6 things to do in Windhoek

When you go to travel, you arrive at and depart from an international airport. Now in Namibia, as your research may have shown you, only has one of those and it lies 45km from our capital city, Windhoek. Having said this, I can pretty much guarantee that you will be spending at least one full day in the capital, whether that be at the beginning or the end of your trip.

Now this realisation may lead to the all-important question that plagues all travellers…what is there to do? Well my dear travelling reader, do not fear because we have you covered. Windhoek may be slightly different to the other places you have visited before and as you should know every traveller has their own set of preferences regarding what they want to see when visiting a new and exciting destination. So coming up is a list of 6 different types of places to visit when you are in Windhoek.

  1. For the history-buffs, there is at least one on each trip… There’s quite a bit to see, ranging from Heroes’ Acre outside of Windhoek, to the Independence Museum of Namibia and the Christuskirche in town. These sights cover everything from German colonial influence to local cultural heritage.
Heroes' acre . Photo: Rosemary Walden

Heroes’ acre. Photo: Rosemary Walden

Christuskirche. Photo: Michael Paur

Christuskirche. Photo: Michael Paur

  1. Nature-freaks do not fear you can get your outdoor-fix right in town. All you need to do is stop at the Tintenpalast gardens across from the old parliament buildings, head over to the Botanical Gardens that are right in town or to the Avis Dam Nature Reserve to familiarise yourself with the local flora and fauna, and of course to get the first or the last bit of dust on your hiking boots.

 

Tintenpalast. Photo: Michael Paur

Tintenpalast. Photo: Michael Paur

  1. Our local flavour runs hot and you can get a sneak-peak right in town at the Namibia Craft Centre, which offers the opportunity to peruse uniquely Namibian products, all of which have been handmade by local craftsmen. Or if you would like to delve a little deeper, head over to KatuturaTownship for a guided tour that shows you exactly why this city is so unique.

 

Namibia Craft Centre. Photo: Informanté

Namibia Craft Centre. Photo: Informanté

  1. To eat, drink and enjoy…Windhoek offers a variety of interesting and different locations. Head straight over to Single Quarters in Katutura, to experience Kapana (meat grilled on an open flame) for yourself.The well-known Joe’s Beerhouse that has been delighting patrons for years with its unique style and décor and of course Andy’s pub, a local watering hole, both offer a great vibe and welcoming atmosphere where food and drink is in abundance.

 

Kapana at Single Quarters. Photo: Namiban Sun

Kapana at Single Quarters. Photo: Namiban Sun

  1. The local nightlife can be experienced all across town, with The Boiler room in city centre that offers a laid-back vibe and every variant of rock, 264 is closer to downtown and offers all round genres of music, and of course Club London in the southern industrial area which drifts more to commercial dance and straight-up electro music. Depending on your taste in sound, you will definitely find a place that suits your mood.

 

The Boiler room. Photo: The Boiler room

The Boiler room. Photo: The Boiler room

Club London. Photo: Club London

Club London. Photo: Club London

  1. Every now and again… well as we know everything in moderation, right? Well we agree, so when you find yourself in our little part of the world, be sure to check out what’s happening at the Warehouse Theatre, they offer poetry slams, open-mic nights and musical acts every few weeks. Once a month, you will also find the Windhoek City Market popping up somewhere in town and offers music, great food and something that can only be described as uniquely Namibian.
The Warehouse Theatre

The Warehouse Theatre

The Parlotones performing live at the Warehouse Theatre. Photo: Namlish Media cc

The Parlotones performing live at the Warehouse Theatre. Photo: Namlish Media cc

I could keep going but I wouldn’t want to rob you of the chance to discover the city’s secrets on your own. Windhoek, just like Namibia, is a diverse collaboration of people, sights and sounds and I am sure you will not be leaving here disappointed, maybe pleasantly surprised though… If you are still doubting a day in the capital, let me put your mind at ease: You will not be sorry.

If you know of any other places in Windhoek that you think are worth visiting, mention it in the comments!

 

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The Elisabeth house , the story of the stork’s nest

The Elisabeth House used to be a maternity home and was inaugurated in 1908. (Source: National Archives of Namibia)

The Elisabeth House used to be a maternity home and was inaugurated in 1908. (Source: National Archives of Namibia)

It is the year 1907. Settler families in German South West Africa live on remote farms and in small villages far apart from one another. The means of transportation are slow and uncomfortable and there are hardly any roads worth mentioning. Serious illness becomes life-threatening in many cases because medical assistance often comes too late. Many expectant mothers find themselves in the same predicament.

