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Bahamas: Nassau Old Town

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Nassau Old Town | Bahamas | Americas

[Visited: Juni 2014]

The cab driver who took me from the airport to Nassau did not stop talking about his country and his city, so by the time we arrived in the heart of the city, I had learned a lot about Nassau. One of the remarkable facts: around 70% of the entire population of the Bahamas lives in Nassau! Indeed, I would find out that the outer islands are scarcely populated, underlining their