Castles in Gonder & the Road to Bahir Dar

Trip Start Apr 08, 2010
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Trip End Mar 11, 2011


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Where I stayed

Flag of Ethiopia  , Gojam,
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tuesday got off to an excellent start because I actually slept until my alarm went off (as opposed to waking up before dawn due to roosters/donkeys/religious prayers).  Then, on the way into town, I saw a donkey-pulled cart with a full sized refrigerator standing on top of it.  Fabulous.

The morning was action packed with sightseeing in Gonder, which was the capital of th country for 250 years starting in 1635.  Every king needed his own castle, so there are now six of them in the center of town.  Each of the kings were known for having his own interests and the castles reflect this (e.g., the 2nd king didn't have much money because he gave it to the people, so his is smaller; the 4th king loved music and had a huge hall where people would come to entertain him). 

The second stop was King Fasil's Pool, which had the king's second residence built right in the middle of it (so the pool flooded the first floor of his building when it was filled with water).  The pool is currently empty and the residence is under reconstruction funded by the Norwegian government.  Most of the workers are women, because Norway wanted to give them the opportunity for jobs.  Unfortunately while we were there a worker fell off of the scaffolding (I've thought from the first day that the stick-scaffolding was scary!) -- we think he had broken some ribs.  Fortunately having an entourage was helpful and my guide/driver were able to carry him out and found a driver from their company to take him to the medical clinic.  Definitely a bit scary (he couldn't really breathe).

The last stop...a bit hard to focus on given the prior events...was at Kuskuam, a palatial complex overlooking town, that was constructed by Queen Menteweb.  She was the regent for two of the younger kings (her son and then grandson), when they came to power at very young ages.  She was a huge women's rights advocate.  Unfortunately most of the complex was destroyed by British bombs during WW II (similar damage was done to many of the castles in town -- it was during the Italian occupation, and the Italians used the landmarks to store weapons).  There was an interesting museum with artifacts from the Queen, and (oddly) her bones and the bones of her son/grandson...very strange in a country where most tombs are a lot more elaborate and in religious places.

I got to walk around Gonder quite a bit in the afternoon -- it was really nice, because I didn't get quite so much attention in the bigger city...I could actually explore. 

Later in the day we drove to Bahir Dar,on Lake Tana (the biggest lake in Ethiopia and the source of the Blue Nile).  The drive was really pretty, through rice fields and sugar cane farms fed by lake water.  My hotel is right on the lake and there was another huge lightening storm over the lake at night...loved it!
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