Anne Frank House and Charlottesville

Last Thursday, Mom, Tom, the boys, and I spent the morning at Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Although we knew the story, although I studied the Holocaust extensively in college, although I thought I knew what to expect, we all of us were rendered silent and emotional. We each listened intently to the audio tour, bearing witness to the horrors and courage and human spirit the Frank family (and millions of others) endured and demonstrated. 

Today, just two days later, I am back in America and watching with a heavy, outraged, disgusted heart the white supremacists marching and beating peaceful counter-protestors in Charlottesville, VA. Governor McAuliffe has declared a state of emergency, three are dead, dozens are injured. And that's just the physical damage. Imagine the psyches of Americans of color right now, as white men and woman wave confederate flags and scream about "taking our country back." Imagine how Jews watching Americans raise their arms in Sieg Heil salutes, swastikas waving at their sides (see below) must feel. 

72 years separates the end of World War II and now. 72 years. 72 years since Anne Frank was murdered after hiding for two years in a dark annex. 72 years since the hate-filled Hitler took his own life in cowardly fashion. Less than that between the turbulent Civil Rights movement in America and now. What are we doing? 

I am nearly speechless. I am sick to my stomach and desperately sad to be back in this country after enjoying two weeks in beautifully progressive, largely tolerant places. I'll leave you with this, courtesy of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect. 

Geiranger and Ålesund, now back in Amsterdam

After a magnificent day boating around Geirangerfjord and moseying through the little town of Geiranger, and after a lovely stop in Ålesund, a town on Norway's western coast which burned almost completely in 1904 and was then rebuilt in art nouveau style, we spent a final day at sea before docking back in Amsterdam (pics from Amsterdam will follow in subsequent posts as the number of photos here might fully overwhelm you).

Geirangerfjord  

Geirangerfjord  

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 Ålesund:

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fresh fish soup at Lyst

fresh fish soup at Lyst

View from early in the climb to the top of the fjell (mountain) 

View from early in the climb to the top of the fjell (mountain) 

Ol gleefully working his way up

Ol gleefully working his way up

getting close

getting close

view from the top! 

view from the top! 

commemorating the rebuilding effort

commemorating the rebuilding effort

Art nouveau style drives me wild!! 

I mean seriously, just look at that! 

I mean seriously, just look at that! 

gorgeous slate work on the roof of this church

gorgeous slate work on the roof of this church

BARE Vestland restaurant in Bergen, Norway

Yesterday, Tom and I had one of the best meals of our lives: lunch at BARE Vestland, in Bergen, Norway. We’d read about the restaurant in the New York Times recently, and with a free day in Bergen decided to take advantage of the noontime hour.

Bergen, the second largest city in Norway after Oslo, sits on a peninsula on the country’s southwestern coast. It is by far the most urban place we’ve visited and has a distinctly coastal and also industrial feel. It boasts an historic city center and a thriving fish market, and is surrounded by seven mountains, or fjellene.

After taking the funicular to the top of one, Mount Fløyen, Tom and I left the kids with the rest of the family and headed back down the steep face. First stop, Det Lille Koffe Kompaniet.

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Run by a mother and daughter who bore a striking and beautiful resemblance to one another, Det Lille was the best cup of coffee I’ve had on this trip so far. Raccoon, in Alesund, and a tiny stand in Amsterdam on day 1, were solid seconds, but Det Lille, you are doing it right and with charm. Three lovely cakes still in warm, aged springform pans sat on the counter. A man had just delivered them from a nearby kitchen. They looked as if they'd just sprung from Nanny's oven. I ordered a slice of the pistachio almond cake but when the mother went to cut it, she found it wasn't quite done. We shared a laugh, she refunded my money, and the man wrapped the cake back in its pan and outer layer of foil and hurried it back from whence it had come. This would never, sadly, happen in America. I loved every moment. As it turns out a slice was $9 US so I probably didn't need it that badly. Norway is stunningly expensive. 

As we sipped and sighed happily, we strolled through Bergen’s Bryggen area and made our way to Vågsallmenningen, near Fresco Hall. Three steps down to a door in a subtle exterior and through into a dark, sleek yet cozy interior.

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Bare Vestland is a hyper-locally sourced small-plate establishment. And it offers an extensive selection of beer, which felt as if they’d be perfect matches with the menu. I chose a Porter style and Tom a Saison, both made by 7 Fjell bryggeri. They were sublime.

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To go alongside them we ordered the: sourdough bread and oxtail butter; radishes, turnips, and tarragon cream; lightly smoked fish with cauliflower, lemon, and dill; chicken confit with broccoli and lovage; and Plukkfisk, a Bergen specialty of mashed potatoes whipped with white fish and topped with bacon and leeks. Each was a revelation.

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Every bite was better than the last, and we cleaned our plates. The turnips and radishes were bright, tangy, devoid of bitterness and fibrousness; utterly fresh and of the season. I wanted to bathe in the tarragon cream.

The fish was so lightly smoked that the center of each piece was raw. The exterior was speckled and shimmery from heat, the whole like a work of sashimi art. Green dill oil slicked it elegantly.

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The chicken confit was sublime: tender, moist, completely chickeny in the best way (it was a local organic chicken). And the Plukkfisk was of the gods. Highbrow comfort food that I will most definitely be replicating. 

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Stuffed, we nonetheless ordered dessert: almond cake with strawberry, rhubarb, meringue, and sour cream. 

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Truly, we were blissed out. While Bergen had some lovely sights, it didn't speak to my soul in any way except at BARE Vestland, where food and the love of preparing it thoughtfully and with great attention to detail and locality gave me a marvelous sense of place and character.