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Live Like Anne Frank -- And Other Strange Travel Fantasies

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In Amsterdam, there is a two-bedroom apartment for rent, just opposite the Anne Frank House. This is the place, of course, where the Frank family hid from the Nazis for two years, until they were betrayed, arrested, and transported to concentration camps. Good family fun.

So, naturally, you can see why this particular apartment would tout the idea of "living like Anne Frank" as a selling point.

This has stirred controversy, of course, and perhaps legal action. It caught my eye because just yesterday, I blogged about a new "anti-five star hotel" in London called Rough Luxe, which bills itself as "A little bit of luxury in a rough part of London. A little bit of rough in a luxurious London." You can read more about it here, but the idea seems to be that you get a bit of the louche allure of being in a gritty circumstances without the scratchy lice-infested sheets.

I saw this as an offshoot of the trend of slum tourism, poorism, dark travel, grief tourism --travelers seeking the unpleasant on holiday rather than the pleasant.

Points to ponder: why are we attracted to the idea of trying on suffering for size? (A notion that anyone that's truly suffering would find somewhere between absurd to offensive.) And is there any value to experiencing the unpleasant even in relative comfort --arriving at Mumbai's Dhavari slum in an air conditioned van, say? Visiting Auschwitz in a warm coat and heading back to Krakow for a steaming bowl of bigos? Contemplating Anne Frank's fate from an attic apartment near where she hid? (And is that, in some essential way, different from going to visit the official museum?) Proponents of "dark travel" argue that any additional understanding of a terrible situation --whether it's a past genocide or an ongoing human tragedy --is helpful, opponents say its exploitative. What do you think?