What to do with one Sunday in Windhoek
Text and Photographs Nina van Schalkwyk
Text and Photographs Nina van Schalkwyk
For many tourists who come to Namibia, Windhoek is not the main attraction, but merely a stop-over, a place to quickly refuel or await your flights. It’s easy enough to stay busy in this capital city, where tourism is still the main income for many—except on a Sunday, when everything kind of closes down. Which got me thinking… If you have just one day in Windhoek, and it’s a Sunday, what do you do?
I’m an avid bird watcher, so I’d start my Sunday morning somewhere safe and wild, where I can walk around and look for feathery friends at my own pace. Luckily, Daan Viljoen Nature Reserve is only about half an hour’s drive from Windhoek, and it provides all of the above.
Plus, according to my Roberts Bird Guide App, the area has some notable “specials” (birds that are special to spot) that include: Monteiro’s Hornbill, Rockrunner, Carp’s Tit, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Great Spotted Cuckoo, African Cuckoo, Icterine Warbler, Chestnut Weaver, Barren Wren-Warbler, Sabota Lark and the Thick-Billed form of the Sabota Lark, “considered a separate species by some authorities”. I wonder who those authorities are, but I’m willing to take their word for it anyway and trek out to Daan Viljoen to get a better look at those birds and fill up my birding list which is in dire straits right now. Since I’m a local and have a car, I could easily get there on my own, but for tourists I’d recommend arranging an early-morning drive with a reputable taxi service (I like Dial-A-Cab, +264 81 127 0557).
After a morning of boundless birding, make your way back to the city and head to the Grove Mall of Namibia in Windhoek’s affluent Kleine Kuppe, the official home of the yuppie. There’s a reason I’m bringing you here, and that’s because The Grove (as we locals call it), is home to Slow Town, a local coffee roaster company that serves delicious java. Plus, their spot in the mall is a great location to people-watch, and it doesn’t quite have the atmosphere of your traditional malls; there’s lots of natural light and the huge glass doors lead out onto an open terrace that overlooks Windhoek.
After you’ve got your sustenance, get ready to move on. Stock up on anything you need from the many shops, then jump into your Dial-A-Cab again and you’re off to the City Centre.
The great thing about Sundays is that the whole city becomes calm. I mean, Windhoek isn’t known for being crazy busy, but still, it’s nice to spend a few hours walking around the main road, Independence Avenue, with few cars zooming past you or people hassling you.
After your cab has dropped you off on the corner of Independence and Fidel Castro, make your way past Zoo Park, one of the oldest green spaces in the city. Usually the place is packed with people, but on Sundays the crowd is sparse and random. On the other side of the road, though, is the beautiful Gathemann Building, a classic structure and one of the few surviving original German-style buildings on this road. Further along on Independence Avenue is a Kudu statue monument, but don’t be fooled, as it doesn’t quite resemble a real Kudu.
Everything in the city centre is quite compact, which means it’s easy to walk around and see the main sights. A short walk up Fidel Castro, and you’ll come to the Christus Kirche, which is an elegant example of colonial-era architecture. From the church car park you can explore the surroundings, taking in the Parliament Gardens, the newly built Independence Museum and the austere Bank of Namibia. My alma mater, Windhoek High School, is close by, too. Give it a wave for me, won’t you?
By this time you might be a little hungry, but on Sundays many restaurants are closed. Luckily, the Independence Museum Restaurant foresaw this problem and is open! Go up to the fourth flour and enjoy the view, or else, make your way down the road towards Windhoek High School, and find a little one-way road leading down past the Supreme Court. Take in the magnificent architecture of this building, noting how the moving plates under the ground on which it stands cause cracks here and there. A pity, but a beauty none the less. Once you’re back in Independence Avenue, look for AVANI Hotel, or the more flashy Hilton Hotel, where you’ll be sure to get a warm plate of food.
Remember to go back to the corner of Fidel and Independence after lunch though, because at two there is live music at Cramer’s Ice Cream parlour, where they serve organic ice cream with ingredients from actual farm cows. The cows aren’t on the property, but you can find out the story of Cramer’s from the friendly owner Ernst, who’s always around.
Spend a lovely few hours enjoying the free entertainment, as well as the people around you. Cramer’s is quite popular on a Sunday, and it’s always interesting to see who made it out of their houses in lieu of taking a Sunday nap.
Have yourself a waffle with ice cream and sit back while the afternoon stretches out. Then, just before you think it’s all over, walk a few paces up the street to the Hilton for sundowners at their snazzy Sky Bar, where, with a 270° view you can witness the sun pass behind Windhoek’s mountains. Relax for a bit, and when you’re ready, dial your cab again and ask them to drop you off at Joe’s Beerhouse for some Eisbein (pickled ham hock) and beer. You won’t regret it.
Stay tuned for more articles in the Nina’s Namibia series.