Anne Frank’s house

I read Anne Frank’s diary when I was about 13 years old. I was old enough to understand the seriousness of the story, but it was only when, around 20 years later, I stood in the rooms where Anne and her family, plus four other people, had gone into hiding during the Second World War, that I began to get a glimpse of how cramped and terrifying life must have been for them.

If you want to go to Anne Frank’s house during a visit to Amsterdam, you really have to book in advance because the tickets sell out very quickly.

My partner and I went there in May. There are audio devices that you can borrow, which are activated when you are in the correct area. This meant that my boyfriend had to take me to the activation points, but I didn’t need to do anything to the device to make it work. The explanations and diary extracts were available in a number of languages. There is also information to read and there are some artifacts to look at in the various rooms.

It’s a self-guided tour and you are let in in groups so that the building doesn’t become too full. My partner guided me around. It’s fine for a relatively fit blind person, but anyone with restricted mobility may find the steep steps difficult. Throughout the tour, there is information about the life of the Frank family before, during and after their time in hiding, and part of the story is told through extracts from Anne’s diary, which range from descriptions of everyday happenings, to her deepest thoughts, hopes and fears.

Anne Frank was born in Germany, where she lived with her parents and older sister Margot until 1933, when the family moved to the Netherlands, following concerns about Hitler’s rise to power. They felt safe there for a short time, but the sense of freedom was short-lived because Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940 and life became increasingly difficult for Jewish people there too.

One of the things that struck me was that the family didn’t suddenly find themselves in a situation where they needed a place to hide. Things were getting progressively worse. Anne listed a number of things in one of her earlier diary entries such as Jewish people weren’t allowed to ride the tram, use swimming pools, be outside after a certain time, visit the houses of non-Jewish people etc. So it was a creeping misery. Maybe, in the beginning, some people thought it would never end in a situation where people were fleeing for their lives or looking for somewhere to hide. But it did. If you don’t stand up to bullies, unfairness, or smaller injustices, they gain power and momentum until people really are powerless to stop them. I think there’s a lesson in there for us, too.

When Anne’s older sister Margot was called up to be sent to a German labour camp, Otto Frank, Anne’s dad, and the only survivor of the eight people who went into hiding together, decided to take his family into hiding with the help of his employees.

I am someone who needs time alone. Not time away from my partner, but time away from lots of people in general. If I don’t get it, I can become grumpy. And yet day after day, these 8 people were in that small series of rooms, with nowhere to go. No opportunities to go outside for a walk. Nowhere to get away.

Not only that, but they had to entrust their survival to complete strangers. I don’t just mean the people who were keeping them alive by bringing provisions, but they had to trust each other. No flushing the toilet during the daytime. No loud noises. NO accidentally letting a door slam shut. No dropping things on the floor. What about in the summertime if people got hay fever? No sneezing! Doing any of these things could have resulted in them all being found and captured. Trusting family members and complete strangers with your life like that must have been really hard on the nerves.

The family of four, plus four other people, hid in this small series of rooms behind a slidable bookcase for two years, until they were discovered on 4th August 1944. It is not known how they were discovered or if someone betrayed them. They were first deported to a transit camp and then sent on to the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Anne later died of typhus in the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen.

Anne wanted her diary to be published after the war, and in 1947, her father made sure that this wish came true. Now it has been translated into more than 60 languages and has been read by children and adults all over the world.

As we came out, we were immediately back in the world of parties and happy people having fun. The loud hustle and bustle of a city full of people enjoying themselves. Such a stark contrast to the place that we had just left behind. It made me want to go out and enjoy life because life is so precious, whilst at the same time not forgetting what we had just witnessed. How persecution of people based on race or religious belief can lead to such misery and cruel loss of life.

I haven’t tried this because it is a visual presentation, but you can apparently move around a 3d presentation of the house here.

Have you read the diary of Anne Frank?

Amsterdam

Have you been to Amsterdam? What did you do there?

Click on the link if you want to find out about the cheese tasting event that we attended in Amsterdam on a previous visit.

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ested this because it’s a visual presentation, but apparently you can look inside the Anne Frank house on this page

Cheese tasting in Amsterdam

Find out what we thought of the cheese tasting event in Amsterdam.

Last year, my boyfriend and I spent a weekend in Amsterdam.

The way it usually works is that I’m in charge of researching and planning things that we would both like to do, and he is in charge of navigating – finding where the places are on the map and working out how we will get there. I usually put together a list of ideas and we pick our favourites, which we then try to fit into our stay.

I looove cheese, and my boyfriend is quite fond of it too. So I was really pleased when I came across a cheese tasting session in Amsterdam. You can read more about it and visit the Reypenaer website. The family-run company has been producing cheese for over 100 years and where possible, it uses milk from cows fed on fresh grass, because apparently this gives milder and better milk. There was also some goats’ cheese on offer.

The cheese tasting took place in a room below the Reypenaer shop and as there was a mixed group of Dutch and English speakers, the presentation was in Dutch and English. I always find it fascinating when I go to Amsterdam because I can pick up odd words and phrases, as some words are similar to German. Still, this wasn’t enough to understand the presentation, so I was glad it was in English too!

We tried six different types of cheeses that had been ripened for different amounts of time, and later took the opportunity to buy some cheese in the shop.

My boyfriend kept the score sheet, and I took charge of the cheese guillotine, which is used for chopping slices off the cheese block for tasting. We could have done it the other way round, and I would have taken notes on my phone, but I thought the cheese chopper would be a good addition to our kitchen, so I wanted to try it out. In fact, we later bought a cheese guillotine too, because if you can’t see, it’s a handy way to line up the cheese and make sure you get a nice, straight, thin slice.

I didn’t know much about the production of cheese before and, as well as enjoying tasting different kinds of cheese, I enjoyed learning about the history and production of these tasty cheeses. It was also good to learn that these are natural products, with no artificial ingredients being used to speed up the ripening process.

The presenter was friendly and happy to answer questions. He walked around the various groups to answer any questions, and I am sure if a blind visitor had been on their own, it would have been no problem for him to also point out which cheese was next.

We chose a kind of fruit juice and then water, but various wines were available for those who wanted them to accompany the cheeses.

After the tour, we walked around the town for a bit, before making our way to the boats for our canal tour. Headsets were available so that you could listen to the presentation in a number of different languages. You just needed to select the appropriate language, then the audio tour ran along with the boat tour and you didn’t need to interact with it any more as you do with some tours, where numbers need to be selected etc.

If you are a cheese-lover too, this is definitely something worth adding to your list of things to do in Amsterdam! Also, I’d recommend that you try cumin and pesto cheese too because they are sooo good!

What do you think?

If we go back to Amsterdam again, are there any things that you would recommend for us to see or do?

What are your favourite cheeses?

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