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Exploring Windhoek

First full day.

sunny

We woke up next day in much better spirits having regained some energy after a much needed decent night's sleep. The hotel's breakfast buffet, in the same restaurant as we had eaten dinner, was also freezing and we quickly learned to forget the supposedly hot options and concentrate on the bread. As a former German colony, Namibia has excellent bread.

It was a Saturday and I get the impression that Windhoek, quiet at the best of times, is even quieter at the weekend. However, since we live in the crowds, noise and pollution of Hong Kong, we were delighted by the empty streets and open spaces.

Windhoek is the capital of Namibia. It is located on the Khomas Highland Plateau and has a population of almost 400,000. Windhoek was originally called AiGams, which means hot water, by the Nama tribes who occupied this area. It was called this because of the hot springs located in the area. Later Oorlam chief, Jonker Afrikaner, changed the town's name to Windhoek which means windy corner. The Oorlams were a mixed race people driven out of the Cape area of present day South Africa by the British. German colonial Windhoek was founded in October 1890 when Curt von Francois reached Windhoek with thirty-two of his men.

There was a statue of Curt von Francois outside the Windhoek Municipality Buildings near our hotel. Curt von Francois was born in Luxembourg in 1856. He was a soldier and a geographer who explored and mapped several parts of Africa. He was sent to South West Africa, present day Namibia, in 1889 to help quell an uprising by local Herero tribal people against German colonial rule. He occupied the ruins of Jonker Afrikaner's destroyed town of Windhoek and began building the Alte Feste Fort to house his Schutztruppe or German colonial troops.

Curt von Francois.

Curt von Francois.

After looking at the statue we headed off to the Zoo Park. The Zoo Park is a small, pleasant grassy park with a Chinese style pagoda, a little bridge and a memorial to the German Schutztruppe who were killed in the Nama uprisings against German colonial rule. The memorial dates from 1897.

memorial to the Schutztruppe.

memorial to the Schutztruppe.

Me at the Chinese Pagoda, Zoo Park.

Me at the Chinese Pagoda, Zoo Park.

Peter on the bridge, Zoo Park.

Peter on the bridge, Zoo Park.

From the Zoo Park we walked to the nearby Christus Kirche or Christ Church. The Evangelical Lutheran congregation in Windhoek was started by Pastor Heinrich Siebe in January 1896. Less than a year later, he had attracted enough members to justify the construction of a church. Christus Kirche, the oldest Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia, was designed by Gottlieb Redecker and consecrated on 16th October 1910. We could not go inside the church as it was locked.

Christ Church.

Christ Church.

Christ Church.

Christ Church.

Actually many of Windhoek's major sites are next to Christ Church. We next walked to the Alte Feste Fort which is now a museum. However, this was closed and we could only look inside its outer courtyard.

Just outside the Alte Feste stands the Genocide Memorial. This depicts a man and woman raising their arms to reveal their broken chains. This symbolizes their newly gained freedom. The words 'Their Blood Waters Our Freedom' are written on the memorial. This memorial was erected in remembrance of the suffering of the Nama and Herero people at the hands of the Schutztruppe during the 1904 to 1907 war. This war is considered to be the first attempted genocide of the twentieth century.

The Genocide Memorial.

The Genocide Memorial.

The Genocide Memorial from the back.

The Genocide Memorial from the back.

The outer yard of the Alte Feste houses several old carts, wagons and engines. Then outside the grounds of the fort there are some old cannons.

Me in the outer courtyard of the Alte Feste.

Me in the outer courtyard of the Alte Feste.

Peter in the outer courtyard of the Alte Feste.

Peter in the outer courtyard of the Alte Feste.

Me in the outer courtyard of the Alte Feste.

Me in the outer courtyard of the Alte Feste.

Peter outside Alte Feste.

Peter outside Alte Feste.

Peter outside Alte Feste.

Peter outside Alte Feste.

Next we visited the Independence Memorial Museum next to the Alte Feste. This museum was officially opened in March 2014. Outside the front of this building stands a statue of Sam Nujoma.

