The Start: Our European Adventure

By Nicole Blazejewski, Steve Cancel, Amanda Earle, Ellen Fitzsimmons, Glisban Machado, Nicole Owenburg, and Allyson Talbot

March 27th, 2015 — Amsterdam, Netherlands

We started our Europe World Wars and Holocaust trip by walking the historic streets of Amsterdam. Our group stopped for a quick breakfast at a quaint cafe. There we had breakfast with one of the locals (a sweet and friendly cat!) We each had a delicious pastry from the shop before continuing. Traveling by tram, we ventured to the Van Gogh Museum, where we saw some of Van Gogh’s most famous paintings. We also went to the Stedelijk Museum, which had an exhibit on art work that was stored in a bunker for safe keeping during World War II. After stopping by the hotel for lunch, we had an interesting three hour walking tour by a local historian of Amsterdam. He showed us key sites such as Dam Square (with the Royal Palace and a World War 2 monument) the oldest post office in Amsterdam, and Rembrandt’s house. We saw beautiful gardens and old Catholic Churches, some of which were even hidden, including one in Begijnhof, a community built in the 14th century for the Beguines, a  Catholic order of women who took care of the orderly. We learned that Amsterdam was once a large port city, connecting to canals flowing through the streets.

One of the most interesting parts about Amsterdam was the large quantities of bicycles throughout the city. Our tour guide told us that the city has more bikes than people! One of the most anticipated parts about traveling to Amsterdam was paying a visit to the Anne Frank House. Our emotional journey throughout the house opened our eyes to the reality of Anne’s diary. Seeing her home in person was a surreal experience for all. The exhibit contained artifacts from the Frank and Van Pelt families, including pages of the diary, photographs, documents obtained from the concentration camps, and personal items.Our time in the exhibit came to an end after viewing a short film filled with quotes from individuals who had visited the museum. One of the most inspirational quotes obtained from the movie was from Anne’s father, Otto Frank, the only survivor of the family, who said it best, “to build a future, you have to know the past.”

The day ended with a new experience for all, when we ate at an Indonesian restaurant. Amsterdam is known for its Indonesian cuisine. The restaurant served us a traditional “rice table” which included a plethora of traditional dishes some of which included curry chicken, fried bananas, rice, pork, and beef. The meal was delicious and filling. We then ventured back to the hotel to get a good night’s rest for the next days travel.

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