It was against this background that German organisations called for the establishment of a maternity home in Windhoek. The appeal for donations was very well received in Germany. The first stone was laid on 20 October 1907 and the construction work was finished a few months later. As the lion’s share of the funds was raised by the Women’s League of the German Colonial Society chaired by the Duchess Elisabeth of Mecklenburg, it was named Elisabeth House.

In 1908 the Red Cross flag was raised for the first time and henceforth announced every birth. In the early years, when Elisabeth House stood all alone on the rise visible from far afield, the flag was the signal to many a father calming his nerves with a beer somewhere on Kaiser Street (Independence Avenue).

Then the First World War broke out. Nevertheless an extension was added to Elisabeth House. The two parts were connected with a roofed passage. Since the weather vane on the turret was a stork, the maternity home acquired the nickname “the Stork’s Nest”.

Elisabeth House closed its doors on 1 April 1981. Altogether 12,669 babies were born there in the course of 73 years.

The historic building was proclaimed a national monument in 1986. It is now part of the Polytechnic of Namibia.

Elisabeth House is now part of the Polytechnic of Namibia.

Elisabeth House is now part of the Polytechnic of Namibia.

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Follow my Footsteps: Proudly Namibian …

After Swakop, it was back to Windhoek to overload the washing machine and most importantly to visit the annual Namibia Tourism Expo. It’s that much-anticipated time of year when the tourist industry dons all its finery, showcasing its products and services. For four days the Windhoek showgrounds are transformed, Cinderella-like, as the seven halls (and an outside area) fill up, a bevy of beauties (ie. 4x4s) is driven in for the motor show, food stalls are set up and an events tent is erected.

This year was no different and visitors arrived to see what the country is offering, view new products being launched, network, enter competitions for weekends away, watch cooking demonstrations, compete for best chef or choir, sample the fare and sip the various kinds of drink on offer.

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The 14th annual expo has been fine-tuned and polished, and although relatively small compared to international fairs (given that the entire Namibian population is only about 2.3 million), it holds authentic Namibian essence. Stands range from catering supplies to organic produce and everything in-between. ‘Local is lekker’ and Namibian products include Hartlief’s meat and Namibia Breweries’ beer, karakul rug-weaving, Piet’s biltong, Devil’s Claw tea (for arthritic conditions) and a new line of beauty products imbued with the aromatic commiphora resin favoured for centuries by the strikingly beautiful Himba women in the north-western region of the country.

Highpoints of the show included the Conservation stand where the success of the conservancy programme was highlighted. Namibia has made conservation history with the community conservancy programme, which enables communities to form conservancies and to sustainably manage their wildlife and resources. Realising the value of wildlife as a natural resource and as a tourist drawcard, members ensured that poaching became protection. The first conservancies were gazetted in 1998 and today there are 79 countrywide. Namibia is also proud to say that an impressive 43% of its land is under conservation management.

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The most fun, however, was to be had at the Gondwana stand that had been converted into a colourful padstal (farmstall) with windmill and wheelbarrow, ‘die lekkerste half bellegde rolls’ and two bands bopping away. The Etosha Boys vied with Desmond and Pietie Breedt until they joined-up and serenaded in unison. Gondwana also invited expo-visitors to choose the most original farm-name from the colourful photographs lining the stand, the winner to receive 103 free bed-nights at their lodges, a generous (and much coveted) prize. Amongst the names were Tranendal (Tear valley), Weltevrede (At peace), Plaas Japie, Dankbaar (Thankful) and Dis nou vergenoeg (It’s now far enough).

The Friday was sedate while Windhoek residents were at work, but as the sun dipped in the sky (and the temperature dropped), throngs of people arrived and the spirit rose. The choirs from joint-venture destinations (ie. conservancies with established lodges) took to the stage in the events tent with hip-swishing and foot-stamping, music played through the speakers and the smell of spit-braai and boerewors wafted through the lanes and down to the motor show, enticing all.

Ron SwillingRon Swilling is a freelance writer, based in Cape Town, writing for Namibian and South African publications. She is a regular contributor to Gondwana’s History and Stamps&Stories columns and documented the information on the Wild Horses in the Namib Desert for Mannfred Goldbeck and Telané Greyling. She invites you to ‘Follow her footsteps’ on her journey from the Orange River, exploring the Gondwana routes through the intriguing country of Namibia.

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