"Wow, there's just so much history there." This sentence is often one of the first things you hear from your non-European friends when discussing plans to travel to Europe. And it's one of the first things you mention when you come back from your voyage.
Whether you live in Sydney, Australia or Sydney, Nova Scotia, Calgary or California, your homegrown claims to an interesting history, while valid, simply don't measure up to the Michelangelos, the Arc de Triomphes, the cathedrals built in the 1100's, the sheer story of Europe.
That story is not always a pleasant one.
Spending a very grey Monday morning at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam this week quickly puts a massive amount of perspective into one's life; suddenly you feel like an idiot for even thinking about complaining about having to hang your clothes up instead of putting them in a dryer, or feeling hungry and cranky if you're running late in your daily grind and haven't had your third meal of the day yet.
The museum (it is in fact her house, but the first few levels are laid out as a museum) is very tastefully done. Winding your way through it, and slowly upwards, there are photos and short video clips of the people involved in keeping the Frank family hidden. In all, eight people (seven for a while, and an eighth arrived for the remaining 20 months) were sharing space in the Secret Annex of the multi-level home for just over two years.
The impression of Anne Frank herself as a thoughtful, energetic, trapped, fearful, and altogether normal teenage girl really emerges through the excerpts of her diary printed on the walls of the museum and shown in display cases.
The curtains, dark brown and completely blocking out daylight, save for the skylight in the attic, left a very strong impression. They could not be opened even an inch for fear of being discovered by neighbors or the authorities.
It's even more striking when you see the how nice the area is right outside the house, with the Prinsengracht canal just in front. And an even stronger contrast when you consider the ugliness that walked those streets and ultimately into that house on August 4, 1944.