Monday, November 26, 2012

Utrecht, Arrival of Sinterklaas, & Anne Frank Huis (finally!)

I have some catching up to do!  We've done a lot of fun things lately.  Last weekend we kept true to our pact to explore more of the Netherlands and took the train to Utrecht.  It's a 30 minute train ride away.  It was a cool city to see!  Unfortunately, it was pretty cold that day, so we were a little anxious to be "done."  Still, it was a pretty place.  We mostly wandered around, walked through the market, and walked through the Dom Church.  The canals there are really pretty; I don't know the technical term, but they're a level below the street where you walk.  Wikipedia says, "It is lined with unique wharf-basement structures that create a two-level street along the canals."  I'll show a picture.

The tower by the Dom Church. No, it's not crooked, we're just bad photographers.

You can see the unique canal system here.

Sunday the 18th, Sinterklaas came to town! He's the Dutch version of Santa.  This is a huge deal here.  He comes in town mid-November all leading up to the actual Sinterklaas Day on December 5.  He comes in on a boat in the morning and then parades through the city during the day.  He comes in with his helper called Black Pete, which is a person painted black because he's a slave.  (Horrible, huh?!)  There are hundreds of Black Petes around helping him.  It's pretty funny, because all the kids are also dressed up as Black Pete.  We knew Sinterklaas would be in Dam Square about 2 PM, so our plan was to go to church then rush home to see him.  We left to go to church in the morning only to realize our tram was shut down because of the Sinterklaas parade.  We ended up riding our bikes to church, which was actually fun because we passed all the kids going to watch Sinterklaas come in on the boat.  When we got to Dam Square that afternoon, it was packed!  We barely caught a view of him over the crowd, but it was still fun.  We're excited to exchange our chocolate monograms on December 5, which is Sinterklaas Tradition.   Here are a couple pictures of Sinterklaas with Black Pete(s) I found online and then a picture we took of the crowd in Dam Square:
He looks like a mixture between the pope and santa, right?
Creepy Black Petes.
The crowd in Dam Square.  It was crazy!
Tuesday, we finally made it to the Anne Frank Huis.  If anyone's counting, it was our fourth attempt.  The first two times the line was way too long; the last time, it was closed.  Anyway, this ended up being the perfect time to go.  Because we went on a tuesday evening, it was basically empty, which made it a really special experience.  I re-read the diary this past summer and fell in love with it.  It touched me so much, so I've been really excited to visit the house.  I'm a baby; I was near tears the whole time in the house while we were there.  It was really well done.  They even have some of the original journals.  It was incredible to wander around rooms where Anne spent so much time.  I already want to go back. They don't let you take pictures inside, but I already regret not sneaking one as we climbed the stairs to the "secret annex."  Oh well.  We only have this lame, blurry picture outside the house in the dark. At least we have our memories!


  1. haha, those black petes are super creepy looking! Interesting tradition.. But their Santa is pretty cool. I'm jealous you got to go to the Anne Frank house!

  2. You've inspired me to reread the Diary of Anne Frank asap. And I am so sad that you didn't get a good look at Santa and his Black Petes. I wanted Andy to be scarred for life :). Seriously it cracks me up, funny tradition.