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A City Walk in Punda

Category: | Published on: July 17, 2018 | By Jyona Jacobs

I joined our guide on a historic walk through the city center of Punda Willemstad, Curaçao, which was an insightful look into the history and creation of Punda city. Starting at 9 am I could see tourists have already gathered around 8:30-8:40, while sitting in one of the stone stands. For those, that came early it gave them the chance to take pictures of the deep blue and radiant yellow Curaçao sign. As well, the warm orange Dushi sign.

 

Punda Willemstad

It was a little cloudy but with a nice breeze, we got to learn, for those that did not know, what dushi means and its origins. Right in front of the sign! The tour began and we got to see the buildings of the Government. These buildings are true historic monuments, which unfortunately need to be painted 3-4 times a year to combat the damage from the wall sickness, as the locals call it. These buildings were built using coral stones and the salt still inside these stones cause the paint to oxides and flake off. The colonial buildings are centuries old and are a remnant of history.

It has been raining this morning but by 8 am it has already dried up leaving behind slightly clouded skies and a breeze. We could see the makeup of the walls of the forts, as well as, the other colonial buildings, which were built with a combination of shells, coral, sand, and seawater. Around the Fort Amsterdam, there are several restaurants that offer a view of the coast and opening of the harbor. By then we felt a few drops of rain. Not even the drizzling rain could detract from the captivating sight of the entrance to the harbor. Just peeking out by the entrance the harbor, the St Anna Bay, was the Cruise Ship Monarch.

 

Fort Amsterdam

In all, we got to see four trees with these stunning carvings in them of a woman, faces, a man, and a crocodile- dragon. Three are located just near the waterfront by the entrance to Fort Amsterdam, as well, we got to hear history and folklore of the trees.

Fort Amsterdam. When I think of a fort I expect cannons and cannon balls, Fort Amsterdam does not disappoint. We got to see the heart of the government on Curaçao at Fort Amsterdam. This stunning yellow fort is where the offices of the cabinet and governor are located. Our captivated tour guide Gigi showed us where the cannon balls, fired by the British in the early 1800s, that are to this day embedded in the church walls at Fort Amsterdam. Incidentally, missing the fort completely. We also were told about raids by the Venezuelans around the 1930s, which led to the fort gates being sealed and moved. As well, the permanent placement of the Dutch marines on the island. Just down the road from the fort are the parliament and police station. Parliament with its striking 21 steps up to the door.

An hour into the tour we entered the heart of Punda city center where all the commercial shopping stores are. Once again, we got to historic buildings that the stores reside in, such as Tommy Hilfiger. In the past, the store owners and their families lived on the top floors with the store below. In fact, the classic store Penha has been owned by the same family for 300 years.

While walking through the city center we saw these spectacular works of art, each either flower, plant, or animals. All of them were 3D and just hidden away in Punda. In between two murals, on this side street, several stores and a café are found in a small plaza. We stopped and sat at the café for drinks. It was steadily getting hotter and the rain from this morning was all forgotten. Here we saw the fourth carving in a tree. We saw more works of art and we stopped in front of a sculpture of three bananaquits or suickerdiefje (sugar thief) in Dutch.

Next, the markets that are found only in Punda. We got to see the floating market for fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish. All of which are brought in from Venezuelan boats. As well, local stands filled with cute souvenirs. Further down from the floating market is a giant market with Venezuelan and local stands. Additionally, Gigi told us that the restaurants on the second floor of the market had amazing, fresh local food.

Mikve Israel Emanuel Synagogue

Last stop was the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue in the western hemisphere, in use, and was consecrated in 1732, which is locally called Snoa. This breath-taking building is a few centuries old, with its sand-covered floors, dark wood pews, blue tinted windows, striking chandeliers. This synagogue is designed after the Portuguese Synagogue of Amsterdam. The sand covered floors are there as a remembrance of the time the Jews were guided by Moses out of Egypt and to pay respect to them as one of the first Jewish settlers. In 1651 the first Jewish came to Curaçao and have been here ever since.

Next door is the Jewish cultural historic museum. Within the museum, you will find preserved mementos and cultural artifacts of the founding Jewish leaders of the island. These artifacts are in the form of pictures, paintings, information about food, and religious tokens of the past. Take a step into the history of the creation of the Jewish population on Curaçao and allow yourself to feel the impact of such a preserved and rich history.

This city walk tour is filled with the rich history of Curaçao that would even surprise the locals of this island. There is much more our island and to Punda that meets the eye. We are an island that has been touched by the passing of time, various cultures, and the histories of the world. This tour is full of enriching history and culture, which never gets dull. In three hours, you will see and learn so much of Punda you are left with a sense of satisfaction of having learned something new. You will be touched with the wonder of all that has come to pass in our small city center of this small island of ours.

Blogger’s Tips

  • Wear good shoes for walking
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Wear loose clothing, which is comfortable for walking and heat
  • Bring sunglasses or hat
  • Bring a bottle of water you will need it

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