Tag Archives: literature

Anne Frank

A couple week ago, I was introduced to Kinsey II, a replacement kindle. I ordered one, had it shipped home, and then my mom kindly forwarded it along to meet me in Rome. That said, I again have been able to easily access literature. While in Amsterdam, I know that I will be visiting the Anne Frank House, and decide to reread her diary. Below are several quotes that had strong impacts on me.

“Our freedom was severely restricted by a series of anti-Jewish decrees: Jews were required to wear a yellow star; Jews were required to turn in their bicycles; Jews were forbidden to use streetcars; Jews were forbidden to ride in cars, even their won; Jews were required to do their shopping between 3 and 5 PM; Jews were required to frequent only Jewish-owned barbershops and beauty parlors; Jews were forbidden to be out on the streets between 8 P.M. And 6 A.M.; Jews were forbidden to go to theaters, movies or any other forms of entertainment; Jews were forbidden to use swimming pools, tennis courts, hockey fields or any other athletic fields; Jews were forbidden to go rowing; Jews were forbidden to take part in any athletic activity in public; Jews were forbidden to sit in their gardens or those of their friends after 8 P.M.; Jews were forbidden to visit Christians in their homes; Jews were required to attend Jewish schools, etc. You couldn’t do this and you couldn’t do that, but life went on. Jacque always said to me, ‘I don’t dare do anything anymore, ’cause I’m afraid it’s not allowed.’”

“I’ve reached the point where I hardly care whether I live or die. The world will keep on turning without me, and I can’t do anything to change events anyway. I’ll just let matters take their course and concentrate on studying and hope that everything will be all right in the end.”

“The sun is shining, the sky is deep blue, there’s a magnificent breeze, and I’m longing—really longing—for everything: conversation, freedom, friends, being alone. I long … to cry! I feel as if I were about to explode. I know crying would help, but I can’t cry. I’m restless. I walk from one room to another, breathe through the crack in the window frame, feel my heart beating as if to say, ‘Fulfill my longing at last…’”

“Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.”

“I don’t think of all the misery but of all the beauty that still remains.”

“Is discord going to show itself while we are still fighting, is the Jew once again worth less than another? Oh, it is sad, very sad, that once more, for the umpteenth time, the old truth is confirmed: ‘What one Christian does is his own responsibility, what one Jew does is thrown back at all Jews.’”

The Anne Frank House is very well done. As we progress from room to room, there are exhibits on the walls that retell Anne’s story. Also on display is her original diary along with other writings from her time in hiding. The visit is a sobering experience, but one that is necessary.

Gelati

Somehow, during my last visit a couple weeks ago, I managed to spend two nights in Rome without tasting gelato, and despite giving Gabe a hard time ever since, he did not allow Katherine or me to have Gelato outside of Italy. My first taste of Italian Gelato came our first night in Pisa from a small place called De Coltelli (www.decoltelli.it). The gelato was delicious, creamy, rich, naturally colored, and perfect on a warm evening. I still remember starting with pistachio and chocolate, and then going immediately back for strawberry and peach. I am someone with an ever-present sweet tooth and a constant craving for diary (despite being a bit lactose intolerant). Therefore, ice cream and gelato always seem like the perfect snack. In the “The Docle Vita Diaries”, Cathy Rogers and Jason Gibb describe Italian gelato.

“Why is ice cream so much nicer in Italy? I mean, isn’t it just milk and then stuff that you can get anywhere like nuts and chocolate? Is it, like the coffee, something to do with having fancy machines that just do the job better? Or is there something they’re hiding? Because you go into one of those awful British or American places and the ice cream is just horrid by comparison – vulgar, crude, not even tasting of what it’s mean to. The Italians aren’t averse to the odd horrid flavour – a bright blue one named after the Smurfs that tastes of nothing on earth, at least nothing this side of Belgium– but at least it seems they’re choosing to do it, rather than doing it because they don’t know better.”

