Friday, the 21st was a whirlwind day. We arose a little earlier than usual to make the 45-minute drive to the quintessentially Dutch town of Haarlem. (You may be more familiar with the Harlem of New York City. You may not be surprised to know that there is a connection between the two. New York City was once a Dutch colony called New Amsterdam. The inhabitants, naturally, named a nearby area after Amsterdam’s nearby town of Haarlem in The Netherlands.)
Upon our arrival in Haarlem, we hurried to the Corrie Ten Boom House for the 10 a.m. tour. We were very fortunate to get in at 10. It was booked solid, but there were a few no shows. We were able to see “the hiding place,” where the Ten Boom family hid up to six Jews at a time in a concealed secret room just off Corrie’s bedroom. The devout Christian family was eventually arrested, and Corrie’s father and sister died in the concentration camp. Corrie survived and spent many years telling her story and sharing the Gospel.
After spending an hour-and-a-half at the Ten Boom residence we walked to the museum of the Netherlands’ great portrait painter, Frans Hals. Haarlem was his hometown and this museum contains several of his important works.
Before long, we were back in the car for our final destination, the capital of the
Netherlands, wild and crazy Amsterdam. I put forth my best efforts to dodge all the bicyclists, pedestrians, scooters, and other vehicles which at time seem to come from all directions at once. I quickly dropped Cindy off at our hotel on the Singel Canal while blocking traffic unloading. I then returned our rental car, catching an Uber for the ride back to the Hotel.
After just a short rest, we walked across three canals to the Anne Frank house, where we then stood in line for 2 1/2 hours to enter in to the house and museum. Photos were not allowed inside, but the tour was sobering. For two years, eight Jews hid in a secret annex in this house before being discovered by the Nazis and sent to concentration camps. We walked through the bookcase entrance to see where Anne Frank recorded her thoughts in her diary.
Eager to sit down and fill our bellies, we walked deeper into the Jordaan neighborhood to La Perla for some great wood-fired pizza. Once our stomachs were full, we decided we could stomach the Red Light District. Prostitution and Marijuana are, as you probably know, legal in Amsterdam. We’ve passed numerous “coffee shops” where the smell of marijuana was pungent and strong as we walked by. The Red Light District is ironically and unexpectedly centered around the Oude Kerk (Old Church). During the early evening, its a rather touristy place, but we understand that after dark it feels much more dirty and seedy. A couple of hours before the sun set, we passed by several shops selling all sorts of sex paraphernalia before actually getting to the red lights, where nearly naked women display their wares and wink at men that might be interested in purchasing through their red curtain-framed windows. We didn’t linger long before our curiosity was satisfied and we were ready to get back to better environs.