I couldn’t help but snap this one though, partly because I felt like rebelling against the rude guard and partly because it was such a famous one.
We saw ’the Bedroom’ as well and I learned a lot about what kind of person Van Gogh had been - my knowledge hadn’t reached far beyond the ear-cutting episode before.
There was also this really cool exhibition (where photos were allowed) that took us through kind of a Van Gogh themed psychedelic dream world.
We had spent about two hours in the museum and decided to just walk around for a little bit after. But while walking away from the museum, I randomly decided to check the Anne Frank ticket website and scroll down to see if I could read any information on how to get a hold of one. And just under the calendar that said ’sold out’ on all the days, we saw that there were still tickets left for some of the time slots. And so I hurriedly bought two tickets for 5.15 pm.
I was ecstatic: having been so disappointed about the last couple of failed attempts, I couldn’t believe we had actually gotten tickets - Anne Frank’s house was the thing I absolutely felt I needed to see. Having gotten so emotionally attached to the little girl and her story through reading her diary I simply felt I had to see the Secret Annexe to better understand the things she had written about.
We walked around Amsterdam for a good while, admiring the beautiful canals and streets.
We even found a secret garden in the middle of Amsterdam that had once belonged to the beguines women, who had lived in the surrounding buildings. Today only women lived in the apartments - I thought it was cool that they had kept the tradition - and the garden was extremely peaceful, so we stayed for a little while, also visiting the church.
We walked around Amsterdam for a little while before buying smoothies for lunch at vegan cafe Juice Brothers. We sat down on a bench in the sun on Dam square enjoying our smoothies and the warmth. I finished the last pages of Anne Frank’s Diary which brought with it a lot of emotions and thoughts, while Zuzanna ran around filming slow motion videos of pigeons.
We walked down the street to the vegan junk food bar, where we bought Belgian French fries (since we hadn’t had a chance to buy any in Belgium). We walked to the museum and quickly got inside.
And I don’t think I’ve ever been in a museum more emotionally exhausting, saddening and thought provoking. First it mostly recapped some things from her diary about their life hiding in the Secret Annexe. But walking through the Annexe, seeing the rooms they had lived in, while trying to imagine the life there was indescribable. And then we came to the part about the family’s end: how they had been taken away to the concentration camps, been split up and died one by one. And how the father came back as the only survivor. Heartbreaking interviews with the father, those who had helped the family and survivors of concentration camps that had known Anne or been with her in her last months alive played on tiny screens. It was terrible, completely impossible to even try to understand what all those people had gone through. Anne Frank had become a symbol of them all, and as we visitors mourned Anne, we mourned everyone who had been a victim of Holocaust. Everyone walked around in utter silence. The whispers and giggles that were usually heard in museums were nowhere to be found, the only sounds were the sniffles of those crying silently and the creaking of the boards as everyone moved slowly around. No one were impatient to hurry along and no one huffed over having to queue for a little while to see Anne’s diaries. Everyone seemed to mourn in silence; collectively and privately at once.
Even after we had gone through the museum the sadness lingered. And even though it had happened a long time ago and we shouldn’t dwell on the past, I believe that the worst thing our generation and the generations to come can do is to close our eyes to previous terrors just because it is uncomfortable to think about. And I think that Anne’s death was especially gutting for me (and so many others), because I felt that I has gotten to know her as a friend, through reading the diary that she had confided in so honestly. I don’t think the terrors of the second world war has ever hit me as hard as it did after going through that museum, and I have read my fair share of non-fiction and historical fiction books about it. It took me a while to get back to normal again after, and Zuzanna and I discussed heavier topics such as the human nature, what we are capable of and the terrors the victims of Holocaust had to endure. It was a sinister conversation, but thought provoking, and after a while we slowly gained back our good spirits and humour. The past should serve as a reminder to us, but to dwell on it for too long won’t help anyone. And so we had managed to shake off the sadness and bitterness by the time we reached the vegan restaurant TerraZen Centre. It was a really funky and bizarre place, with a mitch-match of things and loud reggae music playing in the background - I think they made Carribean and Japanese fusion food. But never judge a book by its cover because the food was absolutely amazing, and the atmosphere was actually really cozy.
It really is possible to find such a gem of a place every once in awhile if you’re open minded. We sat eating and talking until dark, and walked through the red lights districts on our way home. And boy was it a weird experience: the red lights, the women in very little clothes modeling in the windows, and the red curtains that meant that the women had customers. I of course didn’t take any pictures, firstly because Zuzanna reminded me that the guards got pretty angry about it and secondly because I realized how extremely disrespectful it would be. These were women doing their job, not a tourist attraction, and I already felt a little bad just walking by. On our way to the train station Zuzanna and I discussed prostitution and how we should feel about it - wether to feel bad for the women or see it as a profession like any other was difficult to decide.
We made it home without any problems, but tonight I had a lot more things to ponder than usual, and the day had been more thought provoking than most.
And lying in bed it was hard to fall asleep with so many thoughts and questions flying around. At least I remembered to close the toilet hole this time, so that was one less thing to worry about.
Read on: Interrail Diaries day 29: Amsterdam
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