Namibia: Swakopmund and the coast

Driving from the Namib desert towards the coast, I expected the landscape to slowly transform back into bigger bushes, then green grass and trees, and to finally arrive at the sandy beaches. I was wrong. After driving through curvy streets in enormous slate mountains, Namibia’s driest area awaited us. This meant a drive of complete nothingness. No trees, no bushes, no animals. Just white sandy dunes and, in the far distance, mountains scattered here and there. After a long-lasting three hours our tour guide said: “In about five minutes we’ll be approaching Walvis Bay.” I looked outside, making sure I hadn’t missed something. Still nothing. Then suddenly as if there was a line drawn through the land that we crossed, palm trees appeared out of nowhere and a pink flamingo-cloud passed by. We were now at the Atlantic coast.

We kept driving until we arrived in the city Swakopmund. For me, as a German, this city has probably been the strangest experience on all my travels so far. Swakopmund is known for being “the most German” city in Namibia. I knew that Namibia used to be a German colony at the end of the 19th century, but never realized the great cultural impact Germany has had on this area.
To me Swakopmund felt like a German-themed amusement park or even a film set: VW cars meet Safari Jeeps, Zebra steaks meet Wiener Schnitzel. Buildings reminded me of 19th century German architecture, store signs like “Hans Lederwaren” weren’t an exception and people around me spoke accent-free German. It felt surreal walking through the city, like this cultural swap just didn’t fit. When I asked a local about Germany’s impact on Namibia, he responded: “The German colonial time is part of our history and part of our culture. Today German is considered a tribe here.”


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