CURACAO: A Taste of Dutch Culture

Curacao - GlobalLiving

CURACAO: A Taste of Dutch Culture

By Candace Boggan

Global Living – Issue 8 | September/October 2013

The Caribbean island of Curaçao features 35 beaches and an eclectic mix of history and culture. The capital city of Willemstad is a UNESCO World Heritage site with distinctive architecture, museums, monuments and world-class shopping. In addition to the island’s natural beauty, pristine dive sites and snorkeling at secluded beaches, Curaçao has a vast selection of restaurants that feature a mix of international and local cuisines. 

Curaçao is part of the ABC Islands: Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao, the three western-most islands of the Leeward Antilles in the Caribbean. If you are looking for an unforgettable experience, I challenge you to consider visiting this leg of the triangle. A remarkable mixture of cultures awaits you as the island offers a wide variety to meet the taste of each traveler. As the owner of the world’s only swinging bridge, Curaçao is separated by none other than the Queen Emma Bridge, also known as The Swinging Old Lady. This wooden, floating, royal lady of Willemstad connects Otrobanda to Punda.

Otrobanda is a Dutch colony that has been transformed into a historic treasure. There are a few restaurants and numerous shopping boutiques for all to enjoy on this side of the bridge, though filled more with locals than tourists. There is also a fascinating museum located on this side called the Kura Hulanda that features a rare glimpse into the Dutch slave trade. After paying to enter, you can request a tour guide for an additional fee to accompany you on the journey back in time (travel tip: the tour guide was worth the extra fee). He or she will narrate and provide chilling facts that will startle the strongest of minds. This was by far one of the most graphic displays of slave memorabilia and facts that I have witnessed throughout my travels. For the history buff, you will find it both eerie and amazing at the same time.

On the other side of The Swinging Old Lady, Punda appears as more of the metropolis of the two, with several restaurants, museums, a hopping tour desk and open markets. Cruise ship passengers pour in during planned windows each time of the year. There are some fantastic deals at native shops and other bargains on rare souvenirs. Punda is also home to the world’s oldest Jewish synagogue in the Western Hemisphere: the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue. This is a simply stunning find located on an island drenched in rich history. The floors are sand and original architecture surrounds each visitor from beginning to end. Service is still held regularly and visitors are welcome to attend. There is also an adjoining museum located on the same grounds as the synagogue, full of remnants of times past. This synagogue was like opening a book on Jewish-Dutch history as pages burst forth alive. Original pews fill the room while ancient fixtures grace the building throughout.

Curaçao is more than just a moment back in time; it is a well-preserved history book leaping off the shelf. Colorful buildings of authentic Dutch architecture can be seen from miles away. It’s like witnessing a postcard with each step. Tours of all sorts and adventures are available for the curious of mind. An aloe-plant, aquarium and ancient Hato Caves made from limestone formations and waterfalls await you. Iguanas roam the island freely and live among residents. Don’t be alarmed though, I didn’t experience any issues with any trying to retreat back to the resort with me.

While there, I stayed at the Hilton Curaçao. I enjoyed the hotel’s poolside bar and grill as I sang along to the sounds of many American tunes played over the speakers. I also relished in the moment as I listened to locals speak their native Papiamentu language. It is also not uncommon to hear Dutch or even Spanish spoken throughout the island, but to my surprise, many of the locals spoke English quite well. Dutch, however, is the primary language spoken in schools and most government offices.

For the food fanatic like myself, prepare your taste buds for an exquisite explosion of ethnic foods. You will find Dutch, Spanish, Creole, Indonesian and local delights throughout the island. I assure you, your palate will not be disappointed. If you are looking for an authentic Dutch experience with a twist, Curaçao is the place to be. For the exotic, historic and adventurous holiday, this is one to remember.

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