May 8, Mikhail’s Hotel, Brazzaville, Republic of Congo
A lovely day wandering around Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo – the formerly french one, a.ka. Congo Brazzaville (not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo – the formerly Belgian one, historically called Zaire).
It was weird arriving here yesterday, the flight was 40 minutes early, and I had to wait in the arrivals area for the hotel shuttle. I waited in a crowd of people, and not once did anyone harass me, offer me a taxi, or try and sell me anything……, truly weird and totally unheard of in any African airport! I commented on it to a couple I met on the plane when they came out, and they wryly noted that there are some benefits of visiting a totalitarian state where the president has been in office for 26 years, people are too scared to cause any trouble. This was reinforced today in a 4 hour walk around town! I did have some friendly locals say hello as everyone was out taking their Sunday walks, but in the same way as they would in NZ. The only two people to bother me the whole time were two kids asking for money, and they were promptly despatched with some shouts from a security guard at the gas station I was walking past. I am not sure I am in an African capital city!!!
There are not a huge amount of tourist attractions in Brazzaville. As it was Sunday, I popped in to see the Basilique Sainte Anne of the Congo – a modernist church built by Roger Erell. While it was nice, I was more impressed by the local ladies in their colourful finery.
Then a nice walk along the corniche for 6k watching all the other locals (including a ladies walking club) out walking, jogging and cycling. I stopped by the Memorial of Pierre Savorgnan (the founder of Brazzaville, pic above). Then kept walking over the new 15 August 1960 bridge which has just been finished.
From the corniche, you can see across the mighty Congo river to Kinshasa. – historically proudly referred to as “Kin La Belle” (Kinshasa The Beautiful) but now dubbed “Kin La Poubelle” (Kinshasa the rubbish bin) given how dirty it is. Brazzaville and Kinshasa are only 1 mile apart, and you can go between the two on an easy ferry ride, with a lot of paperwork.
Finally, a bit of retail therapy to top up my food supplies, with a visit to the Geant Casino hypermarche. I love that in all the former french colonies, from Vanuatu to Senegal, you can always find a french supermarket with brioche, rillettes and poulet roti. The humidity and 35 degree heat defeated me by lunchtime, so back to the hotel to do some laundry and take a nap.
P.s spoke too soon! the officials at the airport didn’t let me down when I was leaving – they were back on corrupt form, asking me to buy them cokes in exchange for clearing my bags through security!!!!