Africa Vignette 3: Germany Enters the Scramble

Tanzania generally comprises the former German East Africa. Germany came late to the Scramble for Africa, as the Europeans’ colonizing land grabs came to be known, and left early, because it was stripped of its colonies after the Great War. Its important colonies were only four – today’s Togo, Cameroon and Namibia along the west coast and today’s Tanzania, in the east.

For a while, German Chancellor Bismarck hung back from colonizing Africa with plaintive realpolitik: “Here is Russia and here is France,” he said, “with Germany in the middle. That is my map of Africa.”

Bismarck was no cosmopolitan, hardly a product of the European salon. A provincial, a scion of Prussia, he declared “The only healthy basis of a large state which differentiates it essentially from a petty state, is state egoism and not romanticism.” And by 1884, as Britain and France were madly laying their African stakes, a sense the Germans called Torschlusspanik, or “door-closing-panic,” took hold in Germany, a fear that it might be left out. Traders felt mercantile pressure from their British and French rivals, and let the government know it.

Maybe it was best to get while the getting was still good. Bismarck reexamined, applied a dose of egoism and with the support and urging of business interests from Hamburg and Bremen, Bismarck instructed the German explorer Dr. Gustav Nachtigal to seize Cameroon, Togoland and Southwest Africa, which is now Namibia.

Climbing sand dunes in Sossusvlei, Namibia.

See more photos from Namibia in the Namibia Gallery at Earthphotos.com.

Where is Nambia?

A number of years ago my Finnish wife and I attended a reception for the Nobel laureate and former Finnish Prime Minister Martti Ahtisaari. In the 1970s Mr. Ahtisaari worked on the question of Namibian independence from South Africa, something the local host mentioned in his introduction. Unfortunately, and to much snickering, the host pronounced Namibia as “Nambia.” We put it down to our living in the provinces, way down in Atlanta.

Alas, the American president does not share this excuse. Speaking in non-provincial New York yesterday, Mr. Trump declared, “Nambia’s health system is increasingly self-sufficient.” Written copies of his remarks reflected the country’s actual name. This makes it clear enough to me that the president of the United States has never heard of Namibia. Sure, Namibia is a fairly obscure country, and too many people fail to differentiate between the astounding array of cultures on the African continent. In fact, some even think Africa is a country. But it’s still disappointing.

And unseemly. Beyond falling short of the ideal that our leader should be a student of the world, and beyond the obvious lack of a staff willing and able to head off stupid mistakes (if Rex Tillerson was Secretary of State, by golly he’d fix it), Mr. Trump’s engagement with Africa seems to be summed up in his further remark that, “Africa has tremendous business potential. I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich.” Kevin Sieff makes the comparison:

And if you’re unfamiliar with King Leopold, well just sort of never mind.

Namibia, by the way, is just slap flat gorgeous. Have a look at some photos in the Namibia Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.

Africa Vignette Series

n1

At the end of the month we’re heading to the Maasai Mara for the annual wildebeest migration. Between now and then, here is a blizzard of little African vignettes. They are just short little bits, not in any particular order, not particularly edited. Maybe they’ll entice you to visit too one day. Hope you enjoy them. All the photos in this series are from EarthPhotos.com.

7 Namibia

Late in the afternoon our pilot, a very young girl with blond hair and blazing blue eyes, took three of us up in a Cessna for a trip out over the dunes. She explained that at the coast (55 kilometers away), sometimes they run safaris on the beach, so if we saw any cars we had to let her know immediately!

That was curious. Why?

They could spoil our fun, she grinned. We were required to fly at 3000 feet, but out there she said she would drop us illegally to 500.

Where in the world can you flaunt rules like this if not on the desolate coast of bloody Namibia!? And so we did.

We retraced the morning’s route from the airstrip across the road from our lodge, into the park and down along the tar road.

They’ve numbered the dunes, 1 to 70 or 80, and we did a pinwheel around Dune 45, somehow an icon. Bernard had stopped for us to see it, too, driving us in the morning, and indeed, folks had been already there and climbing it.

Before sundown, though, dune 45, and all of the dunes, stood deserted. Everyone had to be out of the park at night.

We did a long turn around “Big Daddy,” which they repute to be the world’s tallest sand dune, and in the same sweep took in the dead vlei and Sossusvlei, and the dune we’d climbed in the morning. They call that one “Big Mama.”

The road ends here and beyond, nothing but dunes, horizon to horizon, and no place for engine trouble.

This entire series of vignettes will reside here, in the Africa section. If you enjoy them please have a look at my two travel books, Common Sense and Whiskey and Visiting Chernobyl.

