Everyone’s heard of Amsterdam. And when you’re there, you can hear everyone in Amsterdam. We spent most of our time here in the central part of the city and, while I know there are suburbs and neighborhoods, the Amsterdam we experienced was lively, bold, brassy–and, frankly, a little bit frantic.
So, on our second full day in Amsterdam, we asked the Viking representatives if we could check out of the Moevenpick Hotel early, give them our luggage and then head off on our own a bit and not attend the “official” 3 pm embarking of the Atla.
“Certainly,” the lovely woman at the Viking desk told us (they all have that great accent like the featured lady on those Viking promotional videos; very fun to listen to the lilt and cadence as they speak so nicely to us in English). “Are you planning something special? May I help you?”
Yes, we were plannning something different: A train trip to Haarlem, about 20 minutes out of Amsterdam. Other Viking passengers, when they heard we were heading out of Amsterdam for the day, were a bit concerned. “How will you know what train to take? When will you return? What will you see there?”
You see, years ago I had read “The Hiding Place,” by Corrie ten Boom. The book (and later a movie of the same name) is Corrie’s account of the years her Haarlem family participated in the Dutch Resistance Movement during the World War II years. Eventually their years of “sheltering” Jews and Resistance workers in their Harlaam home (above their family’s jewelry shop) caught up with them when Gestapo officers showed up the door. Six “wanted” people scurried into a pre-arranged hollowed out wall space and the family answered the door to the Gestapo. All the ten Boom family members were arrested–but the six “guests” escaped the Gestapo, hiding out in the wall for days until the police left the home and sympathetic Resistance workers rescued them.
Corrie’s father died in prison 10 days later. Corrie and her sister, Betsie, eventually were taken to Ravensbruck (where Betsie died). With the war’s end, Corrie made a choice: rather than remain bitter and angry after the loss of so much in her life, she chose to embrace God’s love and reflect His hope to others and His forgiveness, even to those who had imprisoned her.
The ten Boom home is now a museum in Haarlem. When I looked at a map of Amsterdam as this trip became closer (I know so little about European geography, sigh…) I spotted Haarlem a bit to the southwest of Amsterdam and looked online to see what was there. Finding the ten Boom home museum was a surprise–I just hadn’t put that book together with the Amsterdam that I knew we’d be visiting. But now I did.
The home is closed on Sunday and Monday, but we had Tuesday free until we checked in on the Atla. Mom said “sure” when I broached the idea of visiting Haarlem so we made plans.
Reaching Haarlem took only 20 minutes on the train out of Centraal Station. Riding the train was a bit unsettling at first–standing in a 20-minute line for tickets (no, they couldn’t use a credit card), finding the right platform, ensuring we were on the correct train. Plus, we mistakenly positioned ourselves in a “quiet” car initially, finding out when a train worker brusquely informed us; we quickly bundled ourselves out of that car and into another (clue: look for the big “S” at the top of the windows lining the “quiet” car).
We found the ten Boom home, waiting outside in line for the next tour. The house is very small (I’m guessing no one in the ten Boom family carried much extra weight–those curved stairways are narrow, steep and certainly don’t allow for much extra space–so the tours are limited in size as well. Our tour guide was a mature Dutch woman demonstrating a definite no-nonsense attitude as we settled into the ten Boom’s upper parlor where the tour began. She may have seemed a bit severe, but she shared God’s love for us all in a tender way, all as part of the tour. Children on the tour were given the chance to enter the actual hiding place (access was through a built-in cupboard in Corrie’s bedroom) and then emerge from the small space, posing for photos taken by their parents.
After the tour, we wandered to the Grote Market, a cobbled plaza overseen by a huge and ornate cathedral (listen for the carillons at the quarter hours). Lots of shopping here and not the “typical tourist” type. Outdoor cafes encircle the plaza and the scene in front of me just looked so very “European” to me that I felt I’d been there before (think movies from the 60s and those tres elegante lunches enjoyed outdoors at small, romantic tables).
We enjoyed lunch then wandered the town some more before heading back to the train. Haarlam has the architecture of Amsterdam–as well as some canals–without the hurry-hurryness. Town homes harbor small gardens along narrow streets and these gardens abounded with colorful blooms and soothing greenery.
We boarded the Amsterdam train and returned to the big city–but this time we avoided the “quiet car” right from the beginning; we’d had too much to recall and talk about and there was no way we could be silent about our great day in Haarlem.