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In Deep – Namibia & Windhoek

 

There is nothing to prepare you for the profusion and mixture of scenery, wildlife, and the sheer enormity of elemental landscapes that await you in Namibia. Animals gathering around watering holes in Etosha National Park. The huge granite intrusion of Spitzkoppe dominating the endless desert landscape. Miles and miles of windswept beaches along the Skeleton Coast, or the enormous burnt-red sand dunes at Sossusvlei. Namibia is truly a land of vast, untold beauty.

The people here are equally incredible. Namibia, like most countries in Africa, was colonized in the late 1800s, first under German control until 1915, and by South Africa after that. A guerrilla war against the South African occupation started in 1966, and the country eventually gained its independence in 1990. Since then, Namibia has done remarkably well, due largely to the commitment of its eclectic mix of peoples to making the unified country work.

If you visit Namibia, you may come across and meet the Himba people who have maintained their traditional nomadic ways, as well as the San Bushmen. There’s also the (incredibly!) German colonial feel of Bavarian Swakopmund, complete with half-timbered houses. You’ll pinch yourself if you visit the town—as you may think you are actually in Bavaria! German is still widely spoken in Swakopmund, along with Afrikaans and English.

Namibia’s people consist of 11 major ethnic groups scattered throughout the country, with a general acceptance of diversity. From the nomadic Himba to the urban elite, Namibia today is largely free of tribal conflict. At a 1993 conference on tribalism, Prime Minister Hage Geingob summarized the issue by saying, “for too long we have thought of ourselves as Hereros, Namas, Afrikaaners, Germans, Ovambos. We must now start to think of ourselves as Namibians.” The Namibian population is estimated to be just under 2.5 million. These days, Namibia is renowned for its diverse cultures. It is also one of the least populated countries in the world. All those vast, open spaces with little traffic makes it perfect for biking—all roads leading us to a wonderful variety of peoples and landscapes.

 

Windhoek: Namibia’s Capital

In precolonial times, this area was known to the Khoisan people for its hot springs, which are still a feature of the town. Jonker Afrikaaner established the first settlement in the Klein Windhoek valley in 1840. Two missionaries were invited to the flourishing settlement in 1842, and reported back that a church big enough to seat 500 people had been built here, as well as established gardens and irrigated fields. For the next 20 years, the community prospered as the centre of commerce between the Herero and the Oorlam/Nama. After Jonker Afrikaner’s death, his followers dispersed and the settlement was abandoned.

In 1890, the Germans were being given the runaround by another powerful Nama leader, Hendrik Witbooi, whose face adorns the country’s banknotes. The Germans serendipitously retreated to Windhoek, an area that was under no particular rule at the time due to the death of the ruling Herero leader. By the time the next Herero chief had been anointed and the clan returned to the region, the Germans had already half-completed a fort. The settlement went from strength to strength and, with the completion of the railway line from Swakopmund to Windhoek in 1902, things were figuratively and literally “full steam ahead” for the Germans to expand and make Windhoek the commercial and cultural centre of the colony.

In the 1960s, the capital was further developed to pursue the apartheid policies of South Africa, who saw Namibia as their fifth province. Forced removals were instigated and the Katatura (“the place we do not like to live”) and Khomasdal townships were created with black and coloured townships respectively. Today, these divisions are still largely in place, albeit solely along economic lines.

Things to Do in Windhoek


THE NAMIBIA CRAFT CENTRE

You can literally spend half a day here! The quality of the craftsmanship is outstanding and one will definitely do some shopping as they have some beautiful and unusual things. From handmade Himba perfumes to prints that replicate San rock art, to contemporary artwork, baskets, weaving and textiles, beading—you name it, and you are likely to find whatever craft at one of the stalls! If you have only one day in Windhoek, this is where you should go.

NATIONAL EARTH SCIENCES MUSEUM

This museum will be of interest to anyone remotely fascinated in geology & palaeontology, featuring rocks, fossils, minerals and even meteorites. Even better, admission is free!

INDEPENDENCE MEMORIAL MUSEUM

Worth visiting to get a handle on the more recent history of the country—from the anti-colonial struggle to its independence.

Where to eat in Windhoek

OLIVE EXCLUSIVE

Our favourite place to stay in Windhoek, this hotel features a great in-house restaurant featuring seasonal ingredients in a well-appointed, yet informal setting.

NICE 
Also home to the Namibian Institute of Culinary Education (NICE), you will  find a great restaurant and bar here, a popular choice in town.

The Stellenbosch Wine Bar & Bistro

With lovely piazza-style setting, complete with a central courtyard fountain. With excellent food and a tremendous diversity of wines (mostly South African). This is another popular local spot to frequent!

