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Updates from Africa 7

Updates from Africa 7

December 26, 2008 12:26 pmComments are Disabled

At noon our bus left Livingstone, Zambia and arrived on Christmas in Windhoek, 19 hours later.  The journey was long, and more importantly, cold.  We were originally ecstatic about an “air conditioned” coach but when the temperature in the Namib desert dropped and the rain started, the bus became so cold I had to pull out the one hoodie I brought to Africa, all the way at the bottom of my bag.  We stopped every two hours for a restroom because the lavatory on the coach was broken.  But we met some nice people, mostly tourists and whites doing charity work in Zambia, on the way, and we’ve formed sort of an expat community here in Windhoek where there are only two main hostels that everyone goes to.

Windhoek is a beautiful city; broad, palm-tree lined avenues and red roofs, in this hilly oasis, remind one of a blend of the Hollywood hills and an Italian coastal town.  The city is brightly lit with neon and yellow lights which bathe the town white at night.  It was Christmas, and everything was deserted, so Codrin and I decided to spend our day at the only open establishment in town–the Sands Casino.  There was no poker, only blackjack, which we played for a while, then we went off back to the hostel to get ready for dinner. We did get to walk into town to check it out; the only other place open was a KFC, and the only people on the street were beggars, since apparently Christmas is the best time to beg.

The hostel was having a Christmas braai, or barbecue, but we wanted to go out to eat.  Problem was there was nothing open.  We managed to find a restaurant called Am Weinberg in a guide book that looked promising, although expensive.  We made a reservation and got picked up by the restaurant at 7.

The restaurant was on an elevated hill crest overlooking town.  The house the restaurant occupied was built in 1905, a genuine German colonial architecture with a terraced roof and a garden terrace.  We were “forced” to sit on the terrace, which in 80-degree weather at sunset was not so much of a coercion.  As the sun set it reflected off the thousands of red and white villas perched on the hillside.  You could see the whole town bathed in the orange sunlight and I was immediately reminded of the sunset in Positano, Italy, from high up on a hill looking down on the city below.  When we had driven up, we had seen hillside mansions that in the United States would be worth over ten million dollars, and here can be bought for US$200,000.  This city is truly an untapped jewel.

Our table was set with three sets of silverware, ornate napkins and a tablecloth.  The waiter brought out the menus.  Now, we were expecting a menu on par with the quality of the restaurant and its location. Certainly this three-star restaurant would have a price set to match. As it turns out, it did have a food selection to match, but its prices were phenomenal.  More accurately, the prices were what they would be in the United States, except the “$” stood for Namibian dollars–worth a tenth of an American dollar.

Here is what we ordered, and eventually consumed wholeheartedly.

-A bottle of Cabernet Souvignon, Stellenbosch (2006)
-A Martini, two liters of sparkling water
-A mushroom soup, a blue cheese soup, to start
-Two venison terrines over Waldorf salad with vegetables, one beef carpaccio glazed with oil, for our entree
-An orange-glazed Christmas duck breast with cinnamon roasted vegetables, a sirloin steak glazed with Springbock wine and vegetables, a grilled lamb served with potatoes and sauce, for our main course
-A chocolate creme brulee with raspberry served with rhubarb and strawberry and topped with ice cream, a ricotta chocolate tartlet served with caramelized cream and a topping of leechee nut, a chocolate mousse served with flan and ice cream, for dessert
-A cafe latte

…All this for the grand price of N$1,002.  That’s right, $100 for a four-course meal for three people.

I should add that the food was delicious.

The whole time we ate the restaurant became more filled with people, all white Namibians (Namibia’s a former German colony and most whites here are German)…everyone here to enjoy their Christmas night.  One man had a table to himself, and slowly enjoyed a glass of wine and his dinner, alone, and I thought that was very sad.  He was an older gentleman with a white beard and he read from cut-out strips of a newspaper as he ate, and I felt very bad for him, as he had such a nice meal by himself on Christmas.  But a young girl from a neighboring table took an interest in him and he took great pleasure in the company, like a grandparent with his grandchild.  He would send her off on whatever imagination-inducing adventures he could concoct, and she was very happy to have an activity to engage in as her boring family ate their dinner.

When we were done we took a cab back to our hostel.  The cab was driven by a white woman who ripped us off ($6 for a 15-minute ride? Please!) but she was working on Christmas so it was fine.  She also gave us a tour of the city at night, which, I reiterate, is very beautiful.

Today we’re going to go into town when there are actually people there; there is a large Chinatown which we might explore, or we might go to the market.  We’ll see.

I hope everyone had a good Christmas and I’ll be sending more updates soon!

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