Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#642 Paramaribo, Suriname

The charming riverside city of Paramaribo may be the capital of the small South American country of Suriname, but it has the feel of a small town with friendly citizens, quaint restaurants and a cute harbour. Farms are a short drive from the city centre and you can be in the wild tropical jungles of the national parks on the outskirts within a couple of hours. Of the three Guianas, it's capital is probably the safest and most dynamic, with a bizarre European feel of Amsterdam meets the Amazon, and it is famed for the diversity of its inhabitants, including Creoles, Hindustanis, Maroons, Javanese, Indigenous, Chinese, Europeans, Lebanese Brazilians, Guyanese and Jews despite it's relatively small population of just under 250,000 inhabitants.
Known locally as 'Parbo', it is located approximately 15 kilometres inland from the Atlantic Ocean on the Suriname River, and it's riverside main street is still adorned with the historic old settlement homes, recognised by UNESCO for its connection to the Dutch colonial settlement from the 17th and 18th centuries and laid out in a grid pattern from 1683, although much was destroyed in a fire in 1821.
The homes are all in timber with elaborate decorated balconies, some in various states of repair. The best ones along the 'Waterkant' riverside road catch the afternoon sun which makes their white paint sparkle. There is even one of the oldest synagogues in the western hemisphere dating back to 1685.
Just off Independence Square are the Presidential Palace and Ministry of Finance building. Independence Square also hosts early morning 'whistling bird' competitions.
The Palmentuin (Palmtree Garden) in the middle of downtown Paramaribo near the Parliamentary palace is a charming oasis of calm amidst traffic noises and bustle.
Fort Zeelandia
Originally a wooden structure built by the French in 1640 near an indigenous village and from 1651called Fort Willoughby by the British until it was captured by Abraham Crijnssen in February 1667 and renamed. The 17th century era star-shaped fort built to protect the Dutch East India Company's interests in what was then Dutch Guiana. It has been well restored and holds a small collection of historical buildings on the riverside near the Waterkant and home to one of the main museums in Paramaribo, the Stichting Surinaams Museum.
The Harbour

Small fishing boats line the riverside of the Waterkant, along with ferries and small canoe-like boats that cross to the plantations and settlements on the other side of the Suriname River.
The modern centre of Paramaribo in a tropical afternoon storm.
Sunsets over the Suriname River are pretty spectacular.