Windhoek is located in the middle of the country, about 1 720m above sea level, in a long valley with mountains on either side. In the Auas Mountains just to the south, a peak known as the Moltkeblick reaches a height of 2 479m, the second highest point in the country. The rugged Khomas Hochland rises to the west with hill upon hill as far as the Namib Desert.
As the capital of Namibia and the only proclaimed city, Windhoek is the seat of the legislative, executive and judicial arms of government. Although around 13% of all Namibians live in the city, it is one of the smallest capitals in the world, with a total population of only 234 000.
Nevertheless it offers international visitors all the necessities and amenities of a modern city. It is also the hub for all modes of travel within Namibia, with Hosea Kutako -- the only international airport -- some 40 km away.
Windhoek grew into a town with a strongly European ethos after Imperial Germany installed a military garrison in 1890 under command of Major Curt von Francois. More than a decade after independence, his statue still stands outside the municipal offices, although it is open to question whether he was the true founder of Windhoek.
The town was given municipal status in 1909 and proclaimed a city in 1965. While control of the country passed to South Africa in 1915, examples of historical architecture from German times remain, particularly on the hill above the central business district.
The oldest building in the city, the Alte Feste or Old Fort built to garrison the first contingent of colonial troops, now houses a historical museum.
The German Lutheran Christuskirche (Christchurch), a gingerbread church built from sandstone in 1910 in a blend of neo- Romanesque, art nouveau and Gothic styles, stands on a traffic island in the middle of Robert Mugabe Avenue. Its stained-glass windows were a gift from the German emperor.
In the Parliament Gardens across the road from the Christuskirche, the National Assembly and National Council are housed in the wrylynicknamed Tintenpalast (1913) or Ink Palace, where legislators and bureaucrats have toiled ever since the country was a German colony.
Such relics notwithstanding, Windhoek nowadays comes across as a fairly cosmopolitan city with a slight, but perceptible African flavour.
In early times Nama and Herero pastoralists contended for ownership of perennial waters situated in a valley where the present-day suburb of Klein Windhoek stands. The place was called /Ai//Gams in the Nama language and Otjomuise in Herero for the steam that rose from its hot springs.
In 1837 a British explorer, Sir James Alexander, came to hear of the springs. He was so impressed that he named them -- sight unseen -- Queen Adelaide's Bath in honour of his queen. He put the name on a map he drew, the first of the country as a whole, or at least the parts of it known to foreigners.
Queen Adelaide's Bath did not stick. Neither did Elberfeld, the name Rhenish missionaries adopted after their arrival in 1842, nor Concordiaville as Wesleyan missionaries later called it, when they replaced the Rhenish in 1844.
It had earlier become a place of permanent settlement when Chief Jonker Afrikaner and his clan of Orlam marauders laid claim to the springs in 1840. A people of mixed ancestry, Khoekhoe with European, they spoke Cape Dutch, an early form of Afrikaans. They had horses and guns, unlike the hapless Namas and Hereros, whom they easily supplanted.
It is believed that Jonker Afrikaner named the place Winterhoek (Wintry Corner) after mountains in the Cape of Good Hope where he was born. In correspondence he rendered it as Wind Hoock. So the name became Windhuk when the Germans colonised the country.
The final change of name was also phonetic, although it too resulted from political change. Windhoek is the Afrikaans spelling of Windhuk. Officially adopted after South Africa replaced Germany in South West Africa, the name only coincidentally translates as "Windy Corner" and does not imply that Windhoek is a particularly windy place.
4 L岩tz Street, behind public library.
Traditional cultures & artefacts, fauna & flora, bird room.
Weekdays, 09:00-18:00 in summer, 09:00-17:00 in winter; weekends, opens one hour later; closed 13:00-14:00 for lunch; closed public holidays.
Alte Feste Museum
Robert Mugabe Avenue, opposite Christuskirche.
Independence struggle, national symbols, colonial artefacts, prehistoric art.
Same days and hours as Owela Museum, except that museum only closes for lunch on weekends, 12:30-15:00.
Geological Survey Museum
Aviation Road, near Eros Airport.
Namibian fossils, rock samples and meteorites.
Open weekdays only, 08:00-13:00 & 14:00-17:00; closed public holidays.
Railway Station, off Bahnhoff Street.
History of railway system in Namibia.
Open weekdays only, 09:00-13:00 & 14:00-17:00; closed public holidays.
Located in the Post Street Mall, the Meteorite Fountain contains 31 meteorites, estimated to be 600 million years old. They are from the largest meteorite shower known to have fallen on earth. It scattered over some 20 000km², with the highest concentration centred on Brukkaros, a mountain in southern Namibia. The meteorites are believed to be pieces of a body with a mass of 21t which fragmented in outer space. The largest fragment weighed 650kg. They are known as octahedrites, a common type of iron meteorite.
Entry from National Botanical Research Institute in Orban Street.
The 11ha garden contains the densest stand of mopane aloes (Aloe littoralis) in Namibia and large succulents such as bottle trees, quiver trees and candelabra euphorbias.
The aloes flower in April and May.
Open daily, Monday to Friday, 08:00-17:00.
Closed public holidays.
NATIONAL ART GALLERY
Corner of Robert Mugabe Avenue & John Meinert Street.
Permanent exhibition of Namibian art. Open 08:00-17:00, Tuesday to Friday; Saturday, 09:00-14:00.
Closed on Sunday & public holidays.
National Theatre of Namibia
Robert Mugabe Avenue, next to National Art Gallery.
Inquiries: tel 23 4633 (box office) or 23 7966 (management).
Alte Brauerei, 84 Tal Street.
Inquiries: tel 22 5059.
DAAN VILJOEN GAME PARK
Situated in the rolling hills of the Khomas Hochland, Daan Viljoen is 15km west of Windhoek on route C28. A small park in highland savannah, only 40km² in extent, it does not hold a lot of game, but the species are fairly diverse.
It is possible to see baboon (Papio ursinus), blue wildebeest (Connochaetes taurinus), eland (Taurotragus oryx), gemsbok (Oryx gazella), kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), Hartmann's mountain zebra (Equus zebra hartmannae), springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis) and steenbok (Raphicerus campestris). Some 200 species of bird are found in the park.
Facilities include a swimming pool, a willow-lined dam for picnics and hiking trails.
GROSS-BARMEN HOT SPRINGS
A spa located 94km north-west of Windhoek along routes B1 and M87 via Okahandja. Fed from a hot mineral spring, the bath in the thermal hall is fitted with adjustable benches, massage spouts and safety rails. An outdoor pool is filled with cooled spring water. Other facilities include a restaurant, picnic spots and tennis courts.
The Lie of the Land......