Text and Photographs Charene Labuschagne
Text and Photographs Charene Labuschagne
Windhoek is a dynamic capital. It’s probably the single most diverse 5,000 square kilometres I can imagine – with the city centre comprising both buzzing business hubs in concrete high-rises and trendy coffee spots where you’ll find edgy millennials. I have to admit that it’s difficult to write about a city you’ve lived in your whole life. Windhoek has been my stomping ground ever since I can remember: from playdates and ballet lessons to driving my first car through rush-hour traffic. Thus, having seen the capital grow in leaps and bounds, I’m going to tell you about the city that does, in fact, sleep – especially on Sundays and Public Holidays (and between Christmas and New Year.) One that is not of angels or heathens but rather a city that brought up a generation of aspiring hustlers. I’m going to tell you about the city that raised me.
Independence Avenue always scared me. As a little girl I would be hauled across the street by my arm, nearly popping out of its socket. The traffic always seems like rush-hour so haste is essential to survival. Locals have adopted an awkward jaywalking jog as a result. I used to stand by impatiently as my mom allowed optimistic vendors to persuade her into buying anything from wire and bead figurines to gemstones.
This fine Tuesday was no exception. Only the roles had shifted – my boyfriend’s shoulder socket the victim and he the one frustrated by my prolonged browsing at the Ovahimba stalls in the parking lot below the Hilton Hotel.
We made our way from the Craft Centre on Tal Street, just off Independence Avenue. You’ll find a handful of vintage stores there – Uncle Spike’s Book Exchange being the one I lose myself in. We’ve become such regulars that I can pop in anytime and shop (on my mom’s store credit.) Just down the road is The Red Shelf which I was forbidden to enter – the PTSD of a previous prolonged shopping experience by myself still prevalent.
Strolling through the Craft Centre is a must, but sometimes a little too touristy for my liking. So instead, we took the alternative route – a vestibule with a maze of stairs and murals by local artists adorning the walls. It’s an unparalleled challenge not to call it a day right there, in the centre of Windhoek’s liveliest nightlife courtyards. But the hunt for bargains and a good picture for “the gram” continues.
We shrugged off the persistent hawkers and continued our stroll past the odd mix of shop fronts – a barber, a cell shop, a takeaway and a pharmacy. Along these sidewalks, you’ll find entrepreneurs selling fruit and veg as well as airtime. Essentials, you know.
Browsing through the stalls I start imagining decorative uses for African masks and baskets. The ladies selling these goods are forever reaffirming my creative vision, despite my boyfriend’s claims that I do not need an artistically carved fish on my console. Albeit tempting, I leave said fish in the parking lot and with my heart heavy, we head to Holtz to try on hats.
This is by far one of my favourite shops in Windhoek. Located in the Carl List Mall, Holtz is filled to the brim and bursting at the seams with safari gear. Everything from belts and felt hats to vellies and two-tone shirts. It’s a must-stop shop before any adventure commences and I often find myself contemplating purchases I don’t need. I’m beginning to see a pattern here…
Our last stop for the day is Cramer’s for a generous scoop of salted caramel ice-cream. It’s so refreshing to see the cosmopolitan collection of locals winding down after a hard day’s work. I can also spot the regulars who have been sitting there sipping coffee from 2 pm as they do every day.
It’s only on our stroll back to the Craft Centre parking lot that the mandatory ’gram-worthy’ shot is snapped. I’d completely forgotten about it – having been swept up in the organised chaos of Independence Avenue.
On the way home I get a phone call from a friend and in the blink of an eye we’re on her balcony, watching the sunset over Windhoek. The city lights go on, and as day fades into night we say cheers to having grown up in a city that allowed us the freedom to escape the chaos of high school with only a short drive out to the farm. This city taught us unprecedented kindness in giving a taxi driver right of way, and then regretting it shortly after because they’ve double-parked in the middle of the road to pick up a passenger. But you’d probably do it again in a heartbeat, albeit against better judgement. Windhoek has taught us how to work for our money to afford luxuries, as well as how quickly one loses it on one too many beers on a Wednesday evening.
As I sit (on said Wednesday evening) among the new generation of corporates, Umbach, and entrepreneurs of every heritage and age, it dawns on me that it remains an impossible feat to try telling the Wanderlust Generation how to “do” Windhoek. Due to our diverse nature, no two millennials have the same free-time agenda.
It’s with this awe-inspiring diversity that I urge the Wanderlust Generation to dive headfirst into every avenue that Windhoek has to offer. There are so many, you might just have to extend your stay
Accommodation: Chameleon Backpackers, Cardboard Box, Rivendell Guest House.
Activities: Chameleon Safaris free city walking tour, Ees “Nam Flava” tour, Windhoek City Market, Sundowner drinks at River Crossing.
This article was first published in the Summer 2019/20 issue of Travel News Namibia.