When I had finished writing the last update Ioana and I left the internet cafe and Codrin was gone. He said he was going to the shop next door but he wasn’t there, so we wandered around a bit looking for him and then went off to the cafe for another drink. It turns out Codrin had found a barber and was getting his hair cut, and when he came back looking for us we weren’t there either. Ioana and I had a quick coffee and coke and then went off to the Woermann Tower, which we were told provides an excellent panaroma of the city. The tower, built in 1905, is off of a charming courtyard and hotel where Prince Albrecht of Prussia stayed in 1907, and is the most famous building in Swakopmund. We climbed to the top and got a great 360 degree view of the city. You can look out over the ocean, then as you turn you see the ocean turn into desert, and with the ocean to your back it looks like the city is in the middle of the desert. It is a large town, too, about the size of Westport.
When we walked around the city we realized that we were essentially in Germany. Everyone spoke german, the architecture was European and colonial and on every corner there is a cafe, a beer house, or a public park. The city is perfectly manicured, and if it were not for the cars driving on the left side and the desert backdrop you would think you were in a German city. It is interesting, though; the entire downtown area was built at the turn of the century–the last century–so you see cornerstones from 1900, 1905, 1907. It occurred to me that nowhere in Germany can you find a city center built before World War I, and that adds a sort of German cultural authenticity to Swakopmund. This was the center of German colonial Africa, and remains a German city to this day. Yet at the same time, the people are unquestionably Namibian. They go to Namibian schools and participate in Namibian politics, and most importnantly, as we found out from Herman the day before, they do not regard themselves as expatriates in colonial Namibia. This is particularly surprising for us considering the whites in South Africa who we talked to who couldn’t get out of South Africa fast enough because of stagnant opportunity.
Ioana and I explored the downtown area a bit more, and found a hippie next to the tower who branded her cafe a “Soulful” place and stapled a feather to Ioana’s purchase of herbal salts and bathing oil. She asked us to come back tomorrow for a healthy smoothie with no additives. We walked to the waterfront and found another craft market where traders laid their wares on tarps and bargained with uninterested passerbys. Then we caught a cab back to the guest house.
We are staying in the Sea Breeze guesthouse, not to be confused with the Sea Wind guesthouse, right across the street. A problem we encountered in Walvis Bay, that seems to apply here as well, is the extraordinary lack of attention the owners of these guesthouses pay to their guests, to the point where you can’t find them when you need them, even when you’re checking in, and where they don’t know how to get a taxi for us to get downtown. Codrin got back to the guesthouse an hour later, and around 8 we went out again but since we couldn’t get a taxi we hitched a ride with a Batswana couple, visiting from Francistown, who were going out to dinner. They had driven to Swakopmund from Botswana, a 18-hour drive. The woman went to college at the University of Cape Town (as did Herman, actually), so we talked about Cape Town for a bit. While the man drove, he took occasional drinks from a beer he kept in his lap.
We got downtown, it was dark, and rather deserted. Codrin went to sleep early so it was just Ioana and I walking around. There isn’t much of a night life, but there are plenty of restaurants open. The problem, as The Girls told us yesterday, was that you have to get a reservation. We walked through darkened streets until we found a pizzaria next to a “Western Saloon.” We went into the saloon, complete with a door split into two halves at waist level. It was adorned with license plates from Texas, Florida, Arizona, and pretty much every state in between, with saloon-style decorations like turn-of-the-century newspaper stories about wanted outlaws and a collection of Native Americana. The place was also replete with Confederate Flags and bumper stickers. They had a collection of foreign currency, and we asked them if they had Zimbabwean and they said their Zimbabwe bills were stolen. So I gave them some of my $50,000,000 bills and the waiter brought out a sign from the men’s bathroom which read: ”Zimbabwe: The only country where a roll of toilet paper, which has 72 sheets, costs $1000. It’s cheaper to change the $1000 into $100 bills, wipe your ass with 72 of them, and keep the $280 in change.” After donating our hard-earned $200 million to this Western Saloon, we were told the kitchen was closed so we could only drink. Fine with us, we figured we’d eat at the pizzaria next door after we had a beer. However, when we got to the pizzaria, it was 10 minutes after their kitchen was closed, too. Then we went to the beer house, and their kitchen had just closed as well. Luckily, there was a movie theatre across the street, so we sat down on the pedestrian street and ate dinner of concessions: Biltong, popcorn, candy, chips and iced tea. The whole meal was US$8, for two people, and filled us up really well. Even concession food: amazing.
We managed to find a cab back to the guesthouse and crashed. We slept in until 10:30, and then hightailed it downtown to have a lunch at our favorite Swakopmund cafe. I got my haircut, Codrin went to the market and Ioana is writing in her journal at the Soulful cafe next to the Woermann Tower.
New Year’s tonight! Apparently there’s a leap second being added at the end of 2008 so New Years is going to come a tick later. Have a good one!