Sam Nujoma was born in 1929. He was a Namibian revolutionary, anti-apartheid activist and politician. He was the first President of independent Namibia and remained president from 1990 to 2005. His statue stands on the former site of the Reiterdenkmal statue which depicted a member of the German colonial Schutztruppe. Sam Nujoma's statue proudly holds aloft a copy of the Namibian constitution

The Independence Memorial Museum was built by the North Koreans. It has three floors of exhibits. Floor 1 deals with Namibia under German colonial rule and under the South African Apartheid regime. Floor 2 is about the armed struggle against Apartheid. Floor 3 is concerned with Namibian independence. At the top of the building there is a cafe with excellent viewing platforms, though if you want to take photos from the platforms, you must first buy a drink or risk being fined. I was a little surprised to see the notice on the door banning people from bringing guns and knives inside. The first floor of the museum contains some very disturbing and gruesome images. I am not going to put any on here as they are too depressing.

Namibia's fight for freedom.

Namibia's fight for freedom.

Namibian Independence.

Namibian Independence.

Sign on the cafe door.

Sign on the cafe door.

View over the closed Alte Feste.

View over the closed Alte Feste.

View over the Namibian Parliament.

View over the Namibian Parliament.

View over Christ Church.

View over Christ Church.

Looking towards Windhoek's three castles.

Looking towards Windhoek's three castles.

Me with a zebra in the cafe.

Me with a zebra in the cafe.

Sam Nujoma Statue outside the museum.

Sam Nujoma Statue outside the museum.

When we left the museum, we entered the gardens of the Namibian Parliament. These are beautifully laid out. Unfortunately, we were approached by a guard and told the gardens were about to close. However, the guard said it was all right if we took some photos before leaving, so we did and promptly discovered we had been locked in the gardens. I was standing at the gate wondering how on Earth we were going to get out, when a young lady outside the gate assured me I would be able to exit from the top of the gardens near the parliament building. This turned out to be true and a further advantage of leaving this way was that we passed by the Windhoek Cricket Club where a match was taking place.

The Namibian Parliament was originally known as the Tintenpalast or ink palace. Its grounds contain statues of three prominent Namibian activists: Herero chief Hosea Kutako- after whom the airport is named, Hendrik Samuel Witbooi and the Reverend Theophilus Hamutumbangela.

The Namibian Parliament.

The Namibian Parliament.

Hosea Kutako.

Hosea Kutako.

Hendrik Samuel Witbooi.

Hendrik Samuel Witbooi.

The Reverend Theophilus Hamutumbangela.

The Reverend Theophilus Hamutumbangela.

Cricket Match.

Cricket Match.

After visiting the parliament gardens, we went home via the craft market just to cool down a bit before setting out for more sightseeing. There were some lovely things in the craft market, but I saved my shopping for later as I did not want to carry everything with me to Swakopmund.

Craft Market.

Craft Market.

After a bit of a rest and a cool down in the hotel room, we headed off to Post Street Mall to see the Gibeon Meteorites. There are thirty meteorite pieces mounted on steel columns in Post Street Mall. These are millions of years old and were found in southern Namibia. On the way to the mall we passed several old German buildings.

Gibeon Meteorites.

Gibeon Meteorites.

After leaving Post Street, we passed the Roman Catholic Cathedral. This lovely building with its twin towers is known as St Mary's Cathedral. It was consecrated on the 24th of April 1932 and became a national monument on the 15th of June 1983.

St Mary's Cathedral.

St Mary's Cathedral.

Next we walked to Windhoek's historic railway station. This was built in 1912 by Deutsche Staatsbahn to create a rail link between Windhoek and Swakopmund. The station houses a Railway Museum, but this was closed when we visited. There are lots of railway engines around the station.

Windhoek Station.

Windhoek Station.

Steam engine outside station.

Steam engine outside station.

Peter with railway vehicles.

Peter with railway vehicles.

And more railway vehicles.

And more railway vehicles.

Near the station stands the Owambo Campaign Memorial which commemorates the 1917 fight against the Owambo chief Mandume. He committed suicide in order not to be captured by the German army.

Owambo Campaign Memorial.

Owambo Campaign Memorial.

On the way back home, we passed the Kudu Statue. A kudu is a kind of deer and this statue was sculpted by Professor Fritz Behn of Munich who had come on a visit to Namibia. It was unveiled in 1960. We also passed the National Museum of Art which had some interesting sculptures outside it.

Kudu Statue.

Kudu Statue.

Outside the National Museum of Art.

Outside the National Museum of Art.

Outside the National Museum of Art.

