The small Namibian city of Swakopmund known as Swakop to the locals has a discernible Germanic flavor and design, dating back to Namibia's colonial days as German Southwest Africa. Today, the trappings of a beach resort are mixed in with that Old World charm. Imagine Bavaria by the sea. There's even an Oktoberfest.
The city is different from the rest of the country in other ways, not least in its temperate climate, which offers respite from the heat of the surrounding Namib Desert. And as Namibia has grown in stature as a safari destination, so Swakopmund, relatively undeveloped and off the beaten track until the 1970s, has quietly blossomed. Hollywood has even made an appearance: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie's daughter Shiloh was born there in 2006, and the city is a location for the current U.S. remake of the 1960s British television series The Prisoner. Here are five of its main attractions.
1 Shark Fishing
The Atlantic coast off Swakopmund is renowned for its exceptional fishing, with shark providing the greatest challenge. Aquanaut Tours, aquanauttours.com, can organize a day's fishing at sea or from the shore. Don't worry, the sharks are returned to the water after being caught.
2 Swakopmund Museum
Founded in 1951, this privately run facility, swakopmund-museum.de, has imaginative collections and photographs documenting Namibia's colonial history and indigenous peoples. The sections devoted to the latter are exceptional, reflecting a relatively recent acknowledgement of the importance of ethnic groups such as the San, Nama and Herero.
3 Swakopmund Brauhaus
One of the most charismatic places in town, the Brauhaus bar-restaurant, tel: (264-64) 402 214, makes you feel as though you are in deepest Germany, but 30 years ago. Locals go there for the beer especially the Hansa, Tafel and Windhoek lagers and the meat, particularly wiener schnitzel and game such as oryx and kudu.
4 The Dunes
Namibia's dunes vary enormously in shape, color (anything from cream to red) and size; the largest in the country can top 100 meters in height. The most impressive and tallest in the coastal belt close to Swakopmund is known as Dune 7, just off the C14 highway, about six kilometers from town. This is the place to sandboard an activity that can be organized by the Desert Explorers Adventure Center, africa-adventure.org/d/desertex, which also offers quad biking, skydiving and more. All activities are carefully controlled to make sure the impact on the desert is minimal.
5 Peter's Antiques
This shop on Moltke Strasse, tel: (264-64) 405 624, is wonderfully eclectic and completely different from any other in town. Tribal artifacts from across sub-Saharan Africa include masks from Kenya, spears from the Congo and many items from Namibia's ethnic population. These are mixed with relics from the earliest days of the German colonial era: old railway maps, stamps, books, glass bottles, tin boxes and more. The shop has been going more than 30 years and its dusty appearance, whiff of African leather and wood and collection of German and Africa ephemera capture Swakopmund's dual personality.