 

Adventure World has released new Exodus Cycling Holidays Brochure

Adventure World has released its 2018/19 Exodus Cycling brochure, with an additional 12 new trips to the collection.

Featuring over 90 different rides in over 40 countries around the globe, the 2018/19 range is incredibly varied, ranging from self-guided routes in Europe, to cultural road trips, off road expeditions and the more experienced drop bar trips.   “Our Exodus cycle programs perfectly compliment the Adventure World tailor-made portfolio as most clients add our experiential product to top and tail their unique cycle programs,” commented Neil Rodgers Managing Director of Adventure World.

The most popular program in South America is the Cycling Peru, Machu Picchu to Lake Titicaca trip.  Which gives clients a unique perspective as they cycle among 4000m high peaks and explore the spectacular mountaintop city of Machu Picchu, buzzing Cusco and marvel at Inca ruins like Sacsayhuaman and Pisac.

One of the most requested trips in Asia is the two week Cycling in Japan program which covers the best of rural Japan without compromising on the cultural highlights and iconic cities of Tokyo and Kyoto, perfect for first-time visitors who wants to explore the best of Japan on two wheels.

In Europe, Cycling the Italian & Swiss Lakes is a perfect option for travellers keen to explore the food and wine regions of Italy as well as easy cycling roads. This eight-day trip starts in the village of Armeno on Lake Orta and ends in Menaggio on Lake Como. Also, for a limited time, Exodus is offering 10% off 2017 and 2018 trips, exclusions apply.

For more information contact Travel Masters on 1300 852 799!

Crystal Goes From Sea to ‘Skye’ With A New Private Jet

After a few busy years solidifying its reputation as one of luxury cruising’s leaders – a yacht, new river ships, and a renovated ocean liner – Crystal Cruises aimed a bit higher (literally) with its next opulent offering. The company debuted its new private charter jet, Crystal Skye, to the media earlier this week during an official handover ceremony in Seattle. It’s the world’s largest privately owned tour jet, and our friends at Virtuoso joined Crystal CEO Edie Rodriguez for a sneak-preview tour.

The Boeing 777-200LR can typically fit around 300 passengers, but Crystal retrofitted its jet to seat only 88 – in a very comfortable manner.  Ergonomic seats lie fully flat, plush carpeting covers the extra-wide aisles, and every seat has a 24-inch monitor with live TV – plus unlimited WiFi and phone calls.  The front of the jet’s dining and lounge area seats 30; it’s a bright space with sleek, white-lacquer gathering tables and a gorgeous, fully stocked bar. You will forgot that you are actually on an airplane!

The Skye’s ergonomic, lie-flat seats

Crystal Skye can fly for up to 18 hours nonstop. Imagine jetting off to Paris with your closest friends, a Michelin-starred meal, a bottle (or two) of vintage Bordeaux from the back-galley wine cellar, followed by turn-down service at your seat. (The crew can kick up the wow factor as high as you want it, from monogrammed bathrobes to custom menus.)

“Crystal Cruises has put its infamous touch on the way people fly, making not just the destination the reward, but the journey too,” says Beth Butzlaff, Virtuoso’s vice president of cruise. “With a personal chef, a sommelier, and a mixologist, Skye is an experience that could only be described as first-class.”

A full bar– mixologist included – on board the Crystal Skye

Available for private charter, the world’s newest, largest and most luxurious private jet travels the globe on customized itineraries, offering a boutique collection of curated experiences in each destination.  Contact Travel Masters for more details….

Scandinavian Food Secrets; Learn About What Makes It Special

Nordic food-traditions stayed under the radar for a long time but it’s finally getting the recognition it deserves. With a sudden surge in world-class local cuisine being cooked up in capitals like Copenhagen and Oslo, Nordic food is getting attention way past its borders. What makes Nordic food so special?

Scandinavia has always been ideal for growing hardy, cold-climate produce ranging from fruit and berries to vegetables and tubers thanks to the cool, clean climate. Pasture-fed cattle, sheep and goats provide an abundance of high-quality meat and dairy thanks to not only lush grazing lands but strict animal welfare regulations. Its rugged coastlines have provided fresh seafood for thousands of years; introducing the world to traditional recipes such as gravlax, pickled herring and bacalao (dried cod).

Brekstad, Norway

Light, short summers and long, dark winters laid the foundation for what’s now considered the trendy simplicity of Scandinavian cuisine.  For generations an ample harvest had to last through the scarce and cold winter that followed. Pickling, preserving, smoking, freezing, fermenting and drying were traditional recipes and methods used to bring seasonal produce into winter and beyond.