Outside the National Museum of Art.

Then it was back to the hotel for a swim and a much better dinner than the previous night as we ordered a la carte.

Sunset over our pool.

Sunset over our pool.

A hotter dinner.

A hotter dinner.

Posted by irenevt 08:59 Archived in Namibia Tagged namibia windhoek Comments (4)

Across the Desert.

Getting to Swakopmund.

sunny

Next day we had booked a Carlo's Shuttle to take us from Windhoek all the way to Swakopmund. We were very happy with this service as it would pick us up from our hotel and drop us right at our next hotel, so no messing around with luggage for us. Our pick up was scheduled for around one in the afternoon, so we still had a morning to enjoy Windhoek and sort out our hotel bill!!!

After breakfast, we walked to the nearby Namibian Craft Centre which has been in existence since 1990 and occupies the site of Windhoek's old brewery. As well as having a wide variety of different Namibian handicrafts this complex also has a cafe and a bar called Chopsi's.

At the Namibian Craft Centre.

At the Namibian Craft Centre.

Tall giraffes at the centre.

Tall giraffes at the centre.

Shy Giraffes at the centre.

Shy Giraffes at the centre.

Chopsi's Bar.

Chopsi's Bar.

Namibian Craft Centre.

Namibian Craft Centre.

After visiting the craft centre, we returned to the hotel for our last swim before check out. Of course when we did check out, the bill was way too much and the meals that should have been included were added on as extras. After a rather unpleasant fight, we eventually got things sorted out, but it was not the happiest way to depart and spoiled what was otherwise a very comfortable and happy stay. This is a hotel that needs to sort itself out. Our shuttle arrived on time and took us to a central bus station where we boarded a second shuttle for Swakopmund.

Bye bye Hilton, Windhoek.

Bye bye Hilton, Windhoek.

The journey to Swakopmund takes around four or five hours. We travelled along the Trans-Kalahari Highway which apparently runs all the way from Walvis Bay in Namibia to Johannesburg and Pretoria in South Africa. The scenery at first was quite green with distant rolling hills. I saw several herds of domesticated cattle and goats. There were also some buffalo with long, curving horns. I also saw some wild deer and ostriches. One of the things that fascinated me was the huge termite mounds that lined the sides of the road - some of them were incredibly high.

On this journey we passed through the town of Okahandja and were fortunate enough on our return journey to pass by its huge craft market. We stopped on the edge of the town of Usakos. Across from the service station area a football match was in full swing. Near the service area I admired a lovely garden filled with strange spiky plants.

Football match on the edge of Usakos.

Football match on the edge of Usakos.

House and garden, Usakos.

House and garden, Usakos.

After leaving Usakos the scenery became much drier as we entered the Namib Desert. The ground sparkled in the bright sunlight due to the many pieces of quartz and other stones that covered the it. In the distance we could see the outline of the Spitzkoppe. A mountain range that literally translates from the German as 'pointed dome' and rises dramatically from the flat, parched surroundings of the Namib Desert. These granite peaks are more than 120 million years old and rise to 5,853 feet above sea level. They are famous for interesting rock formations and examples of bushmen artwork painted onto their rocks.

Passing Spitzkoppe.

Passing Spitzkoppe.

Passing Spitzkoppe.

Passing Spitzkoppe.

As we neared Swakopmund we passed some uranium mines. The Namib Desert is rich in uranium and Namibia was once the fourth largest uranium producer in the world. Production has declined in recent times as nuclear power has fallen in popularity since the Fukihima Daiichi Disaster in Japan in 2011.

Uranium mine near Swakopmund.

Uranium mine near Swakopmund.

One of the things I liked about Carlo's Shuttles was it drops everyone where they want to go, so we had a tour around the suburbs of Swakopmund on our way in. Quite interesting as we would have no reason to go here normally, but I like to see real places where people actually live. Eventually we arrived at our hotel the AHA Beach Hotel near the seafront in Swakopmund. The receptionist here was so friendly and helpful; it was completely different to checking in in Windhoek. We were given a lovely room with a balcony. We deposited our stuff, then headed to the hotel roof with its small pool and spectacular views over the seafront. The sun was just starting to go down and we watched it for a while before heading down a floor and enjoying sun-downers in the little hotel bar. Later we ate a delicious meal in the hotel restaurant. My husband had wiener schnitzel and I had pork medallions in a Dijon mustard sauce. The restaurant is called Anchor Point as it stands on a site that was once occupied by a huge German radio transmitter. The anchor points secured the guy ropes that held the eighty-six metre high radio mast in place. This transmitter enabled the Germans to stay in radio contact with Berlin during the First World War. When Union troops entered South West Africa near the end of the war, the Germans destroyed the transmitter to prevent it falling into enemy hands.

