Windhoek - Abbey Travel, Ireland



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Welcome to Windhoek


The small, Germanic capital of the country, Windhoek is an attractive city situated in the Central Highlands and surrounded by hills and mountains, occupying the geographical and economic heart of Namibia.

The city centre is characterised by historic German colonial architecture and imposing modern structures. Dominating the skyline is the striking German Lutheran church, Christuskirche, a mixture of Art Nouveau and neo-Gothic design, and the Titenpalast, or 'Ink Palace', the parliament building from where the sparsely populated country is governed. The railway station is a Cape Dutch edifice dating back to 1912 and Independence Avenue is a pleasant tree-lined place with fountains and walkways providing a relaxing ambience among the modern buildings of the central business district. The women of the Herero tribe, cattle herders of the region, are very distinctive with their voluminous Victorian-style dresses and colourful headgear.

The German influence is not only apparent in the architecture and colonial style buildings, but is evident in the food and locally-brewed beer. Polony and sauerkraut are available on the menu among local dishes, including seafood from the west coast and venison or game steaks from the hinterland.

Information & Facts


Windhoek has a semi-desert climate, with very hot summers and mild winters. Temperatures tend to drop at night. Average temperatures in winter (June to August) range from 43°F (6°C) to 70°F (21°C). Nights are cold but temperatures rarely dip below 32°F (0°C). The most popular time to travel to Windhoek is between March and October, in particular April to June, when rainfall is lowest and temperatures are mild. On average, Namibia receives about 300 days sunshine a year, and drought occurs roughly every ten years or so.

Getting Around

The city centre is compact and easy to negotiate on foot. Taxis are available and can be ordered by phone; minibus taxis also operate in the city, although drivers tend to be aggressive and erratic. Do not get into an empty minibus, and avoid travelling in one at night. Other than in rush hour, the traffic in Windhoek is not too heavy and it is relatively easy to make one's way around by car, particularly if you intend exploring outside of the city. The train station is situated in the city centre and TransNamib offers routes within Namibia, as does the tourist train, Desert Express.

English is the official language, but many people also speak Afrikaans and German. There are also several indigenous languages spoken, mainly in the rural areas.

The official currency is the Namibian Dollar (NAD) divided into 100 cents. Its value is equal to the South African Rand, which is also accepted as legal currency in Namibia. Major credit cards are accepted. Travellers cheques and foreign currency can be exchanged at any bank or bureau de change, though cash is more expensive to exchange than travellers cheques. ATMs are available in larger towns only.

Situated on a high point overlooking the CBD, the Schutztruppe Fort served as the German colonial powers' military headquarters until 1915 and today houses the state museum. It foundaiton stone was laid in 1890 making this one of the oldest buildings in Windhoek and a singificant national monument. The museum's exhibition informs visitors of Namibia's history from its san (bushmen) origins to German occupation in 1884 and the resulting struggle for independence.

The Brandberg massif is famous for its thousands of rock paintings and engravings, most notably the 'White Lady', which is estimated to be about 2,000 years old. Guides accompany visitors on an hour walk to the Tsisab Ravine where the famous painting is located on an overhang under a shelter, surrounded by a variety of painted animal forms. Although faded over the years, the trip to see it is well worth the effort. Contrary to early belief, the painting is not actually of a white lady, but is the image of a male, the white colour of the body representing body paint, which suggests it is a medicine man. Since it was discovered in 1955, there has been a great deal of controversy over the meaning and origin of the painting. Brandberg's highest peak is Königstein, and at 8,550 feet (2,606m) it is the highest mountain in Namibia, reachable on an organised three-day hike.

The church is a prominent landmark in Windhoek's historic centre that was built in 1910 to accommodate the Lutheran congregation in the city. Today the sandstone church is a national monument topped by its 79-foot (24m) spire. Its gothic revival facade, made unique by Art Nouveau elements, is made up of quartz sandstone, while the portal and altar are Italian marble. Three bronze bells in the tower bear the inscriptions "Ehre sei Gott in der Höhe" (Glory to God in the highest), "Friede auf Erden" (Peace on earth), and "Den Menschen ein Wohlgefallen" (Goodwill towards men). An interesting fact about the church is that the stained glass windows, a gift from Emperor Wilhelm II, were installed backwards until the late 1990s when a tourist noticed the error.

The natural beauty of the Spitzkoppe, or Spitzkop, is spectacular; an island of bald granite peaks situated in an endless grassy plain that is visible for miles around. Groot Spitzkop is often referred to as the 'Matterhorn of Africa' because of its similarity in shape, and it is one of Namibia's most famous mountains. Nearby are the Little Spitzkoppe and the Pontok Mountains. The area is a paradise for climbers, although only those with a lot of experience and the correct equipment should attempt to climb the Spitzkoppe itself. The enormous granite rocks were formed hundreds of millions of years ago due to volcanic activity and subsequent erosion has resulted in fascinating rock formations and memorable outlines, which should not go unexplored. The area is also renowned for its breathtaking sunrises that turn the rocks from pale orange to flaming gold.

Translated as 'Uncertain Fountain', Twyfelfontein was so named by a farmer who doubted the ability of the spring to sustain his cattle for a long time. The spring is still there, but Twyfelfontein is famous for its prehistoric rock paintings and engravings rather than its water supply. It boasts the largest concentration of ancient rock art in the country (about 2,500 designs), and has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The petroglyphs primarily depict game animals such as giraffe, antelope, elephant and lion, and are believed to be around 3,000 years old. Visitors are no longer allowed to enter the site without a guide, due to previous vandalism. The uniquely-designed visitor information centre features an exhibition, kiosk and souvenir shop. There are a few other stunning sights in the area around Twyfelfontein, including a unique rock formation called the Organ Pipes, the Doros crater, and the Petrified Forest.

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