If you are visiting Scandinavia in autumn you’ll discover and enjoy Nordic cuisine at its best. With the berry and fruit season slowly coming to an end, you’ll discover a wide range of seasonal vegetables on offer. Some are trusty classics like beet, leeks and potatoes, while others less familiar outside Scandinavia: kohlrabi, chanterelles and red archipelago-onion. Where’s the best place to embrace the variety and flavours of autumn? Shop the local farmers and food-markets.

The slow-food movement was a global phenomenon, and in many ways it changed Scandinavians perception to the food they grew up with. With a newfound appreciation of familiar ingredients combined with traditional preparation and preserving methods, they have embraced markets with a broader focus on local, seasonal and organic produce.

Gravlax | Loganberries | Moose | Pastries

While the culture of slow-food is relatively new, it’s about “re-inventing the wheel” and returning to a calmer pace of life. It’s about sampling, touching and smelling local produce while talking to the stall-holders who passionately grew and prepared the products on offer, rather than rushing through supermarket-aisles on the way home from work. The locals have embraced the weekend markets and take pride in the cultural heritage and traditions that the food represents.

What can you expect to find at a Nordic market in autumn? Apart from fresh produce, you’ll find plenty of preserves made from the fading summer-season’s berries and fruits like cordials, jams, jellies, chutneys and sauces. You’ll also find honey, cheeses, juices, ice-creams, fresh dairy, bread, eggs, baked goods, smoked and cured fish and meats, micro brewed speciality beers, dressings, herbs and dips with a Nordic twist. In other words; everything you’d need for a perfect day out and then some. Make sure you go market shopping while hungry – god apetitt!

Nyhavn, Copenhagen

Travel Masters partners with 50 Degrees North to bring you the very best in Scandinavian travel. Why not call us and discuss your next Nordic Adventure!

What To Do In Philadelphia

Philadelphia is at the centre of it all. Conveniently located in the Northeast United States, the “City of Brotherly Love” is the second-most populous city in the East is just 90 minutes from New York City and two hours from Washington, D.C., by train.  You will be captivated by Philadelphia’s 21st-century city where an inspired, young, creative culture is blooming and partnering with innovators and educators. With a spirit of independence, the city and region are giving birth to a new generation of energised people designing this Modern Renaissance City.

Feel like a Philadelphian as you walk day and night through the vibrant streetscape and immerse yourself in America’s Old and New World. Picturesque and friendly streets are lined with parks, rivers, shops, public art, restaurants and museums. Everything is within walking distance from downtown, including the main attractions of the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall, Museums and Art Galleries.  Visit Philadelphia for its urban sophistication, exploding culinary scene, and manageable scale. Stroll Rittenhouse Square, the epitome of good city living that surrounds a cozy namesake park.   Visit the Barnes Foundation’s buzzworthy locale (2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway; 215/278-7000)—a 93,000-square-foot building with gardens, galleries, and 2,500 art objects—and the Rodin Museum (2154 Benjamin Franklin Parkway; 215/763-8100). As the sun sets, catch an outdoor concert at The Mann Center for the Performing Arts (5201 Parkside Avenue; 215/546-7900).  However at some point you are going to get hungry, and there is more than just Philly Cheese Steaks in this city!  Here are our suggestions in how to fill the gaps between sightseeing…..

Eat
A flower-filled oasis in the city, Talula’s Garden (210 W. Washington Square; 215/592-7787) specialises in farm-to-table cuisine. Mediterranean cuisine by way of Israel is on offer at rustic Zahav (237 Saint James Place; 215/625-8800). The Dandelion (124 S. 18th Street; 215/558-2500) bills itself as a gastropub, but it feels more like a British men’s club.

Drink
Village Whiskey (118 S. 20th Street; 215/665-1088) lives up to its name, with flights of obscure Scotch, bourbon, and rye—plus duck-fat fries and the best burger in town. Don’t mind the dark alley that leads to The Ranstead Room (2013 Ranstead Street; 215/563-3330). The faux-speakeasy’s lighting is dim, the music’s jazzy, and the expertly mixed tequila honeysuckles are out of sight. Tria Café (123 S. 18th Street; 215/972-8742), a narrow wine bar with a sociable crowd of after-work imbibers, pours 50 wines by the glass, with nearly as many beers on draft.

Shop
Being well dressed in Philly means shopping at Boyds (1818 Chestnut Street; 215/564-9000), an old-school jewel box housing a thoughtfully selected collection of designer clothing in a turn-of-the-century building. Between fittings, check out the sushi bar and art gallery. More Than Old (144-146 N. Third Street; 215/922-0246) is a go-to spot for lovers of Mad Men-era cocktail shakers, martini glasses, and art deco ice buckets. A few doors down, Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction (116 N. 3rd Street; 215/922-2600) specialises in clothing, art books, and locally produced leather goods. Ask for a sample of the owner’s latest project: liquors made from recipes popular just before the start of Prohibition.

