Missionary munchies in Swakopmund, Namibia


Originally uploaded by Mr_Chips

This old German colonial town in Namibia has one of the best cafes in Africa. I shall come to that cafe in a moment, but first I wanted to dwell on that beautiful mix of Europe and Africa. Here amidst the wildest most remote deserts in the world sits a slice of Saltzberg. Yes the Namib is wonderful and much as you might expect a desert to be – mostly sand and yet it has some of the most beautiful sand dunes. If you look closely though you will discover a whole range of flora and fauna that is unique to this fragile fragment of Africa. The lichens are engineered by nature to live in the desert gaining moisture from the morning fog that sweeps in from the Atlantic.
Up at the northern end of the namib where the yearly flow of the Kuiseb river stops the marching dunes in their tracks is a place called Homeb. It is possible to camp here (you need a permit). it is home to a people called the topenairs. They eke out a simple existence in this remote place and harvest the ground melons. They live in makeshift huts and look after the goats.
Then come into town and sit in a cafe surrounded by German speaking people eating coffee and apple strudel and you can see the extremes of cultures.
But enjoy it whilst you are here. Revel in the ornate architecture. a few years ago you could walk down Kaiser Wilmhelm strasse but now it is Nelson Mandela street or similar- which is the price of progress but I hate the passing of the old and quaint.
The first time I drove to Swakopmund from Botswana with Dave. He came out from England and in the three weeks that he was with me we drove to the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe and then to the west coast of Namibia. i wanted to show him everything in his time here . He must have been exhausted. Anyway, we drove across the Caprivi strip and then down across the namib. It was hot and dusty and we vowed to run straight into sea when we arrived. However, we hadn’t taken into account the Benguela current that runs up the west coast and makes the sea cold and causes a fog to rise which means that at that time of year Swakopmund was as cold as a wet weekend in Brighton and the sea had lost its charm. To make matters worse there was no room at the inn! Swakop was full. We had to set up camp at what was prosaically known as mile 14. A cold and windswept place only made bearable by a jolly nature warden with a pipe who gave an amusing talk about the natural history. We embarrassed ourselves by falling into a giggling fit on the rocky benches at the back.
So it was years later that I had time to explore the cafes properly.
Since then we have tried out all sorts of accommodation and eateries. Although staying at the Pension prinzessin-rupprecht-heim was very peaceful it doubles as an old peoples home so be prepared. Cafe Anton was very plush and their cafe is as glitzy as anything you would find in Vienna. No – my favourite is Pension Rapmund. Its simple but friendly. Lovely little courtyards with rooms adjacent. Breakfast is served in a pleasant room where everyone congregates in the morning. Be prepared for the German speaking. Although everyone speaks English as well I was greeting people with ‘Morgen’ and asking for an eye for my breakfast.
For coffee I like to go to Putensoen cafe treffpunkt on kaiser willhelm strasse. Its an old fashioned place and handy for the bookshop, opposite. The cakes are excellent.
For a more substantial meal try the Missionary Munchies at The African Cafe this is the best cafe. Sitting out on the pavement watching the world go by. Palm trees waft overhead and plenty of opportunity to sit and sketch all the cool guys in from the desert, sitting and relaxing like me. The coffee is served in large colourful cups that call out to be painted and the missionary munchies really fit a spot before hitting the road to drive back, sadly, to Windhoek.