Kolmanskop’s history is short and in a span of forty years the town had lived, flourished and died. The town lies 850km south-west of Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, and 10km east of the isolated coastal town of Luderitz, among the gentle curves of the sand drifts and bleached stone outcrops, ornate buildings rise, defy their desolate surroundings and exuding an air of quiet dignity.
The vastness of the desolate landscape dwarfs the buildings, and the sand seeks to hide the structures within itself. It is not until you approach the houses that their distinctive German architecture, featuring truncated roofs and generous windows, can be appreciated.
On the hilltop that overlooks the town, there is an old water tank, just another symbol of the obstacles that challenged those trying to survive without the natural resources essential to sustain life.
Where Oompah bands played to finely dressed Germans in a gilded ballroom, ice was delivered each morning to homes and homemakers, who brooms in hand, waged a futile war at their thresholds against the endless onslaught of the Namib Desert.
Most buildings are in ruins today, but some have been glamorously renovated giving you an even better feel of the contrast between what this place once was and what it is today a land reclaimed by nature
A museum established by De Beers in 1980 displays old mining implements and an extensive collection of photographs from the town’s halcyon days when around 300 Germans lived. The shopkeeper’s house, the restored mine captain’s residence, the butchery, gym and skittles alley are all worth seeing but the fading glory of Kolmanskop is best experienced when you can wander through decaying buildings, many the former homes of miners and their families, on your own.