A September 2001 trip
to Netherlands by Wildcat Dianne
Quote: My friend Monique Moerland and I visited some of the sights in The Netherlands that are usually ignored by most tour groups. Here is a journal on the Anne Frankhuis, the open air museum in Arnhem, and a fun night at the Ottoland Farm near Vianen.
The Netherlands is a small country in Northern Europe bordered by the North Sea, Germany, Belgium, and France. It is a country that most people call Holland, but its correct name is the Netherlands, and Holland is just its biggest province. I took a short visit to The Netherlands in September 2001 to see my friend Monique Moerland and her husband Piet and two daughters, Manouk and Jiska and to explore some of the popular sights there along with some of the lesser-known sights not seen by most tour groups.
1. The Anne Frankhuis (Anne Frank House) was Priority 1 in my visit to Amsterdam since I have read Anne's diary many times along with countless other pieces of literature about her life before and during World War II and her time in the death camps and her tragic death at age 15.
2. The Open Air Museum at Arnhem is a great way to see what life was like in 19th Century Netherlands.
3. What trip to Amsterdam would be complete without a Canal Boat Trip along the many canals that go through this densely populated city. Monique and I took a boat ride through the canals on a day trip to Amsterdam.
4. If you are staying with Dutch friends, no visit is complete without a trip to a Dutch farm. Known for its excellent dairy products, the Netherlands is dotted with many of these farms throughout its countryside. Monique took me to a Games Night at Ottoland Farm outside of her hometown of Vianen, near Utrecht.
I highly recommend a trip to the Anne Frankhuis, and here are some great books you should read before going.
2. Anne Frank: The Biography by Melissa Muller
3. Inside Anne Frank's House is a huge coffee table book published by the Anne Frank House detailing what life was like in hiding for Anne Frank and her friends and family.
Public transportation is wonderful in Amsterdam and busses go almost everywhere. Trains are plentiful from the other Dutch cities and can get you to Point A to B quickly and efficiently.
I only recommend driving a car in The Netherlands in the countryside. Monique drove me around when we went to Arnhem and the Ottoland Farm, and the Dutch roads are in great shape and you can see the great Dutch countryside and backdoor sights by car.
Attraction | "Dutch Open Air Museum"
Arnhem is a city of 300,000 people whose claim to fame is the bridge that was the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. In September 1944, an Anglo-American force parachuted into the Netherlands to try to liberate the country from the German occupation. The Allies were outmatched by strong German forces, and Arnhem was one of the coveted locations by the Allies and German forces. Eventually, the Germans forced the Anglo-American forces from the Netherlands, and only the southern half of the Netherlands was liberated at that time.
The movie A Bridge Too Far was based on this battle and on the novel by Cornelius Ryan of the same name. In fact, many scenes from the movie were filmed on location in the Arnhem area.
Arnhem is also a popular sight for Dutch and international tourists because of its open-air museum. The Dutch Open Air Museum is comprised of many buildings and costumes dating from the early 19th century to the 1920s and represents all areas of the Netherlands.
The Dutch Open Air Museum reminded me of my many trips to Plymouth Plantations as a child, except there were not as many costumed guides in the park -- but the guides that my friend and I encountered while visiting the museum were very informative and courteous. The guide in the Old Print Shop switched to English when my friend spoke to me, but I understood his Dutch a little when he spoke while demonstrating how the Dutch printed papers in the 19th century. It was very fascinating.
The Dutch Open Air Museum is about 50 miles southeast from Amsterdam and is easy to get to by car or train. There is a small admission fee into the museum and a nice souvenir shop at the entrance.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on January 3, 2003
Dutch Open Air Museum (Openluchtmuseum)
Attraction | "A Boat Tour Around the Canals of Amsterdam."
The canals of Amsterdam are plentiful and are a source of living and commerce for the city of Amsterdam. Monique and I found a tour company near the Anne Frankhuis that cost about $10 USD for each of us, and we paid and waited for the next available boat to come in from touring the canals with another bunch of tourists.
After a few minutes, the next boat arrived and as Monique and I boarded, our pictures were taken by a photographer to be bought after the tour ended. It's a cheesy souvenir but worth it if you like that kind of thing. I lost my photo moving.
Seeing Amsterdam's old merchant houses from the canal boats does justice and you see a lot more than if you are on foot. Most of these homes date from the 16th and 17th Centuries and the wider the house, the richer the merchant who could afford to pay the steep taxes that were slapped on Amsterdam's people at this time.
