Thursday, February 24, 2011

Namibia and the Germans in Africa

Greetings from Namibia which the Germans once called Deutschsüdwestafrika. The Germans were latecomers to colonialism but they did establish four colonies* in Africa with the other three being Tanganyika (now Tanzania), Togoland (now Togo) and Kamerun (Cameroon).  The German colonial legacy is far more apparent in Namibia than in the other three countries, especially in Swapokmund, or Mouth of the Swapok River (  I spent a weekend in Swapokmund and must say that it is one of the most pleasant colonial cities anywhere in Africa. It has interesting German architecture from the early 20th Century, clean wide boulevards, a beautiful palm-lined beach front, and many descendants of German settlers to perpetuate the legacy.  And German tourists flock to Namibia in droves to get away from the frigid Northern European winters and still enjoy all of the trappings of German culture. These include a German daily newspaper ( a German radio station, German-style bed & breakfasts with ocean views, kaffee und kuchen in the afternoon, and a large selection of restaurants serving the full range of German cusine including Eisbein, Nürnberger Bratwürste and Schnitzel.  I had Kabeljaufilet with Meerrettichsosse and frisher Spargel at Restaurant Zur Küpferpfanne on the only evening I was in Swopokmund.  

Another major tourist attraction just outside of Swapokmund are the magnificent sand dunes in the Namib-Naukluft National Park. I found it especially fascinating to watch heavy volumes of sand drift across the coastal highway and drop right onto the beach.

The following links contain a collection of pictures of Swapokmund,  a 360 degree virtual tour of the city, and a Wikipedia introduction to the national park:

Namibian's German heritage is also still evident in the capital city of Windhoek.  With the exception of the city's main thoroughfares which now carry the names of Namibian heroes and leaders of African independence movements, many of the streets throughout the city are still "strassen" and named after well known German places and personalities. 
( )  One street is also named after Namibia's greatest sports hero, Frankie Fredericks, who has ties to my home state of Utah.  He attended BYU on a track scholarship and won a total of four silver medals in the 1992 and 1996 Olympic Games. He still holds the world record for the fastest time at 200 meters indoors. (

With regards to Germany's other African colonies: our first Foreign Service posting was Yaounde, Cameroon from 1982-84.  The colonial headquarters was in Buea, at the base of Mt. Cameroon, probably so that the Germans could escape the heat of the coast, the jungle and the deserts of the interior. On our only visit to Buea, we were greeted by a large sign stating "Man Spricht Deutsch." When we knocked on the door of a nearby home, an elderly African man answered speaking perfect German. He had grown up during the period of German colonization and the sign was a ploy to get business guiding German tours of the area.  Highlights of his tour were a monument to Bismark, the palatial residence of the former German governor,  a German restaurant, a few other German  buildings and a German cemetery.  He also told us that for many years after the Germans left, a band of African musicians played German Volksmusic in the bars and restaurants of Douala wearing lederhosen.
During three visits to Tanzania I didn't see any reminders of German colonial days. During my only visit to Togo in the 1970s, the only evidence I saw of a prior German presence was the restaurant "Alt München" where I had lunch.

I'm getting ready to depart Namibia and am anxious to get this post published.  I've focused almost exclusively on the German colonization and really need to say more about the native populations such as the San people, often referred to as the Kalahari Bushmen.  They and the clicking sounds they make when speaking  were made famous through the movie "The Gods Must Be Crazy."   Following are links on the San and on the "Gods Must Be Crazy."

Kalahari Bushmen talking
 The Gods Must be crazy trailer

I leave for Botswana tomorrow and since the Kalahari runs through both Namibia and Botswana, I will try to include a little more on the San people in my Botswana post.

*Addendum, 08 Mar 2011
I'm currently in Kigali  and was surprised to learn that the German Colonial Administration in Tanganyika also extended to Rwanda and Burundi.  See today's post on the Hutus and Tutsis for more information on this. 

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