When you think of castles, you never would associate them with Africa. Yet here in Gondar, there are indeed some amazing castles. The drive from Bahir Dar to Gondar was made more pleasant with a private vehicle transfer as part of our Simien mountains trek we had booked. We were joined by two other travellers and we discussed just everything on the trip to Gondar. It is always nice to meet some fellow travellers from around the world embarking on a similar journey you are doing.
We visited the Hotel Ethiopia bar which on entry was filled with the scent of frankincense. Naturally, we ordered coffee and as is somewhat customary in a full coffee ceremony, we also received some frankincense to burn away on our table. We then had dinner at an amazing restaurant called the Four Sisters. Delicious Ethiopian food served the way my dad likes it from a buffet. We met another couple and enjoyed many stories before some impromptu music and dance started. The part of Ethiopian dancing that is mesmerising and difficult to replicate is a rapid shoulder shake. Claire got dancing as well but alas my bad knees prevented me from fulfilling my love of dance and performing in Ethiopia.
As I mentioned Gondar has many amazing castles all within the royal enclosure. The oldest is the castle of Emperor Fasiladas who reigned from 1632 until 1667. It is in good condition although much of the wooden floor restored to allow for visitors. The complex did suffer under the Italian occupation with one castle rendered and styled by the Italians, then the British promptly bombed a few castles but somehow missed the awfully rendered Italian one.
The visit was made all the more interesting because our guide Charlie was full of knowledge, jokes and great spots for a photo. My favourite was his through the peephole shot of my face and the castle outside. We jumped into a Tuk-tuk to drive over to Fasiladas bathing pools, which today are used annually for a mass baptism at Timkat in early January. Unfortunately for me, the pools are only filled for Timkat, then the water released back into the river.
Our final stop was the church Debre Berhan Selassie. The original circular church dates back to 1690, but this church is no longer circular and rebuilt in the 18th century. Inside are more frescoes showing the passion of Christ. Its quite small inside but is in a nice walled enclosure with what could be best decribed as a wild garden.