Along the way, we saw many houseboats dotting the canal banks with people living in them. Due to a huge housing shortage in Amsterdam along with high rents, people who chose to live in Amsterdam will buy or rent houseboats because it is a cheaper way to live. They are of many shapes, sizes, and colors, and if you like the idea of millions of tourists peaking into your windows and lives, this is the way to live in Amsterdam.
Our boat tour went under many bridge into the IJsselmeer, Amsterdam's harbor, which is one of the largest harbors in the world and several huge ships were docked there waiting for goods to be loaded on board.
The tours last about 1-2 hours and can be taken during the day or evening and are well worth your time when you visit Amsterdam.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 6, 2005
Amsterdam Canal Cruises
I visited Monique, her husband Piet, and two adorable daughters Manouk and Jiska at their home in Vianen in September 2001. While Manouk was in school and Jiska was at day care or being taken care of by her grandparent, Monique was able to take me around some of the sights of the Netherlands. One night, Monique took me to a games night at the Ottoland Farm outside of Vianen. This dairy farm hosts games night for many groups in the area, and Monique's church choir group made arrangements to be a part of this fun night this Friday evening in September.
But I needed some old clothing to have fun playing farm games at Ottoland, and my luggage was very limited and my bummy clothes were at home in Idaho. Luckily, Monique is about 4 inches taller than I am, and she let me borrow some old jeans and a couple of shirts for the evening at Ottoland. The jeans were a little bit long on me, but I cuffed them and hitched them up at the waistband and we were off to Ottoland.
Monique and I were among the first of her group to arrive at Ottoland, so we waited in the parking lot for them. Within minutes, her friends arrived and they welcomed me in English and Dutch and wondered where in the USA I was from and my life there. They were very welcoming, and I was looking forward to a night of fun farm games.
There were several choir members at Ottoland that night, and we were split into eight small groups, and we were to compete against each other in many games of skill involving farm instruments and equipment. Monique and I were kept together since I was new to this fun and in case translation was needed, Monique would be there, but that was not the least of my troubles. I was hoping this little city girl from Rhode Island transplanted in Idaho wouldn't embarass her Dutch teammates on a farm.
The games were all played for fun and competition wasn't fierce at all. One of our first tasks was to row a boat standing up down a stream that ran through the farm. Perfect we weren't, but no one fell in. On dry land (OK, damp land since it was starting to rain), we went into the dairy barn where several of our bovine friends were in their stalls. We were told we were going to milk a cow. GULP! The only cows I am familiar with are the ones I see from the car on several farms in Idaho. "I don't know nothing about milkin' a cow!," I said. But rest assured, city slicker, there was a wooden "cow" with a rubber udder that we had to milk. Whoever filled their bucket first with water, not milk, after all team members milked the "cow," won. After a short lesson on the right way to milk Bessie, I helped my team win. I joked later that I could find a job as a milkmaid in Idaho, if I was desparate for a job.
After the milkmaid experience, we had to see how far we could climb up a pitchfork suspended from the ceiling. I failed that one miserably, and back outside we went for the cheese stacking contest. The cheese was styrofoam painted like cheese, and we had to see how high we could stack it without it falling down within a short time period. Our team did very well. I passed on walking the stilts in order not to kill myself and be on crutches for the rest of my European vacation.
After the games, wet and cold, we all retired to a huge storage shed to change into dry clothing, warm up by the fire, eat sausages that we roasted in the fire, and listen to songs sung by the choir members. The food was wonderful, and the hot chocolate felt wonderful going down our throats. We were given certificates of completion for the games just played. Although our team didn't win, it was fun playing farm games. The choir's songs were beautiful especially their rendition of Bob Dylan's Blowing in the Wind. The conversation was stimulating, and we warmed up quickly and had a great time until it was time for Monique and me to head back home about 11 p.m. The experience at Ottoland Farms was something I will never forget and haven't experienced anything close to it since!
Admission Price: About $7 USD
Hours of Operation: 9 am to 9 pm daily.
Our food is miserably poor. dry bread and coffee substitute for breakfast. Dinner spinach or lettuce for 14 days on end. Potatoes twenty centimeters long and tasting sweet and rotten. Whoever wants to slim should stay in the 'Secret Annex.'--Anne Frank, diary entry from 27 April 1943.
The Anne Frankhuis is a very fascinating and haunting look into the life of Anne Frank, the young Dutch Jewish girl, who with her family and four family friends hid in this attic Secret Annex from Nazi persecution for 25 months from 6 July 1942 until their betrayal by a Dutch collaboator on 4 August 1944.
