Gondar – centuries – old castles, machiatto and note of indian cuisine

Gondar is an ancient historical and royal city of Ethiopia. It is also known as the „Camelot of Africa” due to presence of several classical, centuries-old, stone castles and palaces. Gondar was a home or many emperors and princesses from the 12th century to the last decade of the 20th century.

We arrived to Gondar after dark. We have read that the best place to overnight in town was Belegez Pension (quite famous among overlanders). We couldn’t find the place, however some local boy jumped on Terri’s car and he was pointing directions to that guest house. When we reached Belegez Pension, it turned out to be the tourist hot spot. It didn’t have a camping site, but enough space on the courtyard to just park and go to sleep. We paid around 100 birrs per car, per night. In the evening we had first beer since, probably Hungary and we were chatting with travellers and backpackers, who were staying there. We have met many awesome people!

Next morning the weather was very nice, so we went for a walk around the town. And the fun just started…Lots of kids were walking behind/next/in front of us and they were shouting „Birr,Birr, Birr”, „You, you,you”, „Pen,pen,pen” or „You, Farangi”(you,foreigner!) and asking for things like: „ Give me money”, „give me sweets”, „t-shirt”, „buy me shoes”or ”buy me food”. We were sort of beset by kids! We also noticed that Ethiopians love buying fresh chickens, but fresh chicken in Ethiopian style means: hang poor, still alive chicken upside down, tie its legs to a stick and walk around the town! (It looked sort of like walking shops with livestock).

The weather in the morning was beautiful, but in the afternoon it changed and it started to rain heavily. We were lucky as we were sitting on the roof top of one of the restaurants and drinking one of the best machiatto’s in the world, which cost us only 0.30 USD

Historical curiosity:

Ethiopia is the oldest independent country in Africa and one of the oldest in the world. The country held onto its freedom from colonial rule with the exception of the Italian occupation from 1936 through 1941. Moreover, lots of people believed that Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee. According to some experts the indigenous coffee trees (which are the only native coffee tree in the world) firstly grew in ancient Abyssinia – present Ethiopia. „These trees blossomed in an area called “Kaffa” and the trees were called “Kafa,” which may as well be the root word for coffee. In the tenth century, coffee was considered a food” (Ethiopia Coffee and Trade, 1997). As a result of Italian influence, machiattos and cappuccinos  are very popular in the whole country and they are amazingly  delicious. To us one of the best coffees we have ever tasted.

Regarding food, in Gondar we tried for a first time SAMOSA – fried pastry with lentils and also donaughts , which were very similar to these traditional from Poland, but without icing.

In Gondar we were also told that there was a really good car mechanic, who can mend everything. Terri went there to ask whether they could do something to fix the damage on their Cruiser. Charlie decided to accompany her and, since we agreed to wait with her anyway, asked if they were able to correct Rusty’s wheel alignment as he noticed that Rusty wasn’t driving very straight any more and our tyres were getting excessively worn on their sides. Having had a really good experience so far with recommended garages and since our „friend from the guest house” was with us and helping translate, Charlie made the mistake which we were warned never to make in Africa. We didn’t agree the price beforehand…   It took them less than an hour and we were fairly impressed as all they used was a couple of spanners, a piece of a string and some elbow grease. All was well until the time came to pay for the services. We knew the issue was easy to fix, anywhere in Europe it’d have cost max 20USD and would have been done correctly using laser-sensors and a computer. Seemingly, in a country where a full plate of food costs you 2USD, a roof over your head 5USD and a „female companion” probably no more than 10USD, as soon as one gets a spanner he can ask 80USD for a simple and only roughly-good repair… Suddenly the guy who brought us there turned out not to know the mechanic so well any more, then suddenly didn’t even know English well enough to mediate in negotiations either. Settling on a smaller, yet still high enough to pi** you off, sum we were off again. It was not the first, nor the last time in Africa that Charlie thought to himself that he would tatoo „TiA” on his forehead before our journey’s end. THIS IS AFRICA.

On the other hand when I was waiting with Terri till her car would be done a little girl appeared (the daughter of the head mechanic) and started to chat with Terri and me. She was so cute and polite. Plus, her English was very good. At the end of our talk she gave me her bracelet saying: „I give you this bracelet you always remember me and never forget my country. These are colours of Ethiopia yellow red and green…”. I never took photo of her, but meeting her was really something unbelievably great. She was a brilliant exception from the rest of kids in town who were chasing us at every occasion

Shoes cleaning services – This sort of street job in Ethiopia is very common. I needed to clean my shoes after getting stuck in Sudan, as they were covered by dried up mud, sticky and stinky. I paid 50 birrs and I  received very clean, shiny and white speakers back .

In Gondar as well we managed to organise 6 months insurance valid for most of African countries, we were planning to visit. We got a really great price deal for COMESA INSURANCE, which is commonly accepted. You pay once (We paid 60USD for half a year) and you don’t have to worry about insurance till you reach The Southern African Customs Union (SACU) countries.

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