“Oi! Oi, L!”
“Where have you been?”
“Me?” * Checks Twitter * “Oh yeah – I was in Neverland”
“You mean The Netherlands, right L?”
“Oh, yup – that one.”
Yep guys, it’s true. Those articles in tabloid newspapers, those journalists tracking my every move, those websites devoted to my life, my activity and my Lidl shopping lists – they all got it right.
… what do you mean there are no tabloid newspapers, journalists or websites dedicated to me? Outrageous …
I was in Amsterdam, one of the most cultural cities in the world, and arguably the most cultural city in Europe. Before you ask, I was DEFINITELY not involved in any smoking of marijuana, or any other dodgy, against-UK-law activities, i.e prostitution.
MY ONLY DUTCH JOKE:
Why are there so many steps in Amsterdam?
well, everything’s high in Amsterdam — the buildings, the people…
I visited Amsterdam with my school, on a History and Religious studies trip. admittedly, I do not take Religious studies; whilst it is compulsory at many UK secondary schools, it is not at mine, after the second year of secondary education. I do, howevr, take History, and despite not taking RS, I still find the ethical and philosophical side of the subject interesting (I just couldn’t take the idea of spending 2 hours per week for three years of my life sat in a classroom with one of our traditionally dull RS teachers). The trip was really interesting, and made some parts of History, particularly those to do with world war II, very real in my mind.
As you’d expect, we visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Most people are familiar with the basic story of anne frank and her family — German Jews who escaped Germany,to live in the Netherlands, who then went into hiding after the Nazi invasion of The Netherlands and were eventually killed in concentration camps just three months before the end of the war –, but not as many are familiar with some of the smaller, (considered to be) less significant details of their story. Walking around the house was truly heartbreaking: the confined living space, the hopelessness of their situation and their deaths so close to the end of the war were almost too much to manage. It made me so upset to think of them in those conditions, for no other reason than that they were Jewish. They lived like that for two years, desperately evading ultimate death because of their believes.
Were they affecting others? No.
Were they criminals? No.
Were they humans? Yes, they were.
But they weren’t treated as such.
Did you know that Anne Frank aspired to be a successful journalist, then an author? How cruel is it, then, that she never lived to see her success, and yet her success was so intertwined with ideas of violence and horror? Her life was taken from her years before she was ready to go, and that is a crime — one amongst six million others — that can never be forgotten, and was never understood by those who executed that act.
Outside the Anne Frank House is a other memorial that I want to mention. Visually, there are three pink triangles, large in size, on three different levels — sea level, ground level, and above ground level. In World war II, people in concentration camps were forced to wear triangles on their clothes, the colour ofwhich determined why they were in the camps. A pink triangle marked people as homosexuals who were put in concentration camps because of their sexuality. The Homomonument is designed to commemorate all gay men and women who were killed or tortured in World War II. In my opinion, that is the true sign of an accepting-of-all city. An enscription on the Homomonument reads: “Such an endless desire for friendship”.
Additionally, we visited the cemeteries of soldiers who were killed in world war II battle. The atmosphere there is so peaceful, and the area around it so natural and beautiful; I can only hope that it is what they wanted. Upon their headstones were their names, their dates of birth and death, and, on some, quotes from their loved ones, either about them or about the war itself. The peace of their resting place is so contrasting to the horrific way in which they passed from this life, but again, I hope that it is what they wanted.
To finish, something a little happier. We spent some time in the evenings exploring Amsterdam itself — an amazing city, with so much to love and discover. Surprisingly, a majority of people we interacted with in the city spoke decent amounts of English, making our stay there a little easier; directions in Dutch are not especially helpful, particularly if the only Ductch you speak is “Netherlands”, which is basically the English word with a dutch accent (sorry, Ruth). what I loved best, however, was feeling included. I didn’t know many people on this trip, but after the 12h journey there, I already felt part of something — a part of this group The feeling of wandering around a foreign city, feeling included, with no worries or concerns is just so amazing, and something I never want to forget. Shoutout to those amazing friends who I made and who will probably never read this — you’re awesome.
Amsterdam, you’re awesome.
Bloggers, you’re awesome.