Windhoek is the capital of Namibia and is more or less in the centre of the country. Windhoek is named after a farm in the Western Cape. The name means "wind corner". However, the original name was Winterhoek which means "winter corner".
The capital is Namibia's fastest growing town and the only real city in this vast country. Windhoek is surrounded by the hills of the Khomas Highlands.
Built on the floor and up the slopes of foothills and the sides of the valley, Windhoek has a pleasant range of elevation. There are viewsites, and the variety of suburban locations gives the city an attractive diversity of appearance.
The principal street, running north to south, Independence Avenue (formerly Kaiser Street), is lined with modern commercial buildings and a few interesting remaining examples of German colonial architecture. The municipal building is an impressive structure that faces on to this street. In the flower-beds in front of it stands a statue of Major Curt von Francois, sculpted by a South African artist, Hennie Potgieter. This statue of the father of modern Windhoek was unveiled on 19 October 1965 during the city's 75th anniversary celebrations.
Further north along Independence Avenue lies a small park, formerly the zoo gardens. This is a pleasant area of lawns, trees and flowers in the centre of the city. In this garden stands a memorial erected on 5 April 1897 in memory of members of the Deutsche Schutztruppe killed during the war with the Namas under Hendrik Witbooi. Also in the garden is a display of elephant fossils recovered from the mud around one of the hot springs of Windhoek, and a collection of fragments of a meteorite found on the site.
The Alte Feste still stands on the hill overlooking the city. The building is now a museum housing an interesting collection of photographs and items related to the days of German administration. Outside the museum stands a real gem of interest to railway enthusiasts - a narrow-gauge train, complete with locomotive and coaches. It is seemingly about to set off on the 373 km trip through the wild mountains and across the Namib Desert from Windhoek to Swakopmund, a journey which this little train made many times during its years of service.
In front of the Alte Feste stands the Rider Memorial, a fine equestrian statue sculpted by Adolf Kurle of Berlin. It was unveiled on 27 January 1912 at a military parade in honour of the Kaiser's birthday. The statue is a memorial to the men of the German colonial force who died during the Herero and Nama wars between 1904 and 1908. The Alte Feste Museum is open to the public Mondays to Fridays 09h00 to 18h00; Saturdays 10h00 to 13h00 and Sundays 15h00 to 18h00.
Still in Windhoek and close to the Alte Feste stands the imposing building of the German Evangelical Lutheran Church with its tall steeple providing the city with a striking landmark. There is a garden notable for its flowering trees and an avenue of olive trees behind the church. Overlooking the garden is the administrative building erected by the German administration. Popularly known as the Tintenpalast (palace of ink), it is still in use. Adjoining it is the modem building erected to house the Legislative Assembly. It contains numerous works of art and a superb mural decorating the front wall inside. Visitors are allowed on conducted tours on request. A small game park is situated behind the administrative buildings.
In the centre of Windhoek facing Leutwein Street, are the art gallery, public library, state museum, archives and the theatre used by the Namibian Performing Arts Council and other producers in the staging of drama, ballet and opera. The library has an excellent collection of books and periodicals, including many rare works dealing with this part of Africa since its early days. The state museum of Windhoek has social and natural science exhibits and is open Mondays to Fridays 09h00 to 18h00: Saturdays 10h00 to 13h00 and Sundays 15h00 to 18h00.
Outside the Windhoek railway station is displayed one of the narrow-gauge locomotives which worked the old line to Swakopmund. Near this locomotive is a garden and monument commemorating the lives lost in the 1916 revolt by Chief Mandume and a section of the Owambo people.
Another memorial in Windhoek is the Cross of Sacrifice, erected at the southern end of Leutwein Street, opposite the military cemetery. Each year on 11 November an interdenominational service is held here, commemorating the war dead of both sides in the two World Wars. The Oudstryders Memorial stands in Bismarck Street in memory of the Boer Bittereinders ("diehards") who refused to accept the terms of the Peace of Vereeniging at the end of the Anglo-Boer War and moved to German South West Africa in order to avoid British rule.
The suburbs of Windhoek contain many fine homes and gardens. On the heights above
Heinitzburg Road in the suburb of Klein Windhoek may be seen three interesting castle-like residences which were constructed in 1890 during the wars with the local African inhabitants.
Captain von Francois built a rough fortress on the site of the present Government hostel. A second fortification was built on a hill overlooking the valley. An architect named Wilhelm Sander arrived in Windhoek shortly afterwards and set up practice, designing many of the buildings of the German period, including the famous Tintenpalast.
