Windhoek is often described as a city with a ‘continental’ atmosphere. This can be ascribed to its architecture – historical buildings dating back to German colonial rule – as well as its cuisine, culture, dress codes and educational institutions. At the same time Windhoek has the colours, sounds and pace of a modern African city. Pavement displays of African drums and wood carvings from the north contrast with elegant shops offering sophisticated Swakara garments and Namibian gemstones set in individually designed jewellery. While some shops display clothing, silver and glassware imported from Europe, others stock casual and colourful garments from West Africa.
Because of the many hot springs in the area, Windhoek was initially known as Ai-gams (correctly spelt /Ai //Gams to indicate the click sound), a Nama word meaning ‘firewater’, ‘steam’ or ‘smoke’, and Otjomuise, a Herero word meaning the ‘place of steam’. The Nama captain, Jan Jonker Afrikaner, gave the town the name it carries today. In the early 1840s Afrikaner settled where the most powerful spring reached the surface. It is thought that in a moment of nostalgia he named the place after Winterhoek, the farm in the Cape where he was born. During the German colonial administration the town was called Windhuk, which was subsequently changed back to Windhoek. Public transport in the city consists mainly of taxis, while a bus service transports passengers from Katutura and Khomasdal to Windhoek and its various suburbs.
SOME LANDMARKS AND PLACES WORTH A VISIT WHEN IN WINDHOEK:
Christuskirche, an Evangelical Lutheran Church, is one of the city’s most striking landmarks, built from local sandstone and completed in 1910. Its design was influenced by the Romanesque, neo-Gothic and Art Nouveau styles, and its stained-glass windows were donated by Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Tintenpalast, meaning Ink Palace. This is Namibia’s original Government Building, completed in 1914 in time for the first session of the Landesrat. Since then it has housed a series of successive administrations and governments. After independence it was renovated to accommodate the Namibian Parliament. In front of Tintenpalast are the Parliament Gardens.
Independence Museum, dedicated to the Namibian liberation struggle.
The Supreme Court, the only post-independence building that reflects an African, albeit northern African, style of architecture.
Namibia Craft Centre in the Old Brewery premises
Zoo Park, named after the zoo that once existed there. The curious two-metre-high stone column was sculpted by well-known Namibian artist, Dörte Berner. The monument marks the place where the bones of prehistoric elephants were excavated in the fifties, now on display at the Earth Science Museum near Eros Airport. Also in the park is the Witbooi Memorial, unveiled in 1997 to commemorate the soldiers lost in battles fought between the Schutztruppe and the legendary Nama chief, Hendrik Witbooi.
Gibeon Meteorite Fountain, where 31 of the original 77 Gibeon meteorites are displayed. The Gibeon meteorite shower, which occurred in southern Namibia southeast of Gibeon, is the largest known shower of its kind in the world.
Windhoek Railway Station, built in 1912/1913. In front of the building is a narrow-gauge locomotive, and on the first floor is the TransNamib Railway Museum, well worth a visit.
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