28 Mai 2007 | Windhoek

Walking through Windhoek - the city in a few steps

The number of museums and historic buildings in Windhoek is comparatively small and manageable. However, the hive of activity on the streets is worth a second and even a third look, before venturing onwards to destinations far away from the metropolitan area.

High above the roofs of Windhoek rests the Alte Feste, which was founded in 1890 by the first commander of the German Schutztruppe, Curt von François. Built to ward of the Herero, the fortress became the headquarters of the German troops until they capitulated to the South African forces in 1915. Today, the Alte Feste houses the Restaurant Africa (see page 12) and the National Museum of Namibia, which plays host to a collection of cultural and historical arts and anec-
dotes. They portray the country's history up to independence. Opening hours: Mondays to Fridays from 09:00 till 18:00, Saturdays and Sundays 10:00 till 12.30 and 15:00 till 17:00, closed on public holidays. Entrance is free and donations are welcome.

Right in front of the old fortress is the Reiterdenkmal. It was unveiled in 1912 to commemorate the 1749 German Schutztruppe soldiers, who fell during the Herero uprising. Opposite the so-called "Reiter von Südwest" stands another symbol of Windhoek, the Christuskirche. It houses a protestant congregation and reminds visitors of a curious mix of neoromantic, gothic and Art Nouveau building elements. It was inaugurated in 1910, and the stained glass windows, originally inserted the wrong way around, facing outwards, were re-inserted facing the right way between 1998 and 2000. Entrance to the church can be obtained between 07:30 and 13:00 for a small fee via the congregation's head office, situated in 12 Fidel Castro.
Behind the church stands the so-called Tintenpalast, completed in 1912. Above average bureaucracy by the German administrators and, consequently, the high consumption of ink that came with it gave the former German parliament its name. During the build-up to independence, the main hall played an important role: Namibia's constitution was formulated and passed here between 1989 and 1990.

The historic train station forms the central crossroad for Namibia's rail network and also houses the TransNamib Railway Museum on the first floor. A comprehensive collection of Namibia's railway history impresses upon the visitor the importance of the network during the development of the country. The museum is open on weekdays from 08:00 till 13:00 and from 14:00 till 17:00, but the enthusiastic curator Konrad Schüllenbach also offers guided tours of the museum outside the normal opening hours. For further information and reservations, call tel.: +264(0)61-2982186/2624.

For those willing to go beyond the city centre, Soweto Market in Katutura is well worth a visit. Situated on the corner of Independence Avenue and Abraham Mashego Street, it embodies the lively spirit of Africa that one is used to seeing in other cities on the African continent. The hive of activity that bustles around between the many stalls here can best be observed at a comfortable stroll. Everything from groceries to cell phones can be purchased from the township residents.

There are also several institutions that offer interesting events for tourists, for instance the Franco-Namibian Cultural Centre (FNCC) in 118 Robert Mugabe Avenue, or the Goethe-Centre, situated in 1 to 5 Fidel Castro Street. Both venues regularly host exhibitions, film evenings and concerts, as well as presentations on cultural and historical topics. For more information, see: www.fncc.org.na and www.goethe.de/windhoek.
When history catches fireThe historically important Turnhalle in the city centre, corner of Robert Mugabe
Avenue and Bahnhofstreet, fell victim to a devastating fire at the beginning of the year. The greater part of the building burnt down. Built in 1913 by the "Turnverein Windhoek", the institution forms an integral part of social and politi-
cal life in Namibia's history. During the early 1950's, the Turnhalle, which until then was not only used as sport centre, but also housed the Windhoek Carneval, was sold to the government and hosted the so-called "Turnhallenkonferenz" in 1975. "The building reminds us of the early efforts towards national reconciliation and the different ethnical groups which were divided by the Apartheid government. Black and white Namibians met here for the first time to jointly discuss the country's future." said Katuutire Kaura, leader of the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) party. Whether a restoration of the building, which currently doesn't fall under the Monu-
ment Protection Programme, is possible, remains to be seen, just as the precise cause of the fire. This will probably take a some time to be determined.

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