Sunday Sermons and Decorated Calves’ Heads – THE LEGACY OF THE OLD STRAND HOTEL
Text Edward Jenkins | Photographs Courtesy of the Sam Cohen Library, Swakopmund
2015 saw the opening celebrations for the long-awaited new Strand Hotel at the Mole (the breakwater). We take a look at the rich traditions of the earlier Strand Hotels which have preceded it.
A grainy black-and-white photo dated March 1913 shows a view of the first Strand Hotel, with a large billboard on the side of the building proudly advertising ‘B. Meisel’ as the proprietor. Very close in the background, Swakopmund’s new iron jetty can be seen, two large cranes poised to hoist cargo and passengers from the surf boats ferrying them from the ships at anchor. After enduring the trauma of being handled like sacks of grain, the passengers must have been grateful to find their hotel so close!
When the thriving economy ground to a halt in the aftermath of the First World War, Swakopmund became little more than a sleepy fishing village. The town fathers, with government support, set out to promote the use of the Mole and Jetty area for recreational activities in order to boost the economy.
Around 1919 a Strand Café (not related to the earlier Strand Hotel) was operating at the Mole. By the mid-1920s, the business evolved into the Strand Café and Restaurant, owned by E. Oblmann.
The café, located right on the water, quickly became a gathering spot for locals and business travellers alike – it still was many years before the advent of a tourism industry worth mentioning. One long-time Swakopmund resident recalls that in the late 1940s, at a time when everyone attended church on Sundays, it was mandatory to stop at the Strand Café afterwards. But some, he says, just skipped the church and went straight to the café for a morning pint. The owner at that time, a Mr J. Schiessl, offered a very popular cake dessert, garnished with fresh fruit, and the church avoidance crowd would announce on Sundays that they would be visiting ‘Pastor’ Schiessl, for his ‘Obsttorten Predigt’ (roughly: ‘fruitcake sermon’)…
Another long-time Swakopmunder recalls a 1951 wedding reception at a private home, which was catered for by the Strand Café. He vividly remembers the specially prepared and decorated calf’s head that was served, as well as a magnificent illuminated ice sculpture of Swakopmund’s lighthouse.
By the 1960s the single-story Strand Café had evolved into the Strand Hotel. A two-story addition provided accommodation for visitors. At one point owned by the Hansa Brewery, the hotel became an integral part of Swakopmund’s social scene and remained a focal point until it was razed several years ago to make way for the new hotel, restaurant and shopping complex.
Without question, the new facility will develop its own traditions and provide a relaxing venue for its devoted clientele, whether churchgoing or not. TNN
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