I arrived in Amsterdam in the summer of 2008 as a seventeen-year-old, precocious in several ways and impressionable in some. While the city has always been notoriously attractive to those looking for a good time (Read: sex, drugs and rock and roll) I was blissfully unaware of the other side of Amsterdam and was eagerly looking forward to the seemingly delightful canal cruises and visiting the many museums it is home to. The first few days were mostly smooth and rather uneventful- I ate a lot of Dutch food and successfully developed an aversion to fries, I was enthralled by the works of Van Gogh and Rembrandt and vowed to become an artist at some point in my life, I was heart-broken because restoration hindered me from seeing Anne Frank’s house and washed down my misery with a bottle of beer and I happily sailed through the many pretty canals and befriended some of the adorable ducks along my way. However, it was during my last day in the city that things got very interesting and I was left with a story that I could share with my children and grandchildren for several years to come.
I spent a relaxed afternoon with my family in Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s largest and perhaps the most beautiful and vibrant park we had ever seen. After posing for a multitude of pictures in front of the iconic ‘I Amsterdam’ logo, we decided to walk all the way to our apartment, which was a good five kilometres from where we were and grab lunch on the way. Long walks usually give rise to conversations which then lead to distractions. We were so engrossed in debating about the many ways of pronouncing words in Dutch that we didn’t realize when noisy squares and crowded streets turned into shady lanes and deserted alleyways. We sensed something was terribly wrong only when my perpetually inquisitive sister, all of ten and with eyes that sparkled with mischief stopped sauntering and continually stared at the window of a building to our left. I followed her gaze and what I saw left me shocked, embarrassed, confused and slightly amused at the same time.