Textures: A Simple Example

In yesterday's Wednesday HDR post of Mt. Cotopaxi, Ecuador with an added texture, I suggested you go out and shoot your own textures and experiment with them in Photoshop. Thought I'd show you an example. This is a photo of the docks at Windhoek, Namibia:

Windhoek

This is just some random, ordinary wall I shot in Riga, Latvia:

Textureexample

Here they are, combined in Photoshop:

Namibiawithtexture
This was one of my early efforts with textures and it surely will never win any awards, but it also didn't cost $100 – $400, and I learned a whole lot in the process. Just get out there and try it for yourself.

Nambia, Namibia … Whatever

Nambia

Former Finnish President, international fixer and Nobel laureate Martti Ahtisaari once gave a talk in our town and we went to see him. The distinguished gentleman who introduced him to the distinguished crowd at Atlanta's distinguished Piedmont Driving Club listed among his achievements "helping to achieve independence for Nambia."

We visited Nambia a few years back, and found that the locals actually call it "Namibia."

•••••

Late in the afternoon our pilot, a very young girl with blond hair and blazing blue eyes, took three of us up in a Cessna for a trip out over the dunes. She explained that at the coast (55 kilometers away), sometimes they run safaris on the beach, so if we saw any cars we had to let her know immediately!

That was curious. Why?

They could spoil our fun, she grinned. We were required to fly at 3000 feet, but out there she said she would drop us illegally to 500.

Where in the world can you flaunt rules like this if not on the desolate coast of bloody Namibia!? And so we did.

We retraced the morning’s route from the airstrip across the road from our lodge, into the park and down along the tar road.

They’ve numbered the dunes, 1 to 70 or 80, and we did a pinwheel around Dune 45, somehow an icon. Bernard had stopped for us to see it, too, driving us in the morning, and indeed, folks had been already there and climbing it.

Before sundown, though, dune 45, and all of the dunes, stood deserted. Everyone had to be out of the park at night.

We did a long turn around “Big Daddy,” which they repute to be the world’s tallest sand dune, and in the same sweep took in the dead vlei and Sossusvlei, and the dune we’d climbed in the morning. They call that one “Big Mama.”

The road ends here and beyond, nothing but dunes, horizon to horizon, and no place for engine trouble.

The coast gained focus, and in time we cruised over a fallen-in diamond mining settlement. The sight of it was jarring, its man-made perpendiculars entirely out of sorts with the natural swirls of the desert, which often resembled nothing more than crumpled bed sheets.

Shipwreck

The shipwreck on the Namibian beach.

We came down low along the water’s edge to see seal colonies, dozens, that stretched for miles, up to a shipwreck and then back over the dunes to a curious landscape, low green vegetation spotted with circles they called fairy circles. They reckon trees died and somehow poisoned the soil, and nothing grows in the circles.

•••••

For complicated reasons we had one way tickets to Namibia. Those thin, slick, mimeographed handwritten ones.

Continue reading

Terror, Terror Everywhere

  Airnamibia
Oddest story of the day:

"A suspect package containing a detonator, batteries and a ticking clock was found on a suitcase checked onto a Munich-bound plane, German police have said.

The bag was detected before it could be loaded on the flight from Namibia."

It's always something, ain't it? It's just that this time, it comes from about as far away as it gets. Of course, Namibia was a German colony (hence the flight – Air Berlin AB7377 from Windhoek to Munich) and just now Germany is taut with terror tension.

But note the low-key way the Namibian authorities handled things:

"It was detected at the luggage screening point prior to loading, said the Namibia Airports Company (NAC).

"We are still investigating the suspicious object," a Namibian police spokesman told the BBC. "It's too early to say if it's terrorist-related. We will only pronounce when the investigation is completed."

Further security checks were carried out on passengers, luggage and the plane itself before the LTU/Air Berlin flight was allowed to depart.

No explosives were found in the bag, Air Berlin said.

All passengers had to identify their own bags before they were reloaded.

However, cargo due to be loaded on the flight was kept back for further investigation, said a statement from NAC."

They held the cargo back, put everybody's bags out, had the passengers point to their own, loaded everybody and their bags up and sent them home.

It's fortunate for the Namibian Airports Company that Namibia has no non-stop flights to the USA. The TSA would transform Windhoek airport, a casual, relaxed, shoulders-down kind of place, into a grim, locked-down, angst-laden perpetrator-processing boiler room filled with bins of empty water bottles and toothpaste tubes, brooking no dissent as passengers are manhandled one by one for their own good.

Hang in there, Namibia.

It's much better the way it is.

(Photo from the tarmac at Windhoek Hosea Kutako International Airport from the Namibia Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.)