Our time in Berlin wasn’t all spent with Dan learning rich German history while I caught up on reality television! Okay, so I did spend one whole lovely afternoon relishing my American-bred affection for watching others find love through group dating, but I promise I did get out to see the city as well! If I’m being honest, Berlin wasn’t my favorite place we’ve visited, but I did appreciate our time wandering the halls of museums and the opportunity to cook our own meals at our apartment. It’s the simple things in life!
After eating my fill of hot pretzels (they were sold at nearly every bahn station), Dan and I boarded a six-hour train bound for Amsterdam; a city many other travelers predicted would be one of our favorites! We can see why! From the moment we walked out of the central train station, we were struck with the beauty of the gorgeous topply-looking buildings lining a carefully designed network of canals shaping the downtown area. Boats navigated the narrow channels while hundreds of cyclists zoomed along the partitioned bike lanes; their disguise as sidewalks fooling yours truly a number of times! Thankful not to be Dutch road kill…
We rode a tram to our Airbnb rental and climbed the four sets of very steep and narrow stairs to our modest accommodations for the weekend; the rental located in a traditional Dutch house. As our film-maker host informed us, historical tax laws determined by the size of the lots encouraged Dutch architects to build up instead of out; offering us a great opportunity for exercise on every climb to our chambers. While not our best rental to date, the location made it worth the booking!
The first night, we were lucky to stumble across the street into one of the city’s most esteemed local restaurants: Moeder’s (appropriately named for the vast collection of donated photographs of real live mothers lining their walls) and sampled traditional Dutch cuisine. I can’t even try to spell the names of the dishes we ate, but all was delicious and we learned that in the Netherlands, a Heineken is easier to come by than water!
Friday morning began an ambitious day of seeing the sites. After managing to find a CrossFit gym to squeeze in a work out, we set off to wait in the long line at the Anne Frank house. Given that it’s a restoration of the actual hiding place of the Frank family during the war, only so many visitors can tour the museum at a time; making for a cold wait outside, but a worthwhile visit indeed! It was a surreal experience to be in the claustrophobic annex that came to life on the pages of her diary which I’ve read more than once.
Another must-see on our list was the Van Gogh museum. Outfitted with a DJ and a bar for their Friday evening event, it was quite the hip museum experience. We had fun wandering the exhibits and learning about the artist’s complex life, but definitely were not having as much fun as many of the other guests. Evidence of Amsterdam’s loose drug laws were omnipresent when huddling close to strangers attempting to take in the same painting; many of whom were wearing the scent of their pre-museum coffee house visit.
To end a long day of tourism, we chose to walk through the Red Light District. As most of you know, prostitution is legal in Amsterdam and the Red Light District is a section of the city marked off by red lights at each street entrance where women are blatantly sold for pleasure. They can be seen behind doors encouraging visitors to their private rooms; applause resounding in the street when someone pushed through to the other side. The neighborhood includes an erotic sex museum, a live sex show, and lots of bars, presumably to increase liquid courage to aid in the participation of said activities. Sadly, this was the most crowded place we’ve been on our trip; we were joined with hundreds of other people who were there to either see it with their own eyes or experience the offerings.
As a woman and a believer, I found it very difficult to be there. Prostitution just makes my heart break. My heart hurts for those that our sold and for those that choose to make a purchase; both sides in such desperate need of so much more.
I don’t know the stories that led to what we witnessed in the Red Light District, but I do know that I have never been anywhere in my life where the depravity of man was so overt. With spiritual darkness thick in the air, we just felt compelled to pray for the Lord to redeem that place.
That said, I am thankful to be woken up and reminded that we live in a world with many dark places. And God is so much bigger than all of them. My hope and prayer is that Dan and I choose to live lives that shine light into them…
With a renewed sense of purpose, we looked forward to our next destination…Paris! But not before I made a MINOR detour to drop in on my sister…