Saturday markets are a Dutch tradition and we headed for the open-air Noordernmarkt in “the Jordaan” where shoppers wander through narrow aisles buying Dutch cheeses, organically grown fruit and vegetables, fresh herbs and flowers. Earlier in the day the Vogeltjes market (Bird market) had done brisk business selling Fantail Pigeons and a variety of fancy fowl.
Beside a stall where pails of flowers reminiscent of a Rembrandt painting spilled in a riot of colour across the sidewalk, a massive Dutch barrel organ belted out traditional organ music, whilst its operator worked the crowds with upturned hat and a winning smile.
Just steps away, life on the water moves apace as ferry boats transport sightseers and visitors past historic houses. At 453 Keisersgracht (Emperor’s canal) Vincent Van Gogh’s uncle owned a bookshop where the artist visited regularly. At 527 Heregrackt (Gentleman’s canal) in the 1716, Tsar Peter the Great of Russia stayed with the Russian Ambassador when recuperating from a night's drunken revelry.
More recently, at 263 Prinsengracht Anne Frank and her family found refuge from the Nazis for two years during World War II. In a hidden space behind a revolving bookcase two families, the Franks and the van Daans, lived in secret until they were discovered and sent to concentration camps. Anne Frank died in Bergen-Belson in 1945. Her now famous diary relates in intimate detail the story of those times in the annex of the house overlooking the Prinsengracht.