Windhoek

The springs of Windhoek (pronounced VIN-took) attracted pastoralists long before time was measured with alarm clocks, breakfast runs and train schedules. But since 1840 random claims and several skirmishes for dominion over the precious water have culminated in a city with more facets than a flawless diamond.

Pensions and neo-Gothic churches jostle with craft markets and shebeens as the German heritage of early years is led astray by the vagaries of Africa's whims. The town itself is small as capitals go with around 230 000 inhabitants making up a little over 10% of the national population.

There are many useful words to describe Windhoek and, as your most likely point of arrival and departure, all those words will sing like a rufous-tailed palm thrush at the break of dawn: small, clean, safe, convenient, modern, interesting, cheap, warm. More words exist but we'll let you make them up after your visit.

In Windhoek there are many interesting historical buildings, museums, galleries and craft shops. The city has several good restaurants and modern shops and services making it an excellent base camp from which to launch your Namibian adventure.

If you're the museum-visiting type, then don't miss the Owela Museum, Alte Feste Museum, the Geology Museum and the Transport Museum.

Interesting historical buildings to tick off your list are the Clock Tower, Elephant Column, the War Memorial, Christus Kirche, Alte Feste and the Ink Palace (Parliament).

Galleries featuring Namibian art and craft include the Bushman Art Shop and Museum and the National Art Gallery of Namibia. There are also street markets where local artists sell their crafts, fabrics and art.

Other interesting features: National Botanical Garden, Meteorite Fountain, National Theatre of Namibia and the Warehouse Theatre.

Windhoek is surrounded by several excellent safari-style lodges and guest farms offering comfortable accommodation and game viewing, birding and hiking trails.

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