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Cape Verde: Mindelo

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Mindelo | Cape Verde | Africa

[Visited: October 2014]

Our first visit to Mindelo was the shortest possible. Our flight from Praia to São Vicente was delayed, and when we finally got our luggage, there were only 40 minutes left before the boat to Santo Antao would leave. We took a taxi with two German women, the driver dropped us at the pier, we bought our tickets, and we were on the boat. The only thing we had seen in Mindelo was the Torre de Belém, a touristy copy of the original tower in Lisbon. We knew we would be back - we would first concentrate on outdoor life on the northernmost island of Cape Verde. When our ferry entered the port of Mindelo one day later, the sun was still shining, we found a room in what supposedly is the oldest hotel of the country, and took to the streets.

Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): Building on the waterfront of Mindelo in the afternoon sun

Mindelo was originally founded by the Portuguese, and rose to importance when it was the coal deposit of the British East India Company from 1838 to the early 1900s, supplying ships crossing the Atlantic. The shift from coal to oil led to a decline of the city's fortunes, and as happens regularly in Cape Verde when famines, droughts, or other disasters struck, many people left the city in search of better luck elsewhere. Since independence in 1975, the city is on its way up again. We cruised the streets in the city centre, were unlucky because two big cruiseships were in town - with tourists with badges everywhere. After a week on Santo Antao, Mindelo seemed busy and noisy, and we found some tranquillity in alleys. We then moved on to the market, where big tuna fish were being weighed and sold, men playing games on the beach, where small fishing boats were parked.

Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): Early morning in the old part of Mindelo with woman walking past a shop

The big market of Mindelo has an interesting feat: on the sides of the shacks, you can find blue-and-white tiles depicting life in colonial times. We listened to a group of guys playing and singing the morna; the national music of Cape Verde, made famous by star Cesária Evora who was born in Mindelo, and after whom the airport of São Vicente was named after her death in 2011. We walked along the pleasant waterfront, up the hill from which we hoped to have good views of sunset. The next morning, I was up early to explore some more: the old colonial buildings, the small squares, the cathedral, Palácio do Povo - one of the most remarkable colonial buildings, and the views across the boat-filled harbour towards Monte Cara on the other side. It was too early for the cruiseship passengers - their ships were still in harbour. The more we got a feel for it, the more Mindelo started to grow on us: a special vibe, you can somehow feel its history, the prominence of culture is palpable, there is a wide choice of restaurants and bars - but unfortunately, our time was up, and we had to go.

Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): The harbour of Mindelo with Monte Cara in the background
Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): Colonial building, presently housing the Palácio do Povo
Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): Tuna being weighed at the fish market of Mindelo
Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): Fishing boats on the beach of Mindelo
Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): Street in the centre of Mindelo with brightly painted houses
Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): The harbour of Mindelo seen from above
Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): Pink house in downtown Mindelo
Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): Municipal house in downtown Mindelo
Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): The University building of Mindelo with a globe in front
Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): Early morning in a street in Mindelo
Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): Colonial house in downtown Mindelo
Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): Scene from the colonial times depicted on typical blue and white tiles at the market of Mindelo
Picture of Mindelo (Cape Verde): Close-up of a building from the colonial times in Mindelo

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