by Ginger Mauney
With its wide, open streets, stately historical buildings and hillsides that entice you to find out what’s on the other side, Lüderitz beckons you to explore the town on foot. Anchored around Robert Harbour and flanked by two large upscale hotels, the Sea View Hotel–Zum Sperrgebiet and Lüderitz Nest Hotel, Lüderitz offers the tiny gems and amenities tourists have come to expect, plus a touch of the unexpected.
One of the latest attractions in Lüderitz is the Waterfront. A wide promenade and pier offer views of the changing scenes at the harbour as boats come and go. There is a playground for children and a tidal pool for soaking tired feet. In a line of new buildings, there is a coffee shop, an office providing information on the brown hyaena conservation project, a sports shop, the offices of Coastways Tours and the active Lüderitz Yacht Club.
Presented in classically simple exhibits, you find information on the sea creatures, birds, rocks, bones and fossils of the area. There is also a series of displays with information on Namibia’s different ethnic groups, and an interesting photographic record of the town’s development over the past century.
Amongst the many historical buildings in Lüderitz there are two landmarks of note. It may be because they stand out against the rising and setting sun or because they stand on the highest hills in the town, but both are particularly striking. Goerke Haus, a former residence built in 1909, is referred to as one of the ‘Diamond Palaces’. The Felsenkirche – the Evangelical Lutheran Church – is a dignified building dating from 1911 that owes is beauty to its striking stained glassed windows. These buildings and others are open for viewing by the public during set times.
For those who would like to venture into the environs outside Lüderitz, there are three different operations in town to consult.
Coastways Tours Lüderitz offers guided tours to the Bogenfels rock arch and self-drive tours north of Lüderitz to Saddle Hill and Spencer Bay. Lüderitz Safaris and Tours, located on Bismarck Street, the town’s main thoroughfare, offers guided tours in and around Lüderitz and beyond.
The company books accommodation and other activities, and also serves as the booking agent for Intercape Mainliner. It has a good curio shop and an extensive bookshop. Ghost Town Tours offers guided tours to nearby Kolmanskop, a dramatically beautiful old mining town just 10 kilometres outside Lüderitz, near the airport.
Variety of restaurants
Ritzi’s Seafood Restaurant, also at the Waterfront, is the ideal place to drink a glass of wine or enjoy a cappuccino, as you watch the lights come on in the harbour. Afterwards you can retreat inside for a delicious meal of freshly harvested oysters, line fish and other local delicacies.
Barrels Pub is another dining option. Located next door to Kratzplatz Bed & Breakfast, it is popular with locals and tourists alike. Serving home-cooked meals, pizza, rock lobster and light meals throughout the day, Barrels has a relaxed atmosphere. An old wood stove and a potjie on the fire will take away the chill on a cold day, and music played as requested by guests adds to the charm. There is also the option of karaoke for the less inhibited to let their hair down.
Most of the town’s hotels have restaurants that are open to their guests and to the general public. At Kapps Hotel there is Rumours Grill and Rumours Sports Pub. Bay View Hotel, Sea View Hotel–Zum Sperrgebiet and The Nest Hotel all have restaurants with extensive menus featuring local fare. Butcher’s Shop & Grill in the centre of town is a favourite restaurant amongst locals, and during the day the Diaz Coffee Shop on the main street provides a charming setting for enjoying fresh cake, tea, coffee and luncheon specials.
For those who would like to take to the water, there are three options for boat cruises in and around the bays surrounding Lüderitz. Weather permitting, Sedina Boat Trips and Sturmvogel sail with guests past Dias Point to Halifax Island, while the skipper of the Hannah offers fishing and tourism trips in the area’s waters.
Back on land, you’ll find all the necessary services. Three banks offer foreign currency exchange and automatic teller machines. Telecom and MTC, a cellular telephone provider, service the area. You can send letters and postcards via NamPost, and Air Namibia has an office in town.
Kolmanskop – where dreams turned to dust
Just ten kilometres east of Lüderitz, perched on a hillside not far from the airport, is Namibia’s most famous ghost town, Kolmanskop. It is a place that fuels the imagination, that gives a glimpse into a world where dreams of riches, briefly fulfilled, returned to dust.
In 1908 Zacharias Lewala was shovelling sand from a railway line near Kolmanskop when he found a sparkling stone. The stone turned out to be a diamond, and the rest, as they say, is history. The diamond rush was on, and Kolmanskop became a bustling town.
With money and strong German influence, the town grew to include elegant houses, a butchery, a furniture factory, a bakery, a lemonade plant, a gymnasium with a four-skittle alley, a playground and a swimming pool. So advanced was Kolmanskop that it even had a hospital with Southern Africa’s first x-ray machine.
In the 1920s, there were about 300 adults, 40 children and 800 contract labourers living and working at Kolmanskop, then richer diamond deposits were discovered further south and the town was slowly abandoned.
Today tourists take guided tours through the deserted town, wandering through the partially restored buildings, a museum and an environmental education centre.
Though battered by time and the elements, Kolmanskop remains a place that invigorates the imagination.
This article appeared in the Dec ‘06/ Jan ‘07 edition of Travel News Namibia.
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