Gelato from Pisa

As an American talking gelato, I feel obliged to at least briefly discuss some of the differences between gelato, ice cream, and sorbet. I will start with good ice cream, and by good ice cream, I mean the kind that doesn’t use condensed or powdered milk. Good ice cream is made with fresh cream, eggs, and natural flavors. Ice cream is also overrun, which means that air is whipped into it, and the more overrun an ice cream, the softer and lighter it will be. Some ice creams even have extra air added to it; however, these ice creams would no longer fit under my category of “good” ice cream. Gelato, on the other hand, holds a minimal amount of air, and this accounts for its high density. As far as differences in recipes go, gelato will usually include more egg yolks and milk, and a little less cream. The fat content of gelato, because of the reduction in cream, is less than that of ice cream; however, because it is less overrun, it still maintains that very rich and creamy taste. Finally, sorbets are just fruit, sugar, maybe some lemon juice, and water, the amount of which can control the intensity of the sorbet.

Gabe is taking me on a gelato tour of the best spots in Rome in between visiting his favorite churches, plazas, and vistas around the city. We have already begun this journey, and will continue it when we return to Rome before traveling to Sicilia. I will rate, rank, and record this avventura del gelato upon its completion.

“Italian ice creams tastes so good it almost manages to convince you that it’s good for you.” -Rogers and Gibb

Under The Tuscan Sun

As I knew I would be traveling to Tuscany to work on a vineyard, I felt it was appropriate to read Frances Mayes’ book “Under The Tuscan Sun.” Mayes, between her descriptions of buying, renovating, and living in an abandoned house, describes her experiences of working in the garden and dealing with the locals. Most of the book was a bit flowery for my taste; however, as I did have grounds to relate to it, I made it through the more ornate descriptions of the food and the land. In addition, for a bit of advice in working on a vineyard, I found the below quote:

“Besides the practical, a host of enduring superstitions determine the best moment to pick or plant; the moon has bad days and good. Vergil, a long time ago, observed farmers’ beliefs: Choose the seventeenth day after the full moon to plant, avoid the fifth. He also advises scything at night, when dew softens the stubble.”

Elizabeth Gaskell’s “Cranford”

Ursula loves to read and her library illustrates this well. Within minutes of arriving on the farm she is excited to have Katherine read her favorite book, “Cranford” by Elizabeth Gaskell. Although Katherine does not make it too far into the book, we are intrigued by the first couple pages of the book and how they might reflect on life on a farm. The first couple sentences of the book read:

“In the first place, Cranford is in possession of the Amazons; all the holders of houses above a certain rent are women. If a married couple comes to settle in the town, showhow the gentleman disappears; he is either fairly frightened to death by being the only man in the Cranford evening parties, or he is accounted for by being with his regiment, his ship, or closely engaged in busienss all the week in the great neighboring commercial town of Drumble, distance only twenty miles on a railroad.”

Then to elaborate more on the same theme, a couple pages later, we read:

“A man, as one of them observed to me once, is so in the way in the house!”

Germany from Twain’s View

In “A Tramp Abroad”, Mark Twain describes some observations he had while in Germany, and I feel that as I depart, I want to remember some of his pearls that I read along the way.

“My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years. It seems manifest, then, that the latter tongue ought to be trimmed down and repaired. If it is to remain as it is, it ought to be gently and reverently set aside among the dead languages, for only the dead have time to learn it.”

“The Germans are exceedingly fond of Rhine wines; they are put up in tall, slender bottles, and are considered a pleasant beverage. One tells them from vinegar by the label.”

“I am haunted by humans.”

I get up early and make my outside the city via train and towards the Dachau Concentration Camp. I have an idea of what to expect from museum exhibits I’d seen, books I’d read, and explanations I’d heard. However, soon after arriving, acquiring an audio tour, and making my way through the camp, I realize I had very little idea of what to expect. In terms of raw facts, most of what I am learning is not new, but my my reaction to the material is much stronger than ever before. Walking down a road that so many others had done before knowing that they might not survive long enough to walk back in the other direction, standing in a barracks that housed suffering prisoners whose life dreams had been condensed to being able to survive, and seeing images of dead bodies being rounded up by a tractor just steps away and only 60 to 70 years ago all make my stomach tighten and my neck tense. How can this have happened? How can someone get away with this, and on such a large scale?

I can barely look at the crematoria that were used to dispose of the dead bodies. These methods prove that killing had become so regular that the disposal of the dead was more troublesome than the killing itself. And eventually, even cremation was too burdensome leading to the use of mass graves. The scale of such murder makes it hard for me to understand each death on an individual basis until I walk around and begin reading stories of some of its prisoners. Each story is so real and seemingly so normal until their entrance into the camp. After this experience, I am not sure what to write to fully recall my emotions in the future; however, capturing such an experience with words may be nearly impossible. This explains why I was unprepared at the beginning of today despite having learned much about the Holocaust before my arrival.

The Dachau Concentration Camp was the first one opened in Germany back in 1933. It later served as a model and training ground for future Nazi concentration camps. The camp contains records of over 200,000 prisoners and almost 32,000 deaths between 1933 and 1945.

Summing up many of my emotions after my visit, the last line from a book titled “The Book Thief” that I pick up at the shop outside Dachau reads, “I am haunted by humans.”

Stieg Larsson’s Stockholm

Instead of reading about Sweden’s history or culture, I read the first of Stieg Larsson’s series, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” And by read, I mean listen because of Kinsey the Kindle’s tragic death not too long ago. Thus, while flying in planes and riding in trains, I listened to the epic tale of Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. And afterwards, I visited several of the sites featured in Stieg’s books.

Millenium’s editorial office:

Millennium Office

Mikael Blomkvist’s home:

Mikael's apartment

The pub Kvarnen:

Kvarnen

Lisbeth’s new apartment:

Lisbeth's new apartment

Tahir Shah’s “The Caliph’s House”

Shah’s book helped me understand some of the culture that was surrounding me. It demonstrated the religious and often superstitious nature of the Moroccan people, and it highlighted the importance that all of the artistic disciplines played in their society. Shah explained much about ridding a house of Jinns and bringing in baraka. Jinns are the spirits mentioned in the Qur’an and created by God from fire. They inhabit houses that have been abandoned and cause considerable trouble for their new human dwellers.

A couple pearls of wisdom that I enjoyed while reading through this novel were the following. First, when it comes to bargaining, Shah provided the following insight:

“In the East, the tradition of bargaining is an honorable one, and Moroccan society has one of the most developed bartering economies I have come across. I am usually satisfied with chipping in a few cents more if it saves time and secures the purchase. But to a native Moroccan, shirking on the bargaining front is seen as falling short of responsibility. There is honor at stake. Forget the bargaining and you are bringing shame on the shop.

“The guidebooks always say it’s best to take a local person with you when you go shopping in Morocco. But they don’t tell you that the local is likely to veto all purchases, and even liable to get you into a fistfight with the shopkeeper as he strives to protect your honor.”

In addition, near the end of the book, Tahir nicely describes his experience settling into a new country and new culture and specially with his family.

“Live in a new country and you find yourself making compromises. Make them, and you are rewarded many times over. Morocco has an antique culture, one that’s still intact, with the family at the core. For me, the greatest thing about living here has been that Ariane and Timur [Tahir’s two children] can play against an inspiring backdrop, teeming with a full spectrum of life…. I encourage Ariane and Timur to be loud, to shout, to dance in the streets, to be themselves.”

Horse in Fez

Casablanca

“The guidebooks love to tell you that the movie, perhaps the most famous film ever made, was shot entirely in Hollywood. I found it strange that it should have attracted such a cult following, famous for being famous. As the first scenes came and went, I couldn’t help but notice that the Casablanca depicted on-screen had very little to do with the city in which I was sitting. Indeed, I wondered if the two had ever been true reflections of each other. In the film, wartime Casablanca was a mysterious haven in which refugees heading for America would become stranded. Although the story line may have been founded on a fragment of truth, the city dreamt up on Warner Brothers’ back lot was a suffocating blend of Arab styles, whereas Casablanca of the time was European from top to toe.”

I can relate this quote from Tahir Shah’s “The Caliph’s House” to at least one emotion I felt while wandering around the city of Casablanca. Before arriving, my main exposure to the city came from this award-winning film. My high school prom was even themed Casablanca. I had my fedora ready and was prepared to task Sam to play it again. When I arrived, as Shah describes above, Casablanca is slightly different than the movie suggests. And Rick’s Cafe even closed at the early hour of 12pm on a Saturday night.

Arches from Hassan II Mosque

Hassan II Mosque

The city has a look that it used to be a more glamorous city and that it is trying to recapture some of that sparkle. For example, as I was doing Lonely Planet’s walking tour, I noticed they are in the process of tearing up a major road to install a tram system. In addition, in the 1990’s, the Hassan II Mosque was built on the water’s front. This mosque, one of the King’s projects costing about half a billion dollars, is a controversial subject considering the high unemployment rates in Morocco and the other uses for such a large sum of money. That said, the mosque looked like it cost about that with its 210 meter tall minaret, its courtyard made to handle crowds of 80,000, its centrally heated floor, a different glass floor, and its retractable roof. There was a line somewhere and I think Hassan II may have crossed it.

Fountain in Casablanca

Rialto Theatre, Casablanca

Staying at the Hotel Central in Casablanca’s Old Medina, the owner of the Hotel recommended we try a nearby restaurant called Sqala for dinner. We did just that, were not dissappointed, and it later reappeared in Shah’s book.

“[Zohra, Shah’s assistant,] suggested an excellent restaurant called Sqala, set in a former Portuguese fortress on the cusp of the medina. Moroccan food tends to be as inferior in restaurants as it is superior in the home. To achieve the subtle flavors takes an astonishing amount of care and time. The ambiance is important as the food itself, as is the attention lavished on a guest. As you gorge yourself on the delicacies, with your hosts whispering flattery, it’s very hard not to give in to delusion.

“The meal reintroduced me to the sensory marvels of real Moroccan cuisine. We ordered a selection of dishes. There was chicken tagine flavored with tumeric, honey, and apricots; a pair of sea bream marinated in a saffron sauce and served on a bed of couscous. After that came bistiya, a vast platter of sweet pastry, beneath which lay wafer-thin layers of pigeons, almonds, and egg.

“Zohra said the family was the center of Moroccan life, and that food was at the center of the family.”

A couple other highlights of my short time in Casablanca were both athletically driven. In the afternoon, the Casablanca futbol team won its league (or something along those lines based on the explanation I was given in broken english), and those dressed in green and white flew their flags, crammed into buses unclear to where, and made lots of noise. Then the following morning, on our way to the Hassan II Mosque, Adam and I walked along a part of a half marathon route. We pretended that we were disappointed that we didn’t know it was occurring as if we would have participated otherwise.

Time for celebration in Casablanca

Although Casablanca was not the cultural center of Morocco, it did have some impressive sights and offered some delicious tastes for my first day in the country.

Next stop, Greece

“What a world of ruined sculpture was about us! Set up in rows—stacked up in piles—scattered broadcast over the wide area of the Acropolis—were hundreds of crippled statues of all sizes and of the most exquisite workmanship; and vast fragments of marble that once belonged to the entablatures, covered with bas-reliefs representing battles and sieges, ships of war with three and four tiers of oars, pageants and processions—everything one could think of. History says that the temples of the Acropolis were filled with the noblest works of Praxiteles and Phidias, and of many a great master in sculpture besides—and surely these elegant fragments attest it.”

Mark Twain, in his “Innocents Abroad” wrote the above quote when describing Athens. I predict Greece will probably be a bit different from Nepal, but I am excited for the change except for the difference in prices. (My dollar will not be going as far once I get to Europe.) It also seems fitting that as I move from the Eastern to the Western world, I start at the cradle of western civilization.