To build a future you have to know the past.
– Otto Frank, 1967
Visiting the Anne Frank was more than visiting yet another museum. Reading Anne Frank’s diary sparked a passion for history that motivates me to study it at the university level. To see the space where she and seven others lived in hiding was both moving and unlike anything I have seen before.
A quick refresher for those not familiar with the story: Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who went into hiding between 1942 and 1944 in the secret annex of her father’s business in Amsterdam. She is famous for the diary she kept during this period, which was published by her father after the war. Tragically, an anonymous tip led the German secret police to their hiding place, and the seven hiding there were arrested and sent to the death camps in the east. Otto Frank was the only one of the eight to survive.
The museum was laid out really well, visitors start by watching a short introductory film and making their way through the downstairs warehouse and the offices upstairs. Throughout there were quotes from Anne’s diary. Then visitors can walk up to the secret annex through the original bookshelf that hides the entrance. The rooms in the attic contained original artifacts, including the pictures Anne pasted on the walls of her bedroom for decoration. They kept the windows blacked out which really gave you a sense of what it was like to live in darkness, closed to the outside world.
After a section on the story of Otto Frank’s decision to publish, there is a room in the exhibit that has several TVs showing clips of contemporary examples of prejudice. At the end of each clip, the screen prompted visitors to select yes or no in answer to a question related to the presented issue (there were buttons you could push from where you sat). Then the results of the group was displayed on the screen. This was a really great way to challenge visitors to think about the prevalence of different kinds of prejudice in light of what they just learned from Anne Frank’s story. As Otto Frank said, “To build a future you have to know the past.”
With its mountainous landscape, picturesque lakeside towns, and perfect location on the cusp of France, Germany, and Italy, Switzerland really is a gem with incomparable natural beauty. I was only there for two days, but had enough time to explore Basel and Luzern. It was nice to relax and stroll about the towns without an agenda or hopping from one tourist attraction to the next. I packed a lunch and had a small picnic by the serene Lion Monument, climbed up the medieval clock tower, walked on the lakeside, and enjoyed some Czech music by the music festival in Luzern. I would love to go back in winter and do some skiing and catch one of the cable cars up to Mt Pilatus! But for now, on to Paris!
(Below) Augustweggen – Little bread rolls made for Swiss National Day in August. Yum!
(Below) Lake Luzern. Too bad that beautiful blue water was a bit too chilly for a swim!
After another quick stop in Rome, I am now in Firenze, or Florence. Unlike Rome, I arrived in Florence not really knowing what to expect or what I would discover, which made this city all the more magical. Instead of an overview of what I’ve seen and done, here is a selection of things that I love about Florence
In no particular order
The stair climb up the Duomo. Easily one of the coolest things I’ve seen so far. I climbed over 400 stairs in an old spiraling stairwell to reach the famous dome of Florence. We were inside the dome where the paintings were. I have a newfound respect for the painters all those years ago who worked on those masterpieces – the height is scary!
(Below) view from the walkway…eek!
The music in the streets. There are so many great buskers in Florence. It was awesome strolling through the winding streets and hearing the sound of an accordion, acoustic guitar, or violin. A band playing outside the Duomo made the long line for the climb much more bearable!
Walking the streets. Everywhere you turn in Florence there is a atrium hidden behind iron wrought gates inside a building, an ornate cathedral, or a cute little corner restaurant. The city has such a great atmosphere – it’s lively but not chaotic. And there are some great shops with homemade gifts, not just store after store of the same souvenirs. I had a custom journal made today for only 12€, with leather binding and covered with unique Florentine paper.
Doors. And door handles. No really! Everyone has really nice doors here…
Those are just some of the things I love about Florence. And, I almost forgot, the Statue of David is magnificent. Well worth a 2 hour wait.
Couldn’t help capturing the sound of a fountain and the church bells – enjoy!
After Rome we explored Southern Italy: Lipari, Sorrento, Isle of Capri and Pompeii.
