Swakopmund is still known as the most German city in Namibia, even though only about 10% of the population there have German roots and, since independence, many of the original German street names like; “Kaiser Wilhelm Strasse” of “Bismarckstrasse” have been changed to local names. German is spoken in Swakopmund as if one were actually in Germany, with shops and restaurants having German names and adverts and promotions are all in German. With a restaurant known as the “Brauhaus”, there is not much imagination required to realize that the menus will be in German as well.
Because of the colonial buildings and general architecture, you tend to have the feeling of being part of an historical movie where the ambiance comes from the German northern coastal region, the African culture and the breathtaking landscape mixed into one – especially the Dorob National Park which is lodged between Swakopmund and Walvisbay, offering you an intense view of Sand Dunes nestling along the Atalntic Ocean.
Besides the Ocean-Desert and Africa- Europe contrasts, you will find that even the weather here offers a magical contrast. While behind the dunes only a few kilometers away, you can be scorched by the sun, in Swakopmund you could find yourself wearing a pullover due to the fog that blankets the town. Astonishingly, there are times when you will not see the sun for a few days at a time – and that in the summer season.
Another major contrast here, is the difference between the rich and the poor. On the one hand you can admire that luxurious Villas and mansions that border the main road entering Swakopmund and directly the other side of this road is the township Mondesa, where people live in tin huts. This is still the product of the racist regime and even after 20 years of independence, this is still an issue in Namibia. I think that this will still take a generation or two before any “normalization” will be seen.
Because of the high standard of living in Swakopmund, you will therefore find the biggest choice of activities and adventures to partake in. Offers of skydiving, duneboarding, quadbiking and paragliding are only a few of the choices that you can find. Most of these are not cheap but you would be a fool if you did not take advantage of one of these activities while you are here. It simply is a lifetime experience to jump out of an plane over Swakopmund and the Namib Desert.
While exploring Swakopmund by foot, you definitely have to see a couple of “definites”. The obvious sites of the center and the mole cannot be missed, however, there are a number of historical buildings and artifacts that you should make sure you see. At the mole itself is a museum, which is really well set up and gives you an excellent yet brief history of the people of Namibia.
The public swimming pool has unfortunately been closed, which offered people who could not bear the thought of swimming in the cold Atlantic a chance to get wet. There are rumours that the closing was due to hygienic reasons, but there are apparently plans to rebuild the pool.
From the mole, you can see the lighthouse and you can easily get there via the steps leading up from the playground. At the base of the lighthouse tower, is a cafe where you can enjoy a sun-downer to live African music.
From here you are on the same level and only a few paces away from the “Alte Amtsgericht” the old district court, the Crystal gallery and the old railway station, which was built by the German security forces in 1901, but has now been renovated and converted into a 5 star hotel and casino.
From there, you should make your way over to the snake park, which is basically only 2 rooms in an old building, but is really very well done and informative. You can even have your photo taken with “Dodo” the python.
Another attraction that you should not rob yourself of is the sight over the roofs of Swakopmund. This you can experience from the “Woermann” tower. This can be found in the Woermann house directly behind the Woermann-Brock supermarket. Here you will also find a museum where there are continuously new exhibitions.
From here it is a few steps to the old military hospital, which is now an old age home and hotel called “Prinzessin Ruprecht”.
Swakopmund is well known for its abundance of cafes and bars, however due to seasonal difficulties, many of them change ownership regularly. One of the bars that does not have this problem, however, is the “Tiger Reef” – which is rebuilt every year due to the spring floods that wash it away. If you are in Swakopmund on a windless warm sunny day, you will struggle to find an empty seat here.
If you leave Tiger Reef and walk in the direction of the Mole, you will have no choice but to walk past the infamous Jetty. At the base of the Jetty, is a restaurant which is one of the definites for many many years now, called the “Tug”. This has now found new competition from the new restaurant which opened in 2010 at the end of the Jetty.
If you are on a family holiday with young children, then you will find peace and quiet at the Garden Cafe. It is very simple and secure backyard with a sand box for the kids to play in. You can also go to Cafe Rosso in the industrial area, where the cafe has concentrated on fun for the children. Rosso, however, is a lot louder, but much more fun for the little ones.
At night, you will find a huge array of restaurants where you can enjoy a meal and an experience which you should not allow yourself to miss, is the “Kaffee Kolonial” – Colonial Coffee – at the Hansa Hotel. It tastes amazing and the buzz is even better. The hotel itself is astoundingly “colonial” and you will be amused at the banterings of the guests that you meet there. As part of any booked safari, this hotel is almost an obligation to visit.
Should you still feel have the urge to mingle some more, then your choice would be the “Gruenen Kranz”. This is the hotspot for late night parties and is a leisurely 5 minutes walk away from the Hansa Hotel.
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