Our room.

Our room.

View from our balcony with an anchor point on the right.

View from our balcony with an anchor point on the right.

View from our roof towards Swakopmund Pier.

View from our roof towards Swakopmund Pier.

Me by our roof top pool.

Me by our roof top pool.

View over Tiger Reef campsite and restaurant. The structure in the water used to be a rail line.

View over Tiger Reef campsite and restaurant. The structure in the water used to be a rail line.

Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.

Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.

Looking towards an anchor point.

Looking towards an anchor point.

Sun-downers in the bar.

Sun-downers in the bar.

Sundown.

Sundown.

A delicious dinner in the Anchor Point Restaurant.

A delicious dinner in the Anchor Point Restaurant.

Posted by irenevt 19:35 Archived in Namibia Tagged desert namibia windhoek swakopmund Comments (4)

Return to Windhoek

Last full day and return journey to Hong Kong.

sunny

Next morning we had to wake up early and eat a rushed breakfast again, because we were catching an early morning shuttle back to Windhoek. Once more we used Carlo's shuttle company and were very pleased to see them turning up on time.

On the journey back I saw giraffes and wild deer, but I could not photo them as we were speeding past in a van. We stopped at the same service station in Usakos as before, but we did not stop in Okahandja, instead we went through it via its craft market to drop someone off. The craft market looked very impressive.

Bye bye Swakopmund Beach Hotel.

Bye bye Swakopmund Beach Hotel.

Carlo's Shuttles.

Carlo's Shuttles.

Back in Windhoek we were dropped off at our new hotel - the Hotel Uhland. We were checked in by a friendly receptionist. This was the cheapest of our three hotels and maybe in some ways it was more basic, but it was still nice and it had a pool. Peter celebrated our arrival with another from his big six - a 2M from Mozambique.

A 2M from Mozambique.

A 2M from Mozambique.

We set out on foot with the intention of visiting Windhoek Botanical Gardens which was near our original hotel, but had been closed on our first visit. On route to the gardens, we passed the Alte Feste Fort again. It was still closed and we were about to continue onto the gardens, but Peter said, 'Wait a minute there's a group of people heading our way. Let's see what they do.' What they did was unlock the fort and go inside, so we followed them and asked the lady holding the keys if we could go into the fort. She told us, ' The fort's buildings are closed for renovation, but if you want to go in the courtyard and see the rider statue, you can.' so we did.

The rider statue is an equestrian statue of a German soldier of the Schutztruppe. It used to stand where the statue of Sam Nujoma now stands in front of the new Independence Museum. Then it was moved to the site of what is now the genocide memorial in front of the Alte Feste Fort. Many people wanted it removed as it represented a soldier of the group that committed atrocities against the native people in Namibia. There was a lot of debate about whether the statue should be taken down and destroyed or not. The statue disappeared one night and had been secretly removed to the inner courtyard of the Alte Feste for its own protection. I had already read up on this before we saw the statue. My own personal beliefs run along the lines that removing statues is denying history and not letting people understand how thing used to be. I think that is bad. Rather than taking statues down, I think it would be better to balance them with statues of people who opposed the people in the original statues. However, I will say I was surprised at the immense size of this statue and felt its presence to be rather intimidating.

Back at the fort again.

Back at the fort again.

Peter with the rider statue.

Peter with the rider statue.

Peter in the fort.

Peter in the fort.

Me in the fort.

Me in the fort.

After visiting the fort, we walked to the botanical gardens. It was located on a hill and on the hill next to it sat Windhoek's three castles. One of these is Schwerinsburg which is now the private residence of the Italian ambassador in Namibia. This castle was started in 1890 when Curt von Fran├žois built its tower. In 1904 the Schutztruppe sold Schwerinsburg to architect Wilhelm Sander. Seven years later Sander sold it to Hans Bogislav Graf von Schwerin, governor of the Gobabis District of South-West Africa. Von Schwerin employed Sander to convert the residence into a castle for him. The second castle is called Heinitzburg. It was also built in by architect Wilhelm Sander in 1914. Today it is a restaurant and luxury hotel apparently with beautiful views. The third castle is Sanderburg. This is the smallest of the three castles. It was built between 1917 and 1919 yet again by architect Wilhelm Sander. It is now a private residence.

