Months before we knew the possibility of long-term travelling was going to come up, we had booked a little ‘European adventure’ as our Summer holiday. It proved a great opportunity to have a bit of a ‘trial run’ of our new walking shoes and packing techniques and also take a little time away from what has been a VERY intense 6 weeks since we made the decision and think everything through for the next 8 months uninterrupted.
Amsterdam was far from what I expected- I was anticipating something (foolish, I know) quaint and rural, when in fact it is such a cosmopolitan hub. Amsterdam is second only to New York in terms of the number of countries represented in its population and there are bus loads of tourists from all over the world arriving in their masses day by day. It is, of course, postcard perfect, particularly at night (okay…maybe not in certain areas) but there is just so much going on that I hadn’t been ready for.
The city is steeped in beautiful architecture interwoven with hipster eateries and the world-famous ‘coffee shops’ which of course, we did not frequent. In fact, I was too scared to find coffee at all on day one for the fear of making the mistake I have heard so many talk of! We particularly enjoyed sampling some of the local cuisine at the Noord market (runs on Saturdays for definite and maybe other days too) such as Kibbling- now, I am not a fan of fish and Matthew has been trying to convince me for months that if I try more I will enjoy it, but I have to admit that Kibbling became something that I not only enjoyed, but hunted through Amsterdam to find for the following day’s lunch! These delicious chunks of fluffy white fish are coated in an amazingly tasty, non-greasy batter and teamed with garlic mayonnaise style sauce. Freshly cooked Kibbling from a market stall which was being frequented by Dutch nationals was really a culinary experience not to miss.
We also enjoyed the multi-sensory House of Bols museum near the Van Gogh galleries where you can test your sense of smell, fool your tastebuds and get rewarded by a cocktail of your choice at the end for all of your hard work. This was an unusual, quirky experience and, although it took some convincing seeing as I don’t really like alcohol, it was really fun-even as a semi-non drinker!
Amsterdam’s incredible history is also facinating. The Anne Frank museum was really why I suggested going to Amsterdam in the first place; I felt like it was almost a pilgrimage I simply had to make at some point in my existence. Anne’s story is so moving, and I really was overwhelmed by the visit to the secret house she spent two of her teenage years hidden in. I couldn’t help but think of our younger pupils at school, all at the same point in their lives as Anne was when normality was just stolen from her. My heart ached. To see the actual bookcase that kept her safe for so long, but was finally the passageway for her capture was incredibly poignant- the things those pages of forgotten notes have seen that Anne never could.
The hundreds of thousands of ‘Anne’s’ that I don’t know the names of were very much at the forefront of my mind- a visit to the Anne Frank museum really is a vital reminder at a time when Islamaphobia is seeing an entire faith be demonised, of the responsibility we have to our fellow human beings.