Make sure you include Philadephia in any itinerary to the Northeastern United States, and we can help you with hotel, sightseeing and even restaurant reservations!

 

Exceptional Experiences: Morocco

Its location at the intersection of Europe and Africa make Morocco a real crossroads bordered by the waters of the Mediterranean and open to the vast stretches of the Atlantic Ocean. This “farthest land of the setting sun” is rich in contrasts, a destination that beckons you to discover two millennia of history.

Here where influences converge, you will find vestiges of the great Mediterranean civilizations, such as the Roman ruins at Volubilis in the north and architectural works attesting to the old French presence in Rabat. Your curiosity will be piqued by the treasures of Muslim civilizations scattered throughout the rest of the country, including the Kasbah of the Udayas, the green expanses of the Menara gardens and many other examples of the myriad dynasties that succeeded one another.

The landscapes themselves are magnificent. Morocco features both sea and mountain and is home to the full range of Mediterranean climates, which surrender to the sands of the Sahara. The country serves up marvelous vistas that you will enjoy soaking in and discovering for yourself. With its mix of diverse, captivating panoramas and a rich kaleidoscope of culture, Morocco is an unbeatable destination.

Morocco has been around for thousands of years and has inherited centuries of tradition. And yet this kingdom is not the least bit frozen in time. It has a vibrant culture that is expressed each day in the little details that make up daily routines and habits, as well as in celebrations and rituals. Spend some time here and soak up Morocco’s irresistible lifestyle.  The best approach is to walk through her cities and villages and experience the narrow alleys of ancient neighborhoods. This brings you close to the people: talk to them! They are certain to invite you to have a cup of Moroccan tea, a time-honoured ritual of hospitality and ceremony.

You should also experience day-to-day life. Morocco and its inhabitants espouse an enviable Mediterranean lifestyle that has been recognized by UNESCO. This lifestyle comprises practices, foods and symbols that bring pleasure to every day and are sure to captivate you as well.

The kingdom loves its celebrations, which punctuate the calendar. One of the types of events that bring Moroccans together are its famous moussems, festive religious events. Do not miss the Tan-Tan moussem, which is especially well known and has been listed on the Intangible Cultural Heritage register since 2008. The EssaouiraGnaouas festival is also highly recommended. These gatherings are opportunities for you to interact with and immerse yourself in the different cultures that make Morocco such a rich, diverse country.

This is but a glimpse of the myriad cultures that still thrive in Morocco. Work your way across the country and get to know these treasures of Morocco’s intangible cultural heritage.  To inspire your Moroccan experience, here are just a few experiences to inspire you…

Mint Tea with Mountain Berbers

Break homemade bread with a traditional Berber family in the Atlas Mountains. From the base of 13,671-foot-high Djebel Toubkal, the highest peak in North Africa, you’ll ride mules to a remote village, where Mohamed will welcome you to his clan’s humble home for a genuine Berber breakfast with fresh-brewed mint tea. Share laughter and soak in the stunning views and authentic atmosphere, complete with cows, chickens and sheep. Afterward, another feast for the senses awaits during lunch at Kasbah Tamadot, a luxury estate owned by Sir Richard Branson.

Lunch Amidst the Saharan Dunes

Escape the buzzing charm of Marrakech for the vast silence of the Sahara Desert. A private jet whisks you high above the Atlas Mountains, landing in Errachidia for a four-by-four excursion to the nearby village of Rissani. There, you’ll explore a traditional Moroccan market before entering the Saharan wilderness on camelback. A private mobile camp has been set up exclusively for you next to the highest dune, where you’ll enjoy a delightful lunch of traditional Moroccan cuisine.

Heli-Skiing in the High Atlas

Go extreme on a heli-ski fantasy in the High Atlas Mountains. Grab your boots and board a chopper for the dramatic ride to the highest ski resort in Africa; landing at more than 10,000 feet, you’ll find the perfect terrain of untouched slopes. Blaze your way along wild paths through deep powder, surrounded by a majestic landscape—truly one of the world’s most spectacular wilderness skiing experiences.

The Medina Square (Djemaa el-Fna) in Marrakesh

Experience the beating heart of Marrakesh.  The centre of Marrakesh that so effortlessly involves you and keeps you coming back for more.  During the day the Medina Square is predominantly occupied by stalls, however, at night this bustling market stall is transformed into a UNESCO Heritage Site. The square comes alive with traditional music, Chleuh dancing boys, snake charmers and Berber storytellers. As darkness falls, the shutters on the stalls begin to lift and the square is filled with the aroma of spices as traditional dishes are served to the mingling locals and tourists.