At Play in a City of Canals and Bicycles
Windmills, Anne Frank, and Bacon Pancakes
The Netherlands is famous for its windmills (there are more than 1,000), and as we drove in we saw quite a few of these iconic giants out in fields slowly turning in the wind. We really wanted to see one up close, and, as luck would have it, we were staying a short walk from the Gooyer Windmill. One evening we took a short stroll over to see it.
De Gooyer Windmill
They say that the Gooyer Windmill is the tallest wooden windmill in the Netherlands. The windmill dates back to the 1600s, although it had been moved around a few times and has only been in its current sport since 1814.
Unfortunately, the blades weren't turning (there wasn't much wind the day we visited), and even when they do does turn, the mill no longer has any machinery inside.
As a bonus, Brouwerij 't IJ is located right next door to the Gooyer Windmill. We were looking forward to a relaxing beverage, but because we'd started our walk later in the evening (it was 8:30 p.m. by the time we arrived at the windmill; it got dark very late during our visit) we arrived just as the brewery was closing up. I had to wonder (and still do) what kind of beer hall closes its doors so early. So I'm sure the beers are great, I just can't say anything about that—other than if you want to try this place out, go earlier than 8:00 p.m.
Anne Frank Huis
During the trip, both of our girls read The Diary of a Young Girl on the trip, and seeing the actual house in Amsterdam where Anne had been hiding out during the days of World War II was an essential stop for us while we were in Amsterdam.
As we like to do, we tried to buy our tickets to the museum online, but advance sales were sold out for the days we'd be in Amsterdam, so that left us no choice but to wait in the legendarily long queue to buy tickets at the door. Michael, our Sandeman's guide from the day before, had told us about the this queue to get into the Anne Frank House—and he was right. It was long, stretching down the block and wrapping around the nearby Westerkerk, the church were Rembrandt is buried.
But despite the length of the line, it moved along quite steadily and we really didn't wait too long—only about 40 minutes—before we bought our tickets and went inside the house.
The building where the museum is located was formerly a warehouse where Otto Frank (Anne's father) had two businesses. After leading through the warehouse and offices of the businesses, the self-guided path led us through a hidden door behind a (reconstructed) bookcase and into the Secret Annex.
The space where Anne and her family lived along with four other people in near isolation for two years is preserved (without furniture) as it was during the wartime years. Even without the furniture, the space seems very small. There are only five rooms (including the bathroom) that total a mere 500 square feet—which is a really small space for eight people to live in, especially for two years.
You can tour the space yourself at the Secret Annex Online, an interactive, three-dimensional tour of the small space (please note: there's an auto-starting video on the first page).
Visiting the museum was really incredible and even more heartbreaking than I could have imagined, especially near the end when a video interview with one of Anne's friends said she thought all her family was dead (her father Otto was the only one who survived) and she lacked the will to go on. She died less than a month before the concentration camp she was held at (Bergen-Belsen) was liberated by the Allied forces.
by Anne Frank
While this isn't listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the diaries of Anne Frank—which can be viewed in the museum near the end of the tour—are inscribed in the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, so we've added it to add it to our list of visited UNESCO sites.
One of the more interesting parts of the museum came at the end was a temporary exhibit about Anne's roommate Fritz Pfeffer (Albert Dussel in the book). He was sort of vilified by Anne in here writings, and there was a whole room dedicated to him, letting visitors know that he wasn't such a bad man.
On a lighter note, we learned about De Pannenkoekboot, a floating restaurant that takes people on a 75-minute cruise around the canals of Amsterdam, all the while serving all the Dutch pancakes you can eat. It was a little on the top end of our budget (€18.50 for adults, €12.50 for kids), but it sounded like fun and you can buy tickets online. So we did.
The Pancake Boat departs from Ms. van Riemsdijkweg, a dockside road located across one of the IJ from where we were staying. The IJ, by the way, is a body of water (it isn't a river but looks like one) that divides Amsterdam. So we took the free ferry from Central Station across the IJ to NDSM-Werf. It was a little confusing deciding which ferry to take (the maps were in Dutch and the data connection for Google Maps was a little weak around Central Station), but we managed to figure it out.
The ride only took about ten minutes, and we arrived at NDSM-Werf a little early, so we did a some minor exploring of the area, which is near the Botel—a hotel that's a boat moored to the NDSM Pier. It looked like a fun place to stay and not too expensive (€84 advertised).
Soon enough, though, the Pannenkoekenboot was ready to go, so we climbed aboard and the boat started off. For the next 75 minutes we cruised around the IJ as we ate Dutch pancakes. They cooked up three different varieties—regular pancakes, apple pancakes, and bacon pancakes—which you then select from a series of shelves as they are served hot from the griddle.
Once you've chosen your pancake, there's a whole buffet of toppings you can add to dress up it up—things like cheese, more bacon, a variety of sugars, chocolate, and more types of candy than you can imagine. By the time we were done adding toppings, the pancakes looked more like burritos. The funny part is that while the idea of all-you-can-eat pancakes is really enticing, we really couldn't eat all that many, especially when they're jammed with toppings.
And if eating sugar-stuffed pancakes wasn't enough fun, the bilge (or maybe it's the hold—I'm a bit weak on boat terminology) of the boat is a giant ball pit. You know for kids. It was really hot down there and all the kids came out covered in a sheen of sweat.
75 minutes is just about the perfect amount of time to spend on a pancake boat. Once we docked back from where we started, we caught the ferry back across the IJ and then jumped on the metro back to spend one lat night aboard our Amsterdam houseboat.
This entry covers days 295 and 296.
Header image: Amsterdam buildings.