22 March 2010

Asmara in Eritrea

Eritrea means 'land on the Red Sea' and from the port of Massawa it is more than a 3 hour trip with a local minibus over a bitumen road with the higher we get the more hairpin curves and spectacular views! After the third and last 'checkpoint' where our temporary visa are inspected, we run on 2 km height and under dark grey clouds into the capital Asmara at around 5 p.m. Walking through town to our 'pensione' it strikes how clean the streets are. Around this time a lot of people are on their way and we see most of them wear long pants and jackets or jumpers. The difference in temperature with Massawa in the evening is 15-30 degrees and we welcome the 15-30 degrees Celsius after the months of tropical heat.

Eritrea has been a colony of Italy and under the influence of the Italians from ca. 1850 to 1940. Especially in the main street, a wide boulevard with large and tall palm trees on both sides, you imagine yourself in Rome in the 1920-30's. Men in costumes, sometimes with heads, Art Deco buildings, terraces where you can get espresso, capuccino and all kinds of pastry, fashion shops and italian restaurants with pasta, pizza, fish, etc. This is 'little Roma' in Africa with African prices, very cheap! And dark people of course. Daily at 5 p.m. all people come to this boulevard to walk and talk, have a drink and bite, and hear the gossip. Young boys sell chewing gum, cigarettes, toothpicks, tissues and coins with the head of Mussolini ...!

Halfway the main boulevard is a magnificent cathedral, with traditional furnishing, and with a bell tower that we went up by over a hundred steps. At the schoolyard next to the cathedral the young children have their playtime and they wear white aprons with sleeves over their own clothes, in a very old-fashioned catholic and Italian way!

Very modern is a reasonably well organized recycle 'junk yard', a collection place for old iron, old wood, barrels, drums, cans, etc. etc. with around the yard many workshops where people are hammering, sawing, beating, welding. From the oildrums the bottoms are removed and then they make small oilsquirts from it. Also we saw 'new' ovens, soupladdles and heaps of reasonably sorted parts, screws, bolts, rods, you name it. An active recycle market from which we in Europe can follow their example.

On Sundays the steamtrain rides the route that the Italians have laid out and build and that is restored about 10 years ago. It's a great experience with tremendous views over valleys, villages, the railway itself with some 20 tunnels and viaducts along the road. The trip takes from 08.00 till 13.00 hours. During the ride we have to stop several times to load coals and water, while the passengers get Eritrean coffee burned, grinded and brewed in the traditional way.

Slideshow Asmara