City and Township Tour
Windhoek, or Windy Corner, is situated on a permanent natural hot spring site and is a city with a rich and exciting history. It has the rare honor of being a city founded twice. First, in 1840 Jonker Afrikaner (warlord, politician, and Captain of the Orlam people) established a settlement here and built a stone church in the area now known as Klein Windhoek. This was, however, a time of war and unrest, and over the next few decades, the settlement and church were destroyed. At the time of the second founding in 1890, there was no sign of Jonker Afrikaner’s previous attempt when Major Kurt von François of the Imperial German Army founded the city in the name of Germany and Kaiser Wilhelm 11.
Today’s excursion will take us to see some of the historical landmarks of ‘’Imperial European Windhoek’’, but we will also visit the vibrant heart of African Windhoek when we make our way into the suburb of Katutura. We first visit Windhoek’s most prominent landmark, the Christ Church or Christuskirche. Lutheran by denomination, the church stands proud on its little traffic island with its 24 m spire reaching towards the heavens. Imagine how impressive this building was when there were no other tall buildings to obscure its prominence and domination over the early Windhoek skyline.
Laid out in the shape of a bare Latin cross, the church is designed to accommodate 400 worshipers. It is built in the neo-Romanesque style and is constructed from local sandstone, with the main entrance supported by six pillars of Carrara marble imported from Italy. The foundation stone was laid in 1907, and the church was dedicated three years later in 1910. Christ Church contains three bronze bells, each with its inscription – Glory to God in the Highest – Peace on Earth – Goodwill to all Men and worthy of inspection. Inside the church are three stained glass windows gifted to the church by the German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm 11.
Just down the road from the Christ Church, we find another interesting landmark and a declared National Monument in the shape of the Alte Feste or Old Fortress. It is the oldest surviving building in Windhoek, and Major Kurt von François was again in the mix as he was the original designer of the fort. However, the construction was re-designed several times, and when the final version was finished, it took 25 years to build. A lot of time, effort, and money was invested into a fortress that, in the end, never saw any military action.
Inside is an inner courtyard and barracks for the soldiers, and the structure is dominated by an impressive tower at each corner. Germany was defeated in the First World War by South Africa, and by 1915, the Alte Feste was home to the South African Union troops.
The fort was eventually put to more peaceful use. In 1935 it was converted into a hostel for students attending the adjacent Windhoek High School, and it was for some time the home of the Namibian national museum. From here, again, it is only a short distance to our next place of interest, the Namibian parliament building, which is locally known as Ink Palace (Tintenpalast). Ink, as in genuine ink used for writing, refers to the ink used on all the official documents produced by parliament. The building was built by Imperial Germany in 1913 to house the colonial administration. It was controversial even then as it was constructed using the forced labor of the Herero and Nama people.
These were the survivors of the defeated Namibian tribes in the war that proceeded with the colonization of Namibia by Germany between 1904 and 1908. After Namibian independence (from South Africa), in 1990, Tintenpalast became the home of the Namibian Parliament, the Namibian National Council, and the Namibian National Assembly. The building is Neoclassical and is built from local and regional materials.
Tintenpalast is also home to a small but beautiful area of gardens. Open to the public, well laid out, and shady, the gardens are popular with locals and visitors and well worth the visit. You will also find three bronze statues of high historical interest in the gardens.
Chief Hosea Katjikururume Komombumbi Kutako, (1870 – 18 July 1970). He was known as Namibia’s first truly nationalist politician and a man who strove for the greater good of himself and all. He experienced the transition of his country from independence to colonization, and he was a leader in the struggle to regain the freedom and self-determination of all Namibians.
Hendrik Samuel Witbooi, (1 June 1906 – 29 July 1978). Recognized as a hero of the Namibian independence movement and a tireless campaigner against the South African administration of Namibia. (The then League of Nations had ceded Namibia to South Africa at the end of World War 11). He was instrumental in petitioning the United Nations. He succeeded in forcing the UN to reject requests by the South African government to make Namibia a permanent province of South Africa.
Theophilus Hamutumbangela (6 February 1917 – 28 November 1990). A leading Namibian anti-apartheid activist, priest, and persistent international promoter of Namibian independence. Hamutumbangela spoke out against the racism and injustices of the apartheid regime. It is alleged that the South African authorities poisoned him. Although not a fatal incident, the poison paralyzed his nervous system, leaving him physically and mentally handicapped.
From here, we drive from the main city center with its impressive buildings and European history and head to Katutura, Windhoek’s largest suburb. During the dark days of apartheid, so-called ‘’townships’’ were attached to every town in Namibia. All non-whites were forced to live in designated township areas separated by race, language, and culture. Today, most Namibians still live in these locations, and in Windhoek, Katutura has evolved into an eclectic experience of African culture and lifestyle.
The first stop is the so-called ‘’Single Quarters’’. In years now, thankfully gone by, this was a depressing area of Katutura. Barrack-like cells and dormitories were located here and were used to house men from the regions to work in Windhoek. Their families were left behind. Only men were allowed to live in this filthy area. That was the past. The hated accommodation has gone, and so has the name. The area is now officially called Oshetu Community, an Oshiwambo expression meaning ‘this is our community’, and the area now houses one of the most vibrant markets in Namibia, being particularly famous for Kapana.
Kapana could perhaps best be described as the unofficial national dish of Namibia. Strips of fatty beef are quickly cooked over a very hot Bar be Que (braai in local terminology) and eaten piping hot with the fat running down your fingers. Plain or spicy meat is available, and many stalls have their own recipe spice or dipping sauce to try. Other delicious foods are available at Oshetu, and we can try several other traditional Namibian dishes to go with the Kapana.
From Oshetu, we head through the colorful and busy streets to the community projects center at Penduka. Penduka translates as ‘’Wake Up,’’ and this is the perfect name. In their own words, the Penduka people describe their project as ‘’a social enterprise and training center for local, less privileged women in Namibia. We have the opportunity here to interact and engage with the Penduka ladies. We can learn about the different and diverse projects they are running, and we have time to browse the many varied items for sale in their shop.
From Penduka, we head back to the Windhoek City Centre, and you will be dropped off at your accommodation anywhere within the Windhoek City limits.
* Pick up and drop off in the Windhoek City limits
* Mineral water
* Transport in an air-conditioned vehicle
* English-speaking local guide
* Local snacks (Kapana)