“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
~ Anne Frank, 26 March 1944

“Writing in a diary is a really strange experience for someone like me. Not only because I’ve never written anything before, but also because it seems to me that later on neither I nor anyone else will be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year old school girl. Oh well, it doesn’t matter. I feel like writing.”

The Anne Frank House: formerly the workplace of Anne’s father, Otto, who hid his family in a secret annexe there during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Anne Frank and seven others were in hiding for over 2 years until they were given up to the Gestapo and arrested in August 1944. Otto Frank was the sole resident of the annexe to survive the concentration camps. Anne and her sister Margot died just weeks before their camp was liberated by allied forces.

(Tickets to the Anne Frank House are only available online so make sure to book them here ahead of your trip.)

The neighbouring Westerkerk. “Father, Mother and Margot still can’t get used to the chiming of the Westertoren clock, which tells us the time every quarter of an hour. Not me, I liked it from the start; it sounds so reassuring, especially at night.”

Visiting the house was a profoundly affecting experience, not least because I’d read Anne’s diary just days earlier. People often quote the more worldly-wise passages of the book, highlighting the remarkable sophistication and wisdom of a girl in her early teens; and with good reason. But reading the diary for the first time, I was immediately struck by how intensely funny, sarcastic and relatable Anne’s writing is, from her commentary on her classmates (“G.Z. is the prettiest girl in our class. She has a nice face, but is kind of dumb. I think they’re going to hold her back a year, but of course I haven’t told her that”) to her fraught relationships with the other inhabitants of the annexe once her family goes into hiding. Of her frequently-volatile interactions with her mother, she writes, “I have to force myself not to snap at her all the time, and to stay calm, when I’d rather slap her across the face” and of the dentist with whom she was forced to share a room, bemoans, “Him and his lies. I’ll smack his ugly mug so hard he’ll go bouncing off the wall!”

Anne’s writing reveals both an extraordinary mind, and the deeply ordinary experiences of a teenager who finds herself in the worst of circumstances. I think the scale of human suffering endured in the holocaust is, in the truest sense of the world, unimaginable; but individual accounts such as Anne’s are devastatingly humanising, and the closest we, today, can come to understanding the real horrors faced by millions of real people in one of the bleakest chapters of human history. We can only hope that history is moving forward to the future free of cruelty and persecution that Anne Frank envisioned—but the enduring testimony held in artefacts like Anne’s diary and this building where its events unfolded are a crucial reminder of a past that should never be repeated.

“I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing, of expressing all that is in me. I can shake off everything if I write; my sorrows disappear; my courage is reborn. But, and that is the great question, will I ever be able to write anything great, will I ever become a journalist or a writer?”

And so she did.

Following the sobering experience of the Anne Frank House that morning, the only suitable course of action for a group of crazy cat ladies was to take ourselves here: to wit…

The KattenKabinet: for my money, the finest art museum in Amsterdam. Come for the artwork devoted entirely to felines, stay for the actual, live cats wandering the premises.

The museum was founded in 1990 by Bob Meijer in memory of his red tomcat John Pierpont Morgan (named after the American banker J.P. Morgan). 100% what I’ll be doing with my fortune.

On the subject of both cats and diaries, I recently found my own writings from around the age of 10 and, over the course of an entire year (and being a much surlier child than I remember), I expressed roughly two moments of happiness: once when we got our cat Mickey, and again when I was taken to see a cat show. Apparently nothing has changed in the last two decades.

The Ball Room

The Green Room

Julien: Lindsay, look – it’s you and Tama.
Lindsay: …?!

The Music Room

The Mechelen Room

Confession: I just about crapped myself when I walked into that Cats costume in the bottom left-hand corner.

I’m also told that the building was a filming location for Ocean’s 12 but neither John nor I had any interest in the series until the (amazing) all-female reboot this year, sooooo…

A visit to Cafe Hoppe: one of the best-known of Amsterdam’s tradition bruin (“brown”) cafés, so named for their dark wood and smoke-stained walls. Hoppe, founded in 1670, was originally a distillery.

You may have heard the phrase “More Irish than the Irish themselves” used in relation to Irish historiography, but I think they were actually talking about the measure of whiskey in this coffee because good lord.

This stained glass was brought to you in association with battenberg cake.

A visit to the Begijnhof: an enclosed courtyard dating from the early 14th century. Originally built as a sanctuary for the Begijntjes, a Catholic sisterhood who lived like nuns, although they took no monastic vows. Even today, houses in Begijnhof are occupied by single women.

Het Houten Huis: Amsterdam’s oldest dwelling. It’s one of only two wooden-front houses in the city, as timber houses were banned in 1521 after a series of catastrophic fires.

The Engelse Kerk (or “English Church”).

Pulitzer’s Bar: a Gatsby-inspired hotel bar that “tells a contemporary tale of cocktail history through a classic menu and an effortlessly elegant atmosphere.” What this means in practice is that the drinks are written in prose on the menu sans ingredients and I had to explain to the bartender three times that it’s all good and well if my cocktail is an elegantly balanced stone fruits boozy sipper but I’m not paying €15 for something I can’t drink.

My replacement cocktail was lovely. ☕💅🏻

All a-bro-ard!

Lovers Canal Cruises: Anne Frank is not a combination of words I expected to see on this trip.

(Our departure point was in front of the house.)

Westerkerk from below.

A highly informative canal tour through Amsterdam, in which we learned of the deadly Eel Riot of 1886 and other seeming historical fictions which were entirely true.

Edutainment at its finest.

We were told about this site – known as the “Seven Bridges” because of the unique angle provided by passing underneath it – just as we approached it…which sadly wasn’t enough time to switch from the 14mm lens I had attached at that precise moment.

Just two lovely lovers in love loving the Lovers cruise.

The Return of Silly Jack (and also where we learned his history).

The Basilica of St. Nicholas, wonderfully sandwiched by traditional Dutch architecture.

Sunset at the secret annexe.

Sampurna: Indonesian cuisine.

Words fail me in describing how delicious this meal was.

We realised shortly after the food arrived that we’d ordered an actual mountain of it. And yet we ate every single thing on that table.

John sharing his love of the Russian newscaster.

Fried plantain for dessert (which reminded me, in turn, of Puerto Rico!).

That night in our hotel room:

John [trying to turn the volume down on the Dutch TV]: It’s funny – up is down.
Me [eyes closed]: Are you holding the remote upside-down?
John [trying to move the remote as quietly as possible]: …no.

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