We started in Canneto, a town on the island of Lipari, where my father’s side if the family is from. I got to see the house where my great grandfather, Angelino, grew up. It was pretty amazing! I spent most of my time catching up with family and swimming at the beach – the water was crystal clear!
(Below) View of Canneto
From Lipari we headed to Sorrento, a beautiful town on built on a cliff. I really enjoyed exploring the small streets through Sorrento, although it is much more busy (So many tourists!) than the peaceful Canneto. Sorrento is apparently known for lemons, so I had to try a lemon granita and limoncello!
(Below) A street in Sorrento
We were able to get the train from Sorrento to Pompeii excavation site. Pompeii is probably the best preserved city of its time, as it was covered by ash during the eruption of Mt Vesuvius in 79 AD. It was like a historical Disneyland. It was different to the Palatine in that you could imagine people living there, with it’s colorful frescoes, mosaics, and original graffiti on the walls. Giuseppe Fiorelli’s plaster casts were particularly interesting and tragic at the same time, as you could see citizens of Pompeii on their last moments.
(Below) A plaster cast in Pompeii
(Below) Perfect day for my “I love history” shirt.
(Below) Mosaic of a dog (“Beware of the dog” is written underneath) in the House of the Tragic Poet
Spent the first half of the day at Musei Vaticani, the Vatican Museums. All up we walked 7 km through the museums…there was so much to take in! Some highlights were the beautiful Cortile della Pigna (Courtyard of the Pine), the Galleria delle Carte Geografiche (Gallery of maps), rooms painted by Raffaello and of course Michelangelo’s beautiful ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. The only disappointment was the amount of people crammed into the different rooms (and some bumping into artifacts from the 2nd century BC…), but after going through it all I can see why it is such a popular tourist destination.
Our feet were already sore at this point, so we stopped for lunch and rested a while before heading to the Colosseum. This was one of my favorite things in Rome (actually everything is my favorite!). The sheer size of it it impressive, you can imagine the crowd of Romans roaring and cheering as the gladiators fought for their lives in the arena below. An interesting fact I learned is that the seating is according to class – the Emperor and senators getting front row seats (just as well, it’s a lot of work getting to the top with all those stairs!). Senators’ seats were inscribed with their names, and were passed on to a new senator upon their death.
We also visited the Palatine archaeological sight…again, I couldn’t believe how big the place was! We didn’t get through it all. Unfortunately there weren’t many explanatory signs, so I often didn’t know what I was looking at, but it was fascinating all the same. We will be in Rome again for 2 days, so I think we will have to revisit the Palatine! Off to southern Italy for a few days.
(Below) the beautiful Cortile della Pigna (Court of the Pine) at Musei Vaticani.
(Below) Galleria delle Carte Geografiche (Gallery of Maps) at Musei Vaticani
(Below) View from the arena at the Colosseum
We arrived in Rome late afternoon Monday, and after some delicious pizza and bruschetta we wandered around the Vatican at night. It was stunning!
On Tuesday, we headed to St. Peter’s Basilica which was architecturally magnificent. I couldn’t believe how huge the place was, and the detail was amazing. I did have to buy a scarf from a street vendor because you have to cover your shoulders and knees to enter the church.
Then we headed to Castel Sant’Angelo which is a large cylinder castle that is sort of ugly on the outside but quite beautiful on the inside. We opted for an audio tour, which was great to learn all the architecture and history of the castle, which was at different points used as a burial site, papal apartments, and a fortress.
After a bite to eat (linguini and olive bruschetta) we decided to go to Villa Medici. We couldn’t figure out how we were supposed to get in so we went on a walking adventure of Rome, including the Trinità dei Monti, Fontana di Trevi, Monumento a Vittorio Emmanuele II, the archaeological site (Palatino) and the Colosseo (Colosseum).
Tomorrow we will do a tour of Musei Vaticani (7km of Vatican museums including the Sistine Chapel) as well as Palatino and the Colosseum. And probably some gelato for lunch, no?
(Below)Vatican by night
(Below) Beautiful view of Rome, just by Trinità dei Monti
(Below) Fontane di Trevi
(Below) The Colosseum