Tuesday, 29 January 2008
Anne Frank and Coffee Shops, 17:31, 28/01/2008
Sitting in another one of the many coffee shops, I've managed to pace myself so I'm not walking around all day and collapsing at the end of it all and now have a rough bearing on the place, rather than getting lost and stumbling around until I find something interesting. Certainly, there are many things to do here, the realisation that you need money to do most of them makes watching your finances pretty difficult. It is with this that I heartily recommend either budgeting for €40 per day at the minimum, or take a debit/credit card with you. With them you can withdraw money out of cash machines, or simply pay for goods with them – as with the UK, you can use them pretty much anywhere. I've been sensible enough to take out a decent amount of money before getting here, but Nationwide offer a VISA Debit Card for 0% withdrawels (although neither myself nor my father could get one as you need to have a good credit rating, and have been with them for six months, I had the latter but not the former) and the Halifax credit card I obtained has 0% on purchases, plus you can use your signature because it's a credit card, no idea why, you just can – everything else is chip and pin.
I took the humble visit to the Anne Frank Huis [house] which I'd been told is a must-see when you come to Amsterdam. Cost of entry is €7.50 for adults (and €3.50 for children I think), and allows you to walk around what was once their living and hiding area. For a “must-see” 'attraction' (inverted commas as I'm not sure it's the right term to use in such a case) it's extremely clinical, most of it is modern like the metal flooring and double glazing and barely enough remains to call it anything of significance. The literature emblazoned on the wall (quotes from Anne Frank's diary) is something anyone who has read the book will be familiar with. It's hard to have any sort of emotion for such a place and as such, have been more affected by documentaries on the portrayal of the second world war than here. A small amount of artifacts such as letters to family members and registration forms bring the quiet intimacy of the situation the Frank family to heart and provides a testament that people do remember the horrors of war and have nothing but sympathy for those that had to endure those times, but also that they acknowledge nothing has changed, The Kite Runner affirmed that for me. The only difference is we no longer live in a local area that it doesn't go through what those in troubled states in the Middle East have to live within, no thanks to those certain few in power have put upon them in an effort to standardise the way in which everbody lives, whether they want that to happen or not. Witnessing the way in which McDonalds seems to appear in the most unlikely of places is a hilariously indicative of this westernisation that occurs, just click the picture..
Here's a picture of the outside of the Anne Frank Huis so you can see how pointless it would be to have taken photos inside:
Not very Auschwitz if you ask me.
Having so many coffee shops in such a small area leads them to try to become individual so they stand out from one another, some take up green neon signs, some have flashing lights and techno inside, others play jazz and make it more like a bar. 420 Cafe, taken from the radio code the police use in America to inform of a marijuana possession charge, is my favourite so far, nice air-conditiong, friendly staff and easy jazz to relax in. I've settled here after picking up some bits and bobs like some trousers from the sweetly-named Sissy Boy store, as well as a football shirt (Netherlands' national team) - because I'm oh so predictable, I can't resist the orange – and some hats for friends (can't complain at €3 for any hat.
The idiosyncracies that exist here are in vast quantity; the kerbs are connected to one another by a small half-circle, the crossing lights have a counter beneath the red man to tell you how long (counting down in seconds) is left before you cross, the sheer quantity of people cycling around – through red lights quite often – who you have to look twice each way to avoid, how relaxed people are (in no doubt helped by the availability of weed, frequency of bars and pubs and good cuisine), the lack of bad smells (besides cigarette smoke) and a temptation to just eat fine chocolates all day instead of proper meals. I'm going back to The Amber Spyglass now (third in the His Dark Materials trilogy, of which Northern Lights – The Golden Compass as it's called in the film – is the first), my third time through and it still feels fresh and compelling as when I first started the series for the first time. Sublime.
A small store right in the centre of Amsterdam, just selling Russian dolls, packed from floor to ceiling!