Anne, her father Otto, mother Edith, and older sister Margot went into hiding in this tiny attic behind Otto's workplace Pectacon on 6 July 1942 after then-16-year-old Margot received a notice to report for labor service from the Nazis the day before. A few days later, the Franks were joined by their friends and business partner, Hermann van Pels, his wife Auguste, and 16-year-old son Peter. In November of that year, Fritz Pfeffer, a dentist and family friend who had a Christian fiancee, went into hiding in the Secret Annex bringing the total in hiding to eight.
Life in the Secret Annex wasn't easy. The residents had to remain quiet all day since Pectacon was still in business but under Aryan control through friends of Otto Frank, who still had a say in the daily business of Pectacon. Even at night, the residents of the Secret Annex remained in fear of betrayal and eventual death in the concentration camps. Space was crowded and Anne was forced to share her room with the dentist Fritz Pfeffer, who she found to be stuffy and rude to her. A person of 54 who is still so pedantic and small-minded must have been made like that by nature, and will never improve.--13 July 1943.--13 July 1943. Arguments were frequent and tempers were short. Food was scarce and false ration cards were not much help, but the residents did a good job in preserving produce and setting in a lot of dried goods before going into hiding and during their exile. Miep Gies, her husband Jan, and the office staff of Pectacon helped hide the Franks, van Pels, and Fritz Pfeffer during the 25 months in hiding and were recipients of Righteous Gentile status by Yad Vashem after the war.
On 4 August 1944, the Secret Annex was raided by the SS under the command of Joseph Silberbauer after he received a tip from a collaborator about jews hiding in an attic at Prinsengracht 263. Anne, her family, and the other residents were taken from the Annex to a jail in Amsterdam and from there to Westerbork Transit Camp in Drente (eastern Netherlands). All Secret Annex residents spent a month in Westerbork working menial jobs before being sent to Auschwitz on 3 September 1944. This transport was one of the last to leave the Netherlands for the death camp.
Upon arrival at Auschwitz, Anne and the other 7 residents were spared death in the gas chambers, but Hermann van Pels was gassed in October 1944 after getting hurt on a labor detail. Anne, her sister Margot, and Auguste van Pels were sent to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp on 28 October 1944, and Edith Frank died in the Auschwitz infirmary on 6 January 1945. Fritz Pfeffer died in Neuengamme, near Hamburg, on 20 December 1944. Auguste died in Theriesienstadt sometime in April 1945. Margot died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen in March 1945, and her sister Anne followed soon after. Otto Frank was the only survivor from the Secret Annex and was liberated from Auschwitz by Soviet troops on 27 January 1945. He returned to Amsterdam and tried to get his life in order and remarried to another survivor with a daughter in 1953 and moved to Switzerland. Otto died on 19 August 1980 at the age of 91.
Miep Gies kept Anne's diary in safe keeping until Otto's return from Auschwitz and gave it to him to do what he please with it. In 1947, Anne's Diary was published under the name Het Achterhuis or Secret Annex, and it was eventually published in several languages around the world. By the late 1950's the building in which the Franks and their friends had been in hiding was in serious disrepair and was about to be torn down, but Otto Frank and many supporters fought for the restoration of the Secret Annex and Pectacon and wanted it made into a museum for all to see.
With the public's help and Otto Frank's determination, the Anne Frankhuis was opened to the public in 1960. Today, millions of people have gone through its doors to see what life was like for this remarkable Dutch Jewish girl and her family during World War II. Take your time walking through the Anne Frankhuis and Museum. Photos are not allowed at all. The original furniture has been taken away, but there are many dioramas on display depicting the sleeping and living quarters of all eight residents. Many articles used by the residents are on display. The most haunting places in the Secret Annex to me were the narrow stairs leading to the attic room of Peter van Pels, who died at Mauthausen on 5 May 1945, the bedroom wall where Anne pasted pictures of Dutch royalty and her favorite movie stars, and the window facing the Westerkerk, the old church near the Annex. Anne would spend numerous hours looking out this window hearing the Westerkerk's chimes, and I had that haunting feeling, too.
The museum has many displays of the fates of the occupants of the Secret Annex along with a Human Rights display and documentary depicting human rights violations and racism around the world. Don't miss the display of the many copies of The Diary of Anne Frank in all of the languages it has been published in throughout the years.
It is best for you to arrive at the Anne Frankhuis early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the long lines. The amount of people allowed in the house are limited to a certain amount each hour. Monique and I arrived about 10am but were able to get in quickly to enjoy the museum and annex without being rushed.