Living and Coworking in Windhoek
After flying to Namibia, we settled into a weekly routine of work and adventure for the next month. We’ll certainly write about our weekend adventures in separate posts, but here’s an overview of our time living and coworking in Windhoek.
A Windhoek Overview and Joe’s Beerhouse - a Local Institution
Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, sits pretty much smack-dab in the center of the country, making it a great launchpad for excursions. It has an elevation of just over 5,500 feet and, with its rolling hills and semi-arid climate, has a real Texas hill country feel to it.
For our month in the capital, we rented an apartment in the city center, about 200 meters north of the city’s famous Christ Church (Christuskirche) Cathedral. Without a rental car during our days in Windhoek (we only rented our Hilux for the weekend adventures), this location would be great for exploring Windhoek on foot.
While traveling through South Africa, multiple people we met raved about the natural beauty of Namibia. But, they also made a point of calling out Joe’s Beerhouse - a Windhoek institution - as an absolute must-visit spot. In particular, one guy had gotten into a bar fight there, and another gal had broken her rib tripping on a curb while extremely overserved after a night at Joe’s - definitely a place we wanted to experience!
So, our second night in town, we strolled the mile-ish from our apartment to Joe’s. A sprawling, somewhat-tiki-themed outdoor bar and restaurant, we got there just as happy hour kicked off - packed with locals slugging Windhoek lagers and Jagermeister (the latter quite popular due to the country’s pre-WWI history as a German colony).
We ended up splitting a table with a Swiss couple at the tailend of their Namibian vacation. For the next few hours, we ate a gluttonous amount of food (cheese-and-garlic-doused snails are a delicious local treat!), drank way too much, and, as these one-off nights go, made all sorts of ludicrous plans to visit each other in our respective countries.
And, embracing its party atmosphere, Joe’s has its own shuttle service. Ask your server for a ride, she throws the few-buck trip onto your tab, and you get door-to-door treatment back home - beats a late-night, drunken stroll (or a broken rib!).
In another travel coincidence, our friend Mike - from the States - happened to have a good Namibian buddy who lived in Windhoek. Our last weekend in the city, we’d return to Joe’s to meet this guy and a whole group of his friends. Turns out, when locals order shots of Jagermeister, they always order in units of two, something we learned when, for seven people, each round included 14 shots!
Thoroughly lubed up, we continued the evening at a real local gem - Isabel’s Table - for dinner. You probably won’t find it on any TripAdvisor blogs, but what a spot. Owned by a tiny Portuguese lady named Isabel, it truly feels like you’re walking into Cheers, where everyone knows your name! Our new friends were clearly regulars, because Isabel, bright smile on her face, greeted them (and us!) with huge hugs and immediately had a waiter bring in some extra tables to seat us on the patio - could’ve been a scene straight out of Goodfellas!
For the rest of the night, we ate massive amounts of delicious Portuguese food, drank plenty more Jagermeister, and felt like absolute regulars in Windhoek life!
NIMM - Namibian History and the Best Views of Windhoek
Until World War I, Nambia was a German colony. Following the war, the League of Nations passed control to the South African government. For most of the 20th century, the apartheid government would rule the country as one of its provinces, with local resistance a reality that entire time.
In 1990, Namibia finally gained full independence. In honor of this event, the government built a stunning, hilltop museum that towers over Windhoek. Known as the Namibian Independence Memorial Museum, or NIMM, this place is special for two reasons.
First, it has three floors of interactive exhibits documenting the country’s colonial and South African history - and resistance to both. Second, after exploring this history, visitors can swing by the bar and restaurant - Nimms - on the top floor of the museum. With 360-degree vistas of the capital city, you’re not going to find better views in all of Windhoek!
DoBox and Coworking in Windhoek
Our work-from-home plan hit a slight wrinkle when we realized the apartment had pretty spotty wifi. The owner would quickly resolve this, but in the meantime Chipp explored other options for places to work. In a solid coincidence, there happened to be a coworking spot a five-minute walk from the apartment. After a great experience coworking in Cape Town, Chipp decided to give it a shot.
Dololo DoBox, the coworking spot, also had an affiliation with the French Embassy in Windhoek. Touring the facilities for the first time, Chipp decided to inject [his poor attempt] at a little humor:
Chipp to DoBox employee: “So, if I join, will I get access to the French Embassy, too?”
DoBox employee: “Um, no… Oh wait, was that a joke?”
Humor misses aside, DoBox would be an awesome place to work in Windhoek. With plenty of aspiring entrepreneurs and remote workers floating around, DoBox had the energy so common to coworking spots. And, with free coffee and daily sandwich deliveries from a local deli, Chipp couldn’t have asked for a better Windhoek “office.”
New Friends and Local Events
Working at DoBox also led to us meeting a new friend. Chipp’s first full day there, a girl and guy were touring the spaces. Overhearing a comment about Ukraine, Chipp did the Progressive-can’t-stop-you-from-becoming-your-parents thing and jumped into the conversation:
Chipp to girl: “Excuse me, but did you say you’re Ukrainian?”
Girl: “Yep! I’m here visiting my boyfriend who works at the French Embassy, and I need a place to work for a bit.” Chipp: “No kidding? My wife’s Ukrainian!”
That’s how we met Nastya, a girl from Odessa and someone we’d end up hanging out with during our stay in Windhoek - small world!
DoBox hosts regular talks / happy hours, too, something that ended up being a great way for Jenna and Nastya to meet for the first time. Feeling very academic and save-the-world-ish, the three of us went to one of these events titled “On Impact & Sustainability in Development Work.” Moderated by a lady connected to DoBox, the event included two speakers - one Namibian and one German - discussing issues, concerns, and best-practice in the Namibian development space. Really interesting talk, and who’s going to say no to drinks out in Windhoek on a Tuesday night?
Another St. George’s Holiday Mass
Jumping back to Christmas in Cape Town, we had the opportunity to attend mass at the historic St. George’s Cathedral. While far smaller (and not the seat of Archbishop Desmond Tutu), Windhoek also has a St. George’s Cathedral. Being in town over Easter, it was only fitting to swing by for a holiday service.
Neither of us are overly religious people, but there’s a beauty to church communities while traveling. Religious or not, going to mass in a new place is a great way to meet people and just, well, feel like you’re welcome somewhere.
Leo’s at the Castle and More Windhoek Views
We’d be remiss not to mention one more incredible spot in Windhoek - Leo’s at the Castle. Located on the sprawling patio of the Heinitzburg Hotel, Leo’s offers panoramic, western-facing views over Windhoek - ideal for “sundowner” cocktails and a romantic dinner.
Wherever you are in the world, it makes sense to jump at an opportunity to A) drink great wines and local brandies, B) eat delicious food, and C) take in some sunset views. Leo’s - and Windhoek, in general - is an unbelievable place for checking each box!