Thursday, September 8, 2005

Nature, Nazis, Sex and a Tour

Today was our last day in Amsterdam. I finally got some sleep last night, woke up rested and ready for another long day. I think I'm actually getting used to all this walking. My legs don't hurt nearly as much as they have the end of the last two days.

First we went to the Botanical Gardens here. Some of the plants there are really amazing. We saw a lotus (I think, it was early, I don't really remember) that had some huge leaves. They can actually hold up 40kg without sinking the leaves. I took pictures, I'll post them in a few days. There was also a butterfly room with the biggest butterflies and moths I have ever seen. There was a terrarium looking thing with some caterpillars inside on a table. Jessica leaned on the table without paying attention and you could hear the table shift off balance so I made her stop leaning on it. When she moved, we realized she had leaned on a caterpillar. He was struggling, but we think he made it through.

Next we headed off to the Dutch Resistance Museum. There are a bunch of exhibits telling the tales of Dutch citizens and their response to the Nazi occupation during WWII. It was really moving. Did you know that at one point nearly the entire town of Amsterdam went on strike to protest the treatment of the Jews durning the occupation. There were tales of all these children that went into hiding with non-Jewish foster parents. When the occupation ended and they finally had to go back to their parents, the children had often become attached to the foster parents and didn't want to leave. Then for those whose parents had died there was the question of who do the children stay with - the foster parents they have grown to love or Jewish families so they can maintain their culture. There was also the story of people running illegal newspapers and one guy's father, who was a policeman, would tell him who they were going to target next so he could go warn them. But that wasn't enough WWII drama for us this day...

Next up was the Anne Frank House. This was powerfull as well. You basically walk through the building that the family was hiding in. It was Otto Frank's (Anne's father's) business. You walk through the downstairs as well as the hidden rooms that the 8 people lived in. It was small to fit 8 people. And the floors and stairs creaked so much it is hard to imagine how carefully you would have to tread to not make any noise. They basically had to hold still the entire day. Only one of the 8 survived.

Then, this evening, we checked out the Damrak Sex Museum. There is some crazy stuff in there, definitely only for open minded individuals. They basically have displays of pornography and sexually inspired items starting as far back as ancient Rome. They had some photographs from the 1800s, both amature and professional and it was clear which was which. Educational and entertaining.

Last for this evening was a canal tour of the city. It was more relaxing than anything else. I did learn that the Amsterdam harbor is actually a freshwater harbor, rather than saltwater, due to the lochs that surround it. And they pointed out when we passed two houses right next to each other that were actually exact copies of one another. Great that that is something worth noting on a tour.

We fly out early tomorrow, so we have to actually check out at 5am. So instead of trying to make sure I get up at that time (because we all know I can never get up on time), I'm just going to stay up the whole night. Only four hours to go...

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