On March 7, I flew from Axum to Gonder to experience the Gonder palaces and to get ready for onward travel to the Simien Mountains, back to Gonder, then on to the Ethiopian-Sudan border at Metama-Gallabat.
I met a young, recently engaged Ethiopian couple from Addis on the taxi ride from the airport to the town of Gonder, alternatively spelled Gondar. We quickly agreed to spend the day sight-seeing together, so I checked in and dropped my bags off at the Belegez Pension, then rode in the taxi up to the Goha Hotel where they were staying. The Goha Hotel is probably the “best” hotel in town with wonderful panoramic views of Gonder town below.
After lunch at the hotel, where some delightful singing birds joined us, the fiances hemmed and hawed over whether she was well enough to go sight-seeing. We decided not to pay the taxi driver big bucks the following day, but instead to walk down to town ourselves to see the palaces and whatever else we could see. I liked the paintings at the entrance to what looked like a small cafe.
King Fasilidas founded Gonder in 1635 and the town remained Ethiopia’s capital for 250 years. The Fasil Ghebbi, or Royal Enclosure, includes the six palaces of King Fasilidas and his descendents, as well as a Royal Archive Building and the remnants of lion cages.
In our trek across the city, we came across the old outdoor stadium used for socialist-inspired gatherings during the Derg era in Ethiopia. Every Ethiopian town seems to have one or more.
We also visited Fasilidas’ Pool, which is dry year-round except for the Timkat (or Epiphany) Festival each January.
After our tour of Gonder, I return to my room at Belegez Pension. On the door of my hotel room is an AIDS prevention sticker.
For one of my lunches, I ate delicious fasting food at the Habesha Restaurant across from the entrance of the Gonder palace complex. A tame goose lives inside the restaurant and eats up food scraps when the proprietor isn’t looking. I went back to the same restaurant later with a Belgian screenwriter named Eric and his son Thomas who I met at Belegez Hotel. They had just returned from a Simien Mountain trek and urged me to go, despite Eric’s knee injury during the hike to Gich.