Whew! I just got back from one whirlwind of a trip to Europe to visit one of my BFFs, L, who lives in Germany with her husband. Boy, did we make the most out of our 7 days!
I was picked up at the airport by L and her friend M that stayed with us during the beginning of the “Hardwood Installation Debacle.” (Remember that? Yeah, still going on.) I proudly showed them my ONE carry-on suitcase. L being my friend for over a decade now, understood how amazing that was and documented it for posterity.
We met up with their husbands and went to breakfast at a local café. I love cafés in Europe. They really know how to make a really good cup of coffee, and they also offer charcuterie plates for breakfast. What more can one ask for?
After a lovely time catching up with everyone, we went back to my hosts’ home where I went in and out of consciousness for the rest of the afternoon. My body does not react well to jet lag, and I’ve yet to find the best way to avoid being useless the day of arrival. If anyone has tips, please share.
That evening, we planned for the next day when we would fly to Amsterdam for a girls’ trip. Neither of us had ever been there before, and we decided this could be the start of our own adventure series like Mary-Kate and Ashley. Then we can start our own tween makeup line at Walmart and move on to dressing like fashionable hobos.
Since we were only there for 2 nights, we prioritized visiting the Red Light District, the Anne Frank House, and the Van Gogh Museum. Not necessarily in that order.
Our first morning there, we stumbled across an adorable coffee shop called Bagels & Beans. We were surprised when we opened the menu, the options were mostly healthy, natural products.
After filling our bellies with pastries and coffee, we ventured to the center of Amsterdam to visit the Anne Frank house and the Red Light District. Probably not the best activities to combine, but that was the plan due to their close proximity. I really looked forward to seeing the space where the Franks hide for two years. I remember reading The Diary of Anne Frank when I was an early teen and identified with her experience as a young woman, while in awe of her story as a Jew in hiding.
It was surreal to be in their space. As I walked around reading plaques and listening to the survivors via videos, I imagined the fear of both Otis Frank’s employees tasked with hiding their family and his family trying to keep going behind the scenes.
When we entered Anne’s room, you can see pictures she pasted on her wall as decoration. Cutouts from magazines showing girlhood crushes, fashions, and poems. All furniture and belongings had been removed from the house, so the photos wallpapering her room were the only personalization left. Those images took me back to where I was when I read her diary. While our interests may have differed, the dreams of a young person blossom just the same. The words from her diary began to pile up in my mind.
To be in the room where she wrote those entries really just sat in my soul. At the end of the tour, both L and I tried to grasp what we just experienced.
L and I both walked out of the house a bit in shock, so we decided to go to the nearest pub to decompress for a while. Standing in the place where so much history occurred, got us both thinking aloud about Frank, the world at that time, and the world now. The conversation made its way to us appreciating each other and really diving deep into our relationship. We were now crying and hugging in a pub after many glasses wine that turned into hours of healing.
So, what are two friends to do after such an emotional experience? Venture into the Red Light District. Because nothing will add levity to a situation faster than going in search of some prostitutes.
We weren’t really in search of prostitutes, but curious about the Dutch approach to prostitution. Just like their take on marijuana, they feel the best way to control it for the safety of the women and the public is to legalize it and control it heavily.
We wandered for a while up and down streets looking for the Red Lights. Even though I knew the women would be inside, I thought the streets would be lined with prostitutes, perhaps performing a choreographed dance to house music?
After walking in circles for longer than I’d like to admit, we asked a nice lady in an adult store (with an impressive number of nipple clamps) for directions. She looked confused when we asked where the red lights were because we were apparently dead in the center of it all. “Um, you’re here! Look around you. Do you see the lights on the doors?” Geez, she was right. We were in the red light district and didn’t even know it. Not exactly the circus that I was picturing.
I’m not promoting prostitution as a way of life, but it was interesting seeing it in action in a culture that seems otherwise conservative.
The next day, we visited our little coffee shop again for a head-size cup of coffee and made our way to the Van Gogh Museum.
The Van Gogh Museum was awesome even for my “not cultured” friend, who is actually very cultured, but not a fan of museums. It told his life story chronologically through his and his friends’ paintings. His struggle with mental illness was also highlighted as it did influence much of his art. It made me wonder, with the proper therapy and medication, how his life and work may have changed.
And almost as quickly as we arrived, we were on a plane back to Germany. I would love to go again and see more of this tiny city packed with history.