Last month, while on our annual summer trip to visit family in Spain, my husband and I jetted and rental car-ed off for a week touring Belgium and the Netherlands. I have SO much to share, which I will over the coming months, but today I want to start at the end, the last day of our trip.
We spent three days in Amsterdam, the last of which was my favorite. We started our day at the Anne Frank Huis. We had tried to go the day before, but the queue was, without exaggeration, hours long. However, there was NO way I was leaving Amsterdam without visiting the Franks’ hiding place (like many girls, I had a preteen obsession with Anne that grew into an adult awe of her depth and insight), so we got up very early our last morning to line up an hour before opening. That hour was actually one of the most meaningful things I took away from our visit to Anne’s secret annex, as it gave me time to contemplate and just be in the early morning stillness.
Standing on the sidewalks of the Prinsengracht, staring at the facade of number 263 and imagining the story that unfolded inside, a story we all know, was what most helped me to grasp that it wasn’t just a story, it was a real event that happened to real people. Anne and her family walked down the same street I was standing on — many times, surely. Anne was familiar with the very canal houses I was seeing around me. Anne saw the same trees I saw — only now they’re taller, of course. In fact, that’s what most left an impression me. The trees. Inside the museum, we saw a 1940s photograph of the street, and the same trees were there then that stand there now. The trees are there, but she’s not. Just as the trees will be there when I am not.
Other lasting impressions of the Anne Frank Huis are the Plexiglas-covered pencil markings on the wall showing Anne and her sister’s growth over their years in hiding, Anne’s movie star pictures and magazine cutouts that are still pasted to the wall of her bedroom, and naturally, the famous movable bookcase. Photography was not allowed inside the house, for which I’m thankful, as I wasn’t distracted by my camera and making sure I “captured” it all. Instead, I saw it all.
When I started writing this post, I intended to tell you all about that day on the Prinsengracht. I still will, but in another entry. Anne is more than enough on her own. If you haven’t read it before, please go to your library or Amazon and get a copy of Anne’s diary, of her story in her own words. She can tell it much better than I can.