As Katie Melua told us, there are 9 million bicycles in Beijing, so I’m surprised to learn there are only 881,000 in Amsterdam. They are everywhere. 58% of the population cycle to work on upright bikes, and there’s not a scrap of lycra to be seen. The Dutch have mastered the art of sedate cycling while holding an umbrella above their heads, a necessity during the monsoon-like rainstorms the city often gets.
We woke up in Amsterdam on Monday morning during a-bit-of-a-squall, but after an excellent buffet breakfast at The Eden Hotel, the continuous downpour wasn’t going to put us off exploring. Cycling and walking are the quickest ways to get around the town centre. There are the trams, of course, if you know where you want to go and, I confess, in three days, I didn’t work them out.
So, something for all the family, from cultural to the less highbrow.
40,000 people visit Amsterdam every day, and 10% of them head for the Anne Frank House, and last Monday, I was one of them.
My own father’s experience of WWII stayed with him for the rest of his life. He was in the first British regiment to reach Bergen-Belsen, where the sixteen-year-old Anne Frank died.
I read Anne Frank’s Diary when I was about fourteen and, since then, I have always wanted to visit the attic apartment behind her father’s business in Prinsengracht 263.
TRAVELLER TIP: With 2000 people visiting the Anne Frank Museum every day, to avoid disappointment, book online before you go. For an extra €5, you can book the tour plus a 30-minute introductory talk, as I did. I can highly recommend it. I was much better prepared for the tour as well as coming away far more knowledgeable about the Second World War and the persecution of the Jews.
The Anne Frank House is a poignant and emotional reminder of an atrocity beyond comprehension. Being in the tiny room Anne and her sister, Margo shared with Fritz Pfeffer, which still has some of her original photos/posters on the wall, really brought it home. How intense it must have been for eight people sharing that tiny flat.
The rain kept coming during the afternoon, so I was very pleased I’d invested in a Peter Storm coat before visiting Amsterdam. We decided to reconvene at The Olde Bell for a tasty toastie and to sample a few Dutch pilsners, while we dried off.
In the evening we had an excellent meal at a Turkish restaurant called Ali Ocakbaşı. It’s quite pricey, but you won’t regret it. Delicious sharing platters to start with, and I can highly recommend the Çöp şiş.
As the rain had dried up for the day, we took the scenic route back to The Eden Hotel and, exhausted, fell into their comfy beds and slept like tops.