Amsterdam: Jewish History and Green Space

I got up early on my second morning in Amsterdam and promptly made my way to the Anne Frank House. Note: my guidebook suggested visiting during the afternoon hours when the lines are shorter. I had heard that it would be better to go early in the morning, though. The museum opens at 9 a.m., and I got in line at 8:15. Even though there was already a line, I made it inside pretty quickly.

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Photography isn’t allowed inside the museum, so the above photo is the only one I took. I think that’s a good idea. I felt free to interact and engage with the museum without the urge to capture images, which is a process I find to be distracting at times.

Visit this museum. It is powerful. Looking at Anne’s diaries — the actual diaries that she wrote in, seeing her words written down in her own handwriting — impressed me deeply. I tried to imagine myself in her place — how she lived in those small rooms for so long, under constant fear of being discovered. What a tragedy that befell her and so many millions of others, but what a gift she gave to the generations who follow her.

It was still relatively early in the morning by the time I emerged from the museum, so I wandered down a few blocks to eat breakfast at a place a friend of mine had recommended — Pancakes! Amsterdam.

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Stop here for some authentic Dutch pancakes. Mine were quite tasty. There’s no need to get here too early, either. It doesn’t open until 10 a.m. Pancakes! Amsterdam is located on Berenstraat, where you can also find a number of other cool eateries (I ended up dining on this street twice).

My visit to the Anne Frank House set the tone for most of the day. As I was wandering through the city, I came across Amsterdam’s Portuguese Synagogue, which is located in the Jewish Cultural Quarter. The Synagogue requests male visitors to wear a kippah during their tour. It was the first time I had ever worn one.

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The women of the congregation sit in an upstairs loft, which is seen in the next two photographs.

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Nearby, the Jewish Historical Museum houses some fascinating items. I’m a sucker for anything having to do with publishing and printing.

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Here are a few pictures of the Jewish Quarter’s exterior.

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The Hollandsche Schouwburg, which had served as a theater until 1942, is just a short walk away from the synagogue. From July 1942 to November 1943, German occupying forces used the building as a holding center for Amsterdam’s Jews. Many were shipped to extermination camps from here. Today, the Hollandsche Schouwburg serves as a memorial and museum.

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I ended my day strolling the grounds of Amsterdam’s museum quarter. One of the things I really love about Amsterdam is its green space. There were so many people taking advantage of it. More American cities would do well to create such places.

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