It is no coincidence that Namibia can only be reached directly from two European airports: Frankfurt and Cologne. The Germans have maintained close ties with their most important former colony in Africa. The German influence is still very much seen in Namibia today, especially in Swakopmund. A visit here is a unique snapshot of German colonial life in Africa. Recently travelling on our Cape to Namibia, I experienced this intriguing German personality found in an African desert.
History of Swakopmund
Found along the shores of Namibia, Swakopmund was founded in 1882. The Germans joined the race for Africa quite late. The majority of the colonies had already been divided among other European countries, especially the UK and France. However, winning Namibia gave Germany a huge territorial gain as it was one and a half times the size of their own country.
The Germans governed Namibia for 30 years, relinquishing control on the 9th of July 1915. However, despite the short amount of time Germany ruled Namibia, they established a well-functioning state of body and changed this part Africa forever. A century on, the town of Swakopmund hasn’t changed much.
Buildings of Swakopmund
The legacy of German colonisation can easily be seen in the city’s buildings. Many of them are still standing today thanks to the quality of the craftsmanship and attention to detail. The statehouse, also called Kaiserliches Bezirksgericht, looks particularly Germanic. Built in 1902, it was previously the district magistrates court before now serving as the summer home for the Namibian President.
The Marine Memorial is one of Swakopmund’s most recognisable buildings, with its elegant red lighthouse. It includes a statue, designed and cast in Berlin, which represents a marine standing by his wounded colleague, ready for action. The German influence shows itself throughout the city’s buildings with the 20th century dates inscribed on the buildings and many of the shops labelled using the Germanic serif Fraktur font.
The German vibe extends beyond the architecture. Swakopmund is full of streets with German names. They’re exceptionally clean, with no sign of litter or even a cigarette butt. In the city centres you will see information boards stating ‘keep your desert clean’. Namibia is also well known for its punctuality and the efficient operation of their offices.
Food of Swakopmund
The city’s menus are dominated by German food. Delicious dishes of pork knuckles with boiled potatoes, bratwurst with sauerkraut, and pork schnitzel and dumplings can be easily found. And for dessert it has to be the German favourite of apple strudel.
When it comes to drink, obviously the Germans couldn’t function in Africa without their fine beer. The Namibian beer industry was formed during the colonisation of South-West Africa. In 1904, the first litres of beer were produced for the thirsty German settlers as they arrived from Berlin.
In 1920, after the displacement of the Germans from Africa, a brewery was established. This is now known as the Namibia Breweries, one of the most famous breweries in Africa. They produce Windhoek beer which is exported to over 20 countries around the world. Incredibly, the beer is still brewed under the German Beer Purity Law. This institution stretches all the way back to 1516 which states only water, barley and hops can be used in the brewing process.
Over the last hundred years, this German staple has become just as ingrained in the Namibian way of life. Speak to any Namibian and they believe their lack of hangovers is due to the quality of their beers.
Do you fancy enjoying a plate of bratwurst and sauerkraut with a classic German beer in an African desert? Then have a browse of our Namibia group tours.