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Windhoek, Namibia – Part 1

Tuesday, 30 October, 2012

Visit to Windhoek – Part 1

October 2012

Departure

I always find it stressful when I have to get up early to fly.  This was no exception.  We had to get up before 04h00 to make it to Cape Town International Airport to catch the flight to Windhoek.

Cape Town to Windhoek

[Source:   Map data ©2014 AfriGIS (Pty) Ltd, Google]

It’s a quiet morning.  Obviously, I mean,  it’s four-a-clock in the morning.  With virtually no traffic it’s a quick drive down to the airport.

We find Air Namibia’s check-in counter, and from there proceed to the passport control.  At last we get stamps in our fairly new (and unused) passports.

Arrival

Hosea Kutako airport outside Windhoek is not very busy.  Passport control and luggage collection take only minutes.  South African Rands are legal tender, which makes things rather simple.  But only if you have South African Rands with you.  Just before we left home we decided to rather leave the cash for the rest of the family staying behind. Drawing money should not be a problem.

Well, there is a slight problem.  The cash machines on the airport only takes Visa cards.  I don’t have a Visa card.  Fortunately the gentleman at the MTC cellphone shop is willing to put the R50 for an sim card and airtime through on my credit card.

I am in a hurry to get the phone to work so that the kids can contact us in case of emergency.  However, none of the text messages go through.  I later call the toll-free number for assistance.  After making four calls, each time trying another option, I listen to the menu long enough te learn that ‘option 9’ would be the one to speak to an operator.  The friendly operator suggest I make a call to get the number up and running.  I try making a few calls as well, with no success.

My wife later suggests that maybe now would be a good time to upload the airtime.   This turned out to be a splendid idea.  Shortly thereafter everything was working fine.

The 40km’s from the airport to Windhoek is a rather relaxing experience.  It feels like the beginning of a holiday.  No traffic, nuh?

Entering Windhoek it is clear that they missed the news that there is a slump in the property industry.  It is just amazing how much building work (houses and large office blocks) are in progress.

At the guest house we are welcomed with coffee.  This is my type of guest house.

Culture Centre

We attend the opening of the Namibian Childrens Book Fair at the Franco Namibian Cultural Centre in Robert Mugabe drive.

It turns out to be quite a big deal, with ambassadors, reprentatives of ambassadors and the likes making speaches.  They are all dressed up for a social occasion in the European winter.  Only, this is Africa, and it is summer, with the temperatur reaching up to 38 degrees C.

Having watched The Pink Panther a few times with my kids I have difficulties taking the French ambassador seriously.  I find myself waiting for the punch line to come, but it does not happen.   The keynote address is done by the Namibian deputy minister of Home Affairs.  He also supports the idea that everyone should be able to read.

After the speaches two ladies entertain us on a short extract from Dr Zeuss.  They are extremely good and funny!

Thereafter follows the eating and drinking.  The space is slightly confined, so from time to time you need to shoulder an ambassador out of the way to get to the food.

In the tile floor there is one row of glass panels.  Under the floor are sculptures of people.  One gets the feeling of slaves being led away, looking upwards for help.  Above floor level, though, everyone goes about their business, pretty much ignoring them.

I found it remarkably striking and symbolic.

Part …

Windhoek, Namibia – Part 2

Tuesday, 30 October, 2012

October 2012

Oktoberfest

Some four weeks ago we said our farewells to our friend leaving Riebeek-West for Windhoek.  Based on past experience we expected to see her again in ten years time.  However, our unexpected visit to Windhoek change this.

We alerted her to us coming to Windhoek.  Instead of fleeing off to Swakopmund for the weekend, she gave us the option to choose between a Friday night visit to Joe’s Beerhouse, or to attend the Oktoberfest with her.  As the Oktoberfest only comes around once a year, we opted for the latter.

It’s quite a big thing, this fest.  The Kirchdorfer is a Germany based band touring around the world.  Amongst others they play at the Brasilian summer festival and the Korean Octoberfest.  Oh, and at the United Emirates’ Octoberfest.  I didn’t know you’re allowed to drink beer there.

This oempa band is phenomenal.  Nine men and a lady.  They made music for some 5 hours with enormous energy.  The old man from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory should have had these oempa loempas around!

I’m told that of the 2,2 million people of Namibia, some 4% is German speaking.  And it would appear that 90% of them attended the Octoberfest.  OK, maybe not quite, but it was no desolate affair.

A lot of the men wear the knee pants (leather or not) with braces.  The ladies also wear traditional clothing.  I could not help but notice a few substantial bellies among the men folk.  And some ladies also sported enormous beer tankards.  You basically order your beer by the bucket.

This, of course, has certain predictable results.  At the bar counter a girl stumbles against me as she puts down two beer mugs (smaller versions were also available).  This was while I’m now trying to whisper in the bartender’s ear that I would actually like a Coke, rather than a beer.  Anyway, the girl’s mugs would not stand upstraight, regardless of her endeavours (the beer mugs, that is).  I assume it to be a design defect in the mugs.

The girl explains to me what the problem is.  Well, I think that is what she did.  I assume she was speaking either English, Afrikaans or German, but I could understand nothing of what she was saying; she sounded like Donald Duck on helium.  Maybe that was also due to a design defect, although I suspect that the beer might have something to do with it.

A good time was had by all.

Tourists

On Saturday we did the tourits thing and went walkabout.

I notice an attorney’s firm:  F Q P attorneys.  A rather interesting name, I thought.

On the topic of attorneys:  it would appear that the occupation of choice in Windhoek must be the manufacturing and installing of electric fences, barbed wire and burglar bars.  Oh, no, sorry, I’m not on the topic of attorneys anymore.

In spite of all these visible deterrents of criminals one does not feel unsafe.  Admittedly, it may have something to do with the fact that you are on the inside of the fencing.  But even outside those perimeters we did not feel unsafe.  Of course you should not be stupid and visit risky place, but it would appear that the crime here is property related, rather than violent crime.

The contrast between the old and the new is sriking.  The old colonial building of the Bank of Namibia now stands dwarfed by the new one right next to it.

The Bank of Namibia replaced the Namibian reserve bank in 1993.  Well, sort of.  The reserve bank never really came into existence.

The rider on his horse (Reiterdenkmal) had to move from his traditional spot to make way for the new North-Korean built Independence Memorial museum.  Reiterdenkmal now stands right in front of the old fort (Alte Feste).

On the picture a part of the Alte Feste can be seen.  …