Although the capital of Namibia has an estimated population of only 322,500, you are likely to get the initial impression that the city is even smaller. This is because Windhoek lies in a wide valley with its suburbs tucked away in the surrounding hills. It is on account of this undulating terrain that the airport is located 45km (28 miles) form the city centre.
Windhoek City Walks
The Hofmeyer Walk, an easy one-way ramble of about one hour along the ridge that separates the Klein Windhoek Valley from the city centre, offers a good perspective of the layout of Windhoek. You can set off from either the notice board below the water tower in Sinclair Street or at the crest of the ridge in Orban Street. Much of the natural vegetation on the route is still intact, and the aloes, Windhoek’s emblem, are a delight in winter when they flower.
Towards the end of the 19th century, when the Germans settled here, the area with its springs was already popular with the Jonker Afrikaner Nama and the Herero. Stone Age tools about 5000 years old and fossilized elephant bones excavated in Zoo Park, a tranquil oasis in the centre of Windhoek, are evidence that the springs have attracted man and beast for millennia.
Walk down Independence Avenue, Windhoek’s main thoroughfare, and you will notice the colonial German architectural influence. Three restored buildings in the street can be admired from under the palm trees in Zoo Park across the road. Here a plaque points out Ekrath Building (1913), Gathemann House (1913) with its steep roof and Hotel Kronprinz (1902).
Also in Independence Avenue, the clock tower at the intersection with Post Street Mall is an obvious landmark and is a fairly recent addition which was built along the lines of the now demolished Deutsch-Afrika-Bank.
One the first and third Saturday of each month the Post Street Mall bustles with shoppers at the morning street market where handicrafts ranging from wooden toys and rag dolls to Kavango woodcarvings and Zimbabwian malachite jewellery can be purchased.
Further down the Mall you can closely inspect the 31 Gibeon Meteorites that are displayed among a water feature. Although they could be mistaken for ordinary rocks, one has been sawn through to confirm their metal content. A total of 77 meteorites were recovered in the vicinity of Gibeon, south of Mariental.
The Windhoek Information and Publicity (WIP) bureau is in Post Street Mall.
Guarding over the city centre is the almost fairytale Christuskirche (Church of Christ) in Robert Mugabe Avenue, completed in 1910 by the German Evangelical community as a monument to peace. Behind it is the Tintenpalast (Ink Palace), which was built in 1913 and now houses the Namibian Parliament, with its shady lawns and attractive gardens.
Cross over the road towards the Alte Feste (old German fort), and you will pass the Equestrian Memorial which was unveiled in 1912 in memory of the Germans killed in the Nama and Herero wars of 1903-7. Strategically positioned by Curt von Francois in 1890, the Alte Feste is Windhoek’s oldest surviving building.
Other imposing German colonial buildings in the avenue are the Ombudsman’s Office, completed in 1907 as an officers’ house, and the old school building, which now houses the museum staff, with its quaint turret.
Perched on the hill that separates Klein Windhoek and Windhoek are three ‘castles’. They were designed by Willi Sander who was also responsible for Duwisib Castle. Schwerinsburg, initially a watchtower and a small tavern, was completed in 1914, followed by Heinitzburg and Sanderburg (built for Sander himself) in 1917. Unfortunately, all three ‘castles’ (with the exception of Heinitzburg) are privately owned and not open to the public.3