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The Kura Hulanda Museum

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Found in the heart of Otrobanda, the Kura Hulanda is both a resort and an anthropological museum. Fifteen buildings house hundreds of cultural artifacts, with a focus on Africa and the Atlantic slave trade. It’s an impressive collection… especially when you learn that it’s privately owned by a single man.

Kura Hulanda Museum

The museum takes visitors on a journey from the earliest days of man, with exhibits on evolution and the lands of Abraham, through the horrors of slavery, and into the present day and modern African culture. There are archaeological artifacts from the Middle East, paintings and prints from the days of colonialism, bizarre wooden death masks from the Dogon Culture, and much more.

Kura Hulanda Museum

We spent most of our time in the rooms dedicated to the slave trade, reading harrowing tales of the transatlantic journey suffered by the people who had been kidnapped from countries like Benin and Ghana. The basement of one building has been transformed to resemble the hold of a slaving ship, where hundreds of men and women were packed in and chained up. It’s sickening to learn how the sick would simply be tossed overboard, or how they were given almost no nourishment or water for the three-month journey, or how families were torn apart. Ah, humanity… what the hell is wrong with us?

Kura Hulanda Museum

There’s a lot to see in this museum, and nearly all of it is worthwhile. I could have spent an hour in the room dedicated to great African kingdoms of the past, such as the ancient Ghana Empire and the powerful Mali with their great center of learning at Timbuktu. There are further halls dedicated to the bronze art of Benin, the former Dutch colony of Suriname and the rise of Islam across Africa.

After finishing up at the museum, we checked out the rest of the Kura Hulanda Lodge, which is a large and evidently expensive tourist resort, and we came away conflicted. This lodge occupies an entire block of Otrobanda, giving its guests a central, authentically Curaçaoan place to spend their holidays. The old, residential buildings are beautiful, and it’s great that they’ve been renovated and given new purpose; looking at photos, it’s shocking how they had been left to deteriorate.

Kura Hulanda Museum

But these streets had been an once important part of Otrobanda, parallel to the main thoroughfare of Breedestraat, and a stone’s throw from the harbor. This had been a neighborhood where everyday folks lived and worked. Yes, it’s been renovated, but now it’s closed off to local traffic; an entire section of the most important zone in Otrobanda privately-owned and dedicated to tourism. We’d feel a lot better about the project, if the restored buildings had been sold back to regular folks. But I don’t suppose there would have been a lot of money in that.

Regardless of our feelings toward the lodge, we were impressed by the museum. It’s an astounding collection which manages to toe the line between entertaining and educational, and is worth the time and effort of visiting.

Location on our Map
Kura Hulanda Museum – Website

21 USD Car Rentals For Curacao Can Be Found Here

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January 20, 2016 at 8:46 pm Comments (0)

The Queen Emma Bridge

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Two bridges connect Punda to Otrobanda. For cars, there’s the towering Queen Juliana Bridge, which reaches a height of 56 meters above the Saint Anna Bay, and is the tallest in the Caribbean. And for pedestrians, there’s the Queen Emma Bridge, which rises zero meters over the water. The Queen Emma, you see, is a floating bridge.

Queen Emma Bridge Curacao

On first learning about Willemstad’s floating bridge, my first thought was, “Well, that makes sense. There’s no reason to force traffic up and over the water. I wonder why more bridges don’t simply float?” I needed a few seconds to remember that things usually have to pass under a bridge, as well. With the huge oil refinery in Willemstad’s harbor, a lot of big ships need to get past the Queen Emma — and none of them are submarines.

Queen Emma Bridge Curacao

So, whenever a ship needs in or out, the bridge must open. But this one doesn’t raise and lower — it just moves to the side. The Queen Emma rests atop of a set of pontoons. The final pontoon, connecting the bridge to the Punda side, has a motor and a driver. And when a ship arrives, the entire bridge opens on a hinge, just like a door. For small ships, the bridge only needs to open a crack, but for larger vessels like oil tankers, it will swing all the way over to the Otrobanda side.

It’s a strange sensation to be on the bridge as it opens. First, the operator will close the gates on either side, and anyone still on the bridge has to wait. Usually, it’s just a couple minutes, but occasionally it takes fifteen to twenty. In the meantime, anyone who isn’t stuck on the bridge can cross between Otrobanda and Punda using a free ferry.

And even when the bridge isn’t opening, it’s never stationary. As you might expect, a floating bridge undulates with the water and, on a choppy day, everyone walking across appears to be totally drunk. And if you are totally drunk, well, good luck. At night, on our way home from Pietermaai’s bars, we saw a few stumblers nearly fall into the water.

The Queen Emma was built in 1888, but renovated in 2006. It’s really unique and, at first, the idea of a hinged bridge is amusing. However, it becomes less amusing, the longer you live in Willemstad. We used it almost every day and I’d estimate that 30-40% of the time we wanted to cross to Punda, we had to wait. It didn’t take long for the novelty to wear off, and for us to join the locals in sighing with frustration, when the bell started to ring.

Location on our Map

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Queen Emma Bridge Curacao
Queen Emma Bridge Curacao
Queen Emma Bridge Curacao
Queen Emma Bridge Curacao
Queen Emma Bridge Curacao
Queen Emma Bridge Curacao
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December 19, 2015 at 9:45 pm Comments (0)
The Kura Hulanda Museum Found in the heart of Otrobanda, the Kura Hulanda is both a resort and an anthropological museum. Fifteen buildings house hundreds of cultural artifacts, with a focus on Africa and the Atlantic slave trade. It's an impressive collection... especially when you learn that it's privately owned by a single man.
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