Anne Frank’s House

January 28, 2012

IATA, the organisation regulating travel, strictly enforced the law requiring Tour Companies operating in Germany not to deviate from their advertised itineraries. Any departure from the schedule could result in legal action, especially if a customer complained. I narrowly missed involving my employers, Horizon Tours, in such a suit.

On a trip to Amsterdam, someone asked if the tour could visit Anne Frank’s house, which was not on the schedule. I told him it wasn’t possible. Although I had worked Amsterdam several times, I had not been there and didn’t know where it was. Due to the no-deviation policy of Horizon Tours, I therefore assumed that I would not have to reveal my ignorance, which was the kiss of death for a tour guide.

Within minutes, the same passenger returned and said a poll of the other passengers had revealed a unanimous consensus to forego one of the designated spots to visit Anne Frank’s house. I had to give in and, as soon as the passenger had returned to his seat, grabbed my lexicon of tourist sites for Amsterdam, and tried to memorise the route to the house.

Within a few minutes, we had parked in the vicinity of Anne’s house but still a few blocks away. Marshalling everyone, we set off through the narrow streets and were almost there, when I realised that, at the next junction I did not know if I should turn left or right. A wrong turn at this stage could destroy their confidence in my abilities to look after them and would be fatal for the rest of the trip.

Starting to flap a little, and not sure how I would extricate myself from my predicament, I saw an old lady dressed in Dutch national costume sitting on a bench beside one of the ubiquitous canals. Suddenly the answer was obvious. I held up my hand halting the party and asked if anyone would like to photograph the old woman. Nearly everyone did. However, I stopped them focusing for the shot by stating that in Holland it was considered the done thing to ask before photographing a person.

” Hold on here,” I instructed my charges,” I’ll go and clear it.”
With that, I hurried across to her. In a low voice, I said,
“Without pointing or moving your head, could you please tell me how to get to Anne Frank’s house?”.
” No problem, jonge man,” she answered,” Turn left at the bottom of this street.”
” Dank u wel”, I said. ” Oh by the way, do you mind if they take a photograph?”
” Why should I,” she retorted good naturedly,” Bastards never ask anyway.”

With that I gave the thumbs up to my group who happily snapped several shots of my benefactress before we continued unerringly to Anne’s house.

4 Responses to “Anne Frank’s House”

  1. Robert, when faced with impossible odds and an unforgiving enemy, the proper warrior, improvises. Who would think a lady in a bonnet could become such a useful tool? Great story!

  2. Robert Davidson Says:

    I’m delighted you enjoyed it, Richard. Thank you.

  3. Gary Dennett Says:

    Robert, I like a man like this that can think on his feet. I have known only a few like you.

  4. Robert Davidson Says:

    Gary, coming from a man of your calibre that is praise indeed. Thanks.

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