2002 / march / 25

Anne Frank

I'm sure your town's got something that draws tourists that the locals shrug about. Strawberry fields? Wonder how many liverpudlians drive up there. As a parisien, the last thing you'd do for a day out is to climb up the eiffel tower, right? Well, here in Amsterdam, we have the Anne Frank House, and the same applies. I hadn't been there before I moved here (I guess most kids get to see it on a school trip, but my school sent us somewhere else) and once living here, you just don't think about it. Yes it's there. You see the long, long queue dwindling up the canal, then around the corner. You cycle by, laughing at the tourists waiting for hours to get an experience that has to be shared with so many others it cannot be the real thing anymore.
One day, a rainy, saturday evening, at quarter to seven, I walked by. And saw no queue. But I did see a cassiere. I asked her if they were still open - and they were, to my surprise. I was lucky - at the low point of the tourist season, at a time when people are thinking about dinner, I could visit the house almost on my own. Even the sacrosanct, the hiding place itself, was empty for a little while, giving me the chance to be there, to walk from wall to wall, and let it hit me what it'd be like to be confined there.
Afterwards, I had a coffee in the cafe, sitting quietly on my own, trying to let the feelings that had come up find a more permanent place in myself. So I would forget a little less quickly. And I remember clearly that, distributed evenly over the vast sea of empty tables in the cafe that was clearly built to deal with vast amounts of visitors, there were four or five other people doing exactly that. We were on our own, yet not.
(I also remember two loud families with tired, whining kids, but somehow, they aren't in the same memory as this image of the solitary coffee-drinkers scattered across the hall)

Sebastiao Salgado | main | local sights, 2





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