Thursday, 27 August 2009

Namibia, Swakopmund, a German town on the Atlantic Ocean!

Driving through the large expanse of the Namib Desert, we headed back to the Atlantic Coast, first we arrived at Walvis Bay. This town was a great disappointment. Having heard about it for years on the South African weather forecast, I was very disappointed. It was architecturally uninspiring, looking like some odd town, dumped in the middle of know where, for no reason! Of course there are plenty of reasons for its survival. It thrives mainly because the Pelican Point sand spit makes it the only feasible port between L├╝deritz and Luanda.
During the UN-sanctioned South African mandate over Namibia, the port of Walvis Bay was appended to South Africa’s Cape Province, Namibia gained independence in 1990, but South Africa retained Walvis Bay. Although South Africa stubbornly held its grip, the town’s strategic and economic value made control of Walvis Bay a vital issue in Namibian politics. After much negotiation and deliberation, control finally passed to Namibia on 28 February 1994.
So having had a (quick) look round Walvis Bay, we drove 30km south to the town of Swakopmund. We stopped after about 10km to look at ‘Bird Island’. This wooden platform in the sea was built to provide a roost for sea birds, it is now a source of guano, and I do not have any photos of it as the SMELL was absolutely disgusting!
We booked in to The Swakopmund Hotel, it was once the main train station, built in 1901, but has now been converted into a hotel. This building set the style for the architecture in the town, distinctly German/ Bavarian....was I in Africa??
According to all the tourist information, Swakopmund is the premier holiday resort in Namibia. Swakopmund feels overwhelmingly Teutonic – indeed, the Lonely Planet describes it ‘as being more German than Germany’. With its palm-lined streets, seaside promenades and Teutonic style buildings, you think that you are in a town on the German North Sea. We went to the Tourist Information, then walked around the town in the bright June Sunshine, it was a bit chilly but lovely.
There are loads of interesting historical buildings in Swakopmund, all fantastic examples of traditional German Architecture. This is one of the churches.
This is the Hohenzollern Building, built around 1906, it was built as a Hotel. This was my favourite building with Atlas supporting the world on the roof, and all the dancing girls on its front, just above the main door. My camera is not good enough to pick up the architectural detail of the buildings.
This is the Woermannhaus, we went up the former water tower and had a great view of the town and the desert at the back of the town...I had forgotten I was in a desert by then!
We sat on the promenade and enjoyed an ice cream, in the bright afternoon sun. We then walked out along the harbour wall and watched as a large pod of dolphins and one seal came in to the harbour. As we watched them, the fog rolled in from the Atlantic Ocean. The cold Atlantic Ocean meeting the Namib Desert often creates a fog bank. This fog can roll in up to 30km inland and provides moisture for desert-dwelling plants and animals. The fog was by now thick and very cold, so we went back to the car and went for a desert drive.