Traveling to Amsterdam was never in my plans. Let alone by myself, lost and with a raging ear infection. I woke up at the end of the 2-hour flight just in time to catch the sunset over the coast of the North Sea- a sight for sore eyes after being land locked for months. At the airport, I somehow boarded the wrong train and found myself speeding away from civilization through the Netherlands countryside in late October. I befriended a young Italian who had also taken the wrong train, and with blind trust in his warm brown eyes as my only option, I followed him off the train, onto a platform, and back onto the correct train until we reached Amsterdam Centraal, parting with broken English and a look that longed to know me better.
It took me several wrong turns, two run-ins with bikers, and a lot of frustration to finally reach my dark dingy hostel on the outskirts of the Red Light District. I took a deep breath, stored my bag, grabbed my camera and set off to explore. Amsterdam is like being in a dream world where people look like friendly skiers, vibrant sunsets settle romantically over canals, and the air has layers of sugar, chocolate and fried food. The contrast of pleasantly chiming bicycle bells and questionable vendors created a Disney World of vices that continually amazed my sheltered mind. I woke up to soft rain making music on the cobblestones and dripping off the slanted buildings as I set off for the Anne Frank House.
I followed Anne’s life from room to room as the rain outside mirrored my silent tears. I felt powerless to save the innocent character from the tragic ending I knew all too well. When I reached the end and saw the original plaid book sitting alone in the center of the room, my heart broke to think that Anne would never again get to live outside these walls and the fading pages of her diary. The very streets she described as full of beautiful life in the same town where she was betrayed would become my own escape from reality, even if just for a few days. She wrote about she and her friend “looking out at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls glinting with silver as they swooped through the air,” as the life she imagined for herself slipped farther and farther away, the life I was able to walk out and rejoin. Anne’s untapped potential and Amsterdam’s unexpected poetry changed me in a way that, months later, I can finally start to describe- appreciation for ethereal beauty in all things dead and alive.