One of the castles.

One of the castles.

A second castle.

A second castle.

The botanic gardens is free entry. It is set on a hill and has several well-marked paths through a variety of flora. As I was wandering around, I disturbed a porcupine, lots of guinea fowl and several more birds. There is a desert area hot house near the entrance to the gardens. Among other things it contained something that looked like a dead tree trunk, but was apparently a weltwichia, though it looked nothing like pictures of these I have seen. This unusual plant found only in Namibia is apparently an evolutionary link between cone bearing and flowering plants. As I explored the gardens further, I found the grave of a Damara chief who rebelled against German occupation and was captured and beheaded by the Schutztruppe.

Peter in the botanic gardens.

Peter in the botanic gardens.

This was labelled as a sausage tree.

This was labelled as a sausage tree.

Grave of the Damara chief.

Grave of the Damara chief.

Grave of the Damara chief.

Grave of the Damara chief.

Desert house.

Desert house.

I saw so many nest filled trees. Are they the nests of weaver birds?

I saw so many nest filled trees. Are they the nests of weaver birds?

This strange plant was labelled as a weltwichia.

This strange plant was labelled as a weltwichia.

When we left the botanical gardens, on the opposite side of the road we disturbed two dassies. For once I managed to get a picture before they ran away. Dassies are also known as rock hyrax. They look like oversized rodents, but are quite cute. We came across these before on top of Table Mountain in Cape Town. There were quite good views over Windhoek from the hill near the botanical gardens.

Dassie.

Dassie.

View on the way down from the botanical gardens.

View on the way down from the botanical gardens.

Back down in central Windhoek we were passed by several open-topped trucks carrying groups of workers home. I also noticed lots of beautiful plants. Perhaps the botanical gardens had focused my thoughts on flowers and trees.

On the way home.

On the way home.

I liked these flowers.

I liked these flowers.

Plants, Windhoek.

Plants, Windhoek.

Cacti.

Cacti.

We also walked past the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre and the Pan African Centre of Namibia on our walk home. This had lots of interesting paintings outside it.

Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre.

Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre.

Pan-African Centre of Namibia.

Pan-African Centre of Namibia.

Pan-African Centre of Namibia.

Pan-African Centre of Namibia.

Pan-African Centre of Namibia.

Pan-African Centre of Namibia.

Instead of going straight home, we went first to Joe's Beerhouse, as everyone had been telling us we had to try it. This restaurant was started up by German-born Joachim Gross, who had worked around the world as a master chef and opened this restaurant in 1991. It is an odd place crammed full of weird and wonderful objects. I sat on a seat that was shaped like a toilet and ordered some drinks. After all that walking in the sun the beer was certainly good. It would have been nice to eat at Joe's but we wanted to swim so we returned to the hotel for a swim then ate there. Food in the hotel was cheap but portions were small. It was all tasty enough at any rate.After dinner we retired to bed.

Joe's Beer House.

Joe's Beer House.

Joe's Beer House.

Joe's Beer House.

Joe's Beer House.

Joe's Beer House.

Joe's Beer House

Joe's Beer House

Next and last day we ate breakfast, swam again. Peter finished off his remaining big six: a St Louis from Botswana and a Zambesi from Zambia. Then we were picked up by Tok Tokkie Transfers again and taken to the airport for our long journey home. This time passing through Addis Ababa was very very crowded and I found a large black stone in my chicken dinner on the flight to Hong Kong !!! This put me off eating quite a lot, but the Ethiopian beer was still good. Bye bye Namibia. Roll on next African adventure.

Our pool.

Our pool.

Our Pool.

Our Pool.

A St Louis from Botswana.

A St Louis from Botswana.

A Zambesi from Zambia.

A Zambesi from Zambia.

Bar by the pool.

Bar by the pool.

Misbehaving as usual.

Misbehaving as usual.

Posted by irenevt 04:24 Archived in Namibia Tagged statue pools rider shuttle windhoek Comments (5)

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