With over 50 museums in the city of Amsterdam, it is easy to get overwhelmed. There are smaller museums dedicated to celebrated artists like Van Gogh and Rembrandt, and then there are colossal ones like the Rijksmuseum which take at least four hours worth of exploring to get the full experience. And of course you have to visit a few of the silly ones like the Museum of Bags and Purses and the Torture Museum.
In attempt to make a visit to all of the museums that we are dying to see, a constantly growing list, a few of us in the program try to venture to at least one a day. After a week of museum trips each day, I became happily lost in a sea of artifacts, masterpieces, and more information than I knew what to do with.
We receive a card as a student of the University of Amsterdam that gives us free access to many museums across the city. Although this is a great opportunity for a curious student like me, I have found myself focusing more on trying to visit them all rather than really connecting with the exhibits.
Monday evening I had a very different museum experience.
I walked into Anne Frank House with my roommate Sarah and both of us were instantly overcome with emotion.
I discovered a deep connection with Anne. I really related with the way she was described by her friends and family. Her attitude toward life, her ability to find beauty in such a dark situation, and her love of writing and expressing herself were attributes that I truly identified with.
When my late grandmother, the original Elisabeth Klisser, was 21 years old, she called Amsterdam her home too. But she did not spend her days visiting parks, exploring museums, and wandering through the cobblestone roads. Instead she hid.
I never had the chance to meet my father’s mother, but I wish I had. As a Jewish individual during WWII, she decided to hide in attempt to save her own life and avoid the inevitable doom of the concentration camps. Although she survived the Holocaust, many of her family and friends did not. She died the year that I was born, and I was never able to hear her story in her own words.
As I read Anne’s diary, I imagined that maybe her story was similar to my grandmother’s.
I think that in order to get the most out of your experience in a foreign city, you have to learn to connect to something. Connect to the people, connect to the sights, or if you are like me, you can connect to the past.
Every day that I spend in Amsterdam, I try to embrace the spirit of my grandmother. I am so lucky to be able to go to class, eat a delicious meal next to a canal with my friends, or even roam the streets of Amsterdam with the sun shining on my face. These are things that my grandmother was probably not able to do in the summer of her 21st year of life. These are the things that I will never take for granted again.