The fortifications built by Von Francois captivated the architect. When the war was over, he secured one of the abandoned fortresses and developed it into a picturesque ruin, a 'folly' which he named Sperlingslust (sparrow's longing). It was bought by Rudolf Moeller and turned into a tavern with an arched beer room filled with enormous vats of deliciously cool beer.
In 1984 when Governor von Leutwein took office, he had as a private secretary the young Graf Schwerin. This nobleman took a liking to the inn, bought it, and commissioned Sander to complete it as a castle. Timber was imported from Germany and the finished place was named Schwerinburg after its owner. With its tapestries, chests and crystal chandeliers, it became an outpost of German aristocracy in Africa.
In 1908 Sander created a second castle which was also bought by the Graf Schwerin and named Heinitzburg after his wife's family name. This castle was built on the same hill as Schwerinburg but on a lower level. It was fitted with a children's nursery decorated with a quaint frieze of nursery rhyme characters. The Graf lived in one castle and his family in the other. A path linked the two castles, along which a special messenger tramped backwards and forwards conveying messages. At the bottom of the gateway of Heinitzburg stands an oddly designed beehive-shaped construction, with windows for eyes and a nose built above a mouth which serves as an entrance.
In 1911 Sander built the third castle in Windhoek as a home for himself and named it
Sanderburg. Like the other two castles, it has several odd touches; a fierce-looking bulldog is painted on the wall; there are pillars without purpose; useless niches and towers with unapproachable rooms. It also has living-rooms with absolutely breathtaking views over the mighty sweep of hills and mountains surrounding Windhoek.
Suburbs of Windhoek such as Avis, Khomasdal and Pioniers Park are residential areas. Eros (named after a fruit-bearing shrub which grows there) is a light industrial area and the site of an airport for private and light planes. Ausspannplatz (outspan place) was the original main staging post for oxwagons. The Windhoek larger international international airport is situated in a place with the weird name of oNdekaremba (the fly on the cow). The name of the industrial area and township originally built for Africans is Katutura (the place where we do not like to live).
Windhoek is a clean, healthy and well-ordered city. Its one disadvantage is a shortage of water rainfall is erratic. The shops are amply stocked with the necessities and luxuries of living. Tourists will find the gemstone and curio shops very good. Fur shops are well stocked with local karakul skins. Books and photographic shops are of high standard. Meat is good but bread indifferent; fruit and dairy products come mainly from South Africa. There are some good eating places but traditional German cooking is difficult to find. Locally-made chocolate is delicious.
Entertainment is on the quiet side, as must be expected in a small city. It has some bright features, especially during the last week of April, the first week of May and during the first week of October. These are carnival times in Windhoek when masked balls, general jollifications and parades take place and a great deal of beer is drunk.
The April-May period is especially pleasant. The rains are over; the country is green and the air cool. January is the hottest month. However, the altitude of Windhoek prevents the temperature from becoming excessively hot and there is no humidity. The maximum temperature in summer is 36°C and an average of 360 mm of rain falls each year.
Windhoek is pleasant to visit at all seasons, with its novel scenes, atmosphere and activities. Not least ofthese is the cosmopolitan crowd in the streets - women in sophisticated modem styles being curiously upstaged by majestic Herero ladies who promenade the town in their colourful 'missionary's wife' costumes dating from the previous century. They move with a stately gait resulting from a combination of their own weight and from the effects of a custom in past when their feet were burdened by the heavy bangles which were fashionable.
Today Windhoek is a vibrant city with two international airports and a number of excellent hotels, lodges and other accommodation.
The Windhoek Country Club was Namibia's first five-star Hotel. This beautiful hotel and casino is on the outskirts of Windhoek and it is surrounded with beautiful gardens and an 18-hole golf course. The Windhoek Country Club also has a casino.
The Safari Hotel is near Windhoek Eros Airport. This hotel complex has three different hotels ranging from three-star to higher four-star. The Safari Hotel is without any doubt Windhoek's most popular big conference venue.
Kubata Lodge is in the Eros suburb near Joe's Beerhouse.
The most popular self-catering (self-contained) accommodation of Windhoek is to the south of the city. Arebbush Lodge offers excellent self-catering (self-contained) accommodation very close to the southern entrance to the city. Monteiro Lodge is about 10 km south of Windhoek and they offer good accommodation at very reasonable rates. Daan Viljoen Nature Reserve lies to the west of Windhoek.