With a population of nearly three hundred thousand, warm and situated slap bang in the middle of Namibia, in the Khomas Highlands, the capital is perfectly placed for accessing the country’s wildernesses.
For years it was a battle ground, fought over by the Horero and the Nama, before falling first into the hands of Germany, and then South Africa. In 1990 it became the seat of Namibia’s first independent government.
Pleasant, relaxed, its design and architecture very much a reflection of its colonial past, Windhoek is a place of first class accommodation, its cuisine varied and of a high standard. Favourite eateries include Cattle Baron, Abysinnia and Joe’s Beerhouse. The last of these comes highly recommended by Australian author Tony Park: ‘Africa’s best pub doesn’t look like much from the outside – just a walled compound in an industrial area – but inside, its a sprawling, eclectic oasis of junk, antiques and curios.’*
This said, Windhoek is not Cape Town. It is a quiet and relatively ordered city. The nightlife is limited. The majority of the hotels have good bars, and there is cinema and a variety of theatre. The shopping is fair and varied, and Windhoek is known for its leatherworks, but not, surprisingly, for its gem stones.
There is a great deal to do outside of the city. Drives into the countryside are beautiful and safe. Unfortunately, at the time of writing (September 2009) Daan Viljoen Game Park is closed, but promises to re-open with improved facilities. For some, the lodge here has served as an out-of-town stay.
Windhoek’s German legacy extends beyond architecture. Most citizens speak the language, and many of Germany’s colonial traditions survive. The beer is fantastic, and the festival in October sprouts stalls that to all intents and purposes may just as well have been flown in from the Bavarian hinterlands.