Yesterday we visited the three main attractions and UNESCO world heritage sites from the time Gondar used to be Ethiopia’s capital; Debre Birhan Selassie Church, the Royal Enclosure which include Fasilides castle, Iyasu’s Palace, Dawit’s Hall, a banqueting hall, stables, Mentewab’s Castle, a chancellery, library and three churches built for the Emperors in the 16th century, and Fasilides’ Bath which is a pool bigger than olympic size with a small castle structure in the middle. These days the complex is used for big celebrations.
Once again we had a guide who couldn’t believe that I’m not married with six kids yet and seemed to make it his personal mission to make sure I enjoyed every part of the tour.
In the afternoon I took advantage of the free wireless internet in the hotel. The restaurant looks a bit like a Starbucks with all the laptops people use. Of course at the restaurant they make no money as they go by the old Ethiopian way of serving people. Tons of waiters stand around but wouldn’t think of asking you what you want to drink or eat. As in many places I brought my own water and nobody complained. The night before we had a classic dinner where each of us got what we didn’t order. I had cordon bleu with rice although I had ordered the side salad with it. The pasta and fresh vegetable that was advertised with it on the menu only arrived after I complained and the fresh vegetable turned out to be a potato.
I skipped dinner on Tuesday with a premonition of a night spent on the old porcelain throne due to a yummy but old samosa I had bought from an uninspired street vendor. I was right and the night was not fun. I was just glad that for once we had a hotel with running water (and that unlike everyone else I have not had this more often on this trip).
Today we walked through Gondar, checked out the market and dodged plenty of curious people who simply wanted to talk. Once again I was asked which sport I play, one guy thought he recognized me from the South African rugby team.
We found a movie theater but could not decipher which movie was playing or when. The confused person at the box office first claimed that nothing was playing there, and then that the movie would start at 4pm Ethiopian time which is 10pm Western time and therefore really unlikely since the whole country will have long shut down by then. There were two Amharic movie posters showing two women fighting over a guy each, it looked like awful romantic comedies with lots of overacting.
Lunch was another winner, at the Golden Gate Bridge restaurant where service again was elusive. Despite a separate listing on the menu you could not order chips on their own, but they did arrive with the burger. My chicken stock soup was actually cream based but did contain many real pieces of chicken, I was impressed. Usually the main ingredient in soups is garlic but not this time.
Gondar has about half a million people but you wouldn’t know it from visiting. It seems like a small compact place with a nice vibe. The main mode of transport are still the blue tuk tuks with their furry dashboards and side curtains or other frilly decorations. As in all other places random donkeys, cows and goats merge with traffic, some even autonomously as if they’re just following their daily routine. At the market we found no touristy items but plenty of clothes that were definitely resold items from Western clothes drops from charity. I mean why else would ‘New Jersey boys and girls club’ tshirts make it onto this continent? I saw a whole bunch of dresses that no African woman would ever wear, much too revealing for their standards or just not practical. I wonder how often the stalls and shops move their inventory.
There seems to be no rhyme or reason for the cost of electronic items, e.g. I found the same Sony camera battery I use for about $20 (in Cape Town they wanted $100 and up) but a memory card was at least 150% of our regular price. Cameron bought two cowskin seat muffs for under $5 at a stall that also sold purple and flower print coffins, if I knew how to get them home I would have done the same.
The whole place seems to be sponsored by Pepsi, there is a Pepsi distributor here, but it’s still weird to see even the ‘traffic control’ painted in the corporate blue and red. There are no diet drinks available as obviously the Ethiopians don’t suffer from obesity.