A thriving artists’ colony in the South African desert
A land of strong contrasts
You learn from the museum that a railroad line near Cape Town, the tortuous pass carving through the Swartbergs, a short-lived ostrich feather boom for Europeans, and a gold rush that has fizzled out have all contributed to the growth of the village, which today has a population of 7,000, approximately 86 percent mixed race, 11 percent white and 2 percent black.
Back outside, it’s hard not to be struck by the stark contrast, even in new South Africa, between the comfortable routines and living quarters of white residents and tourists, and the narrower lives. and the fragile huts of half-breeds and blacks. residents who work in hotels, shops and farms that are owned and operated by white people. In the streets, barefoot children sometimes pose for photos, hoping for a few rand.
Prince Albert is known for his food and on our walks we indulged. Sitting in the shade of a quiet garden of the Lazy Lizard cafe, we nibbled on crispy homemade loaves of bread and a Karoo plate, topped with a cornucopia of the Karoo’s offerings – lamb, cheese, Bulgarian yogurt, figs and olives.
The source of the yogurt and cheese is Prince Albert’s Gay’s Guernsey Dairy landmark. Gay van Hasselt greets visitors with a casual flair, recalling how she started the farm, in 1990, with three cows and a stone kraal (barn). She now has 50 cows. She is proud that the villagers got used to to think of yogurt, sometimes sweetened with flavors like strawberry – not like vrot melk – milk gone bad, but like a tangy treat.
When the January desert heat got maddening, we returned to our hostel, De Bergkant Lodge, built in 1858 for a newlywed couple, one of 14 local buildings declared historic monuments, and swam to the sound of it. of birdsong. Swiss owners Michi and Renate Soennichsen love their guests.
The two restaurants they recommended were of high caliber and cost no more than a cheap place in Manhattan. At Rameau d’Olivier, a cozy and unpretentious room, Hendry Olivier, the chef, explained how he simmered the lamb for four hours. After tasting it, we concluded that there must be some virtue in grazing in a desert.
A little more offbeat was Karoo Kombuis – or Karoo Kitchen – which is in a simple cottage in an alleyway. There are only three tables with checkered tablecloths in the front room and three in the back room. A blackboard on the narrow patio serves as the menu but only offers three entrees – although you can order two in smaller portions. Other restaurant rules are cash only, bring alcohol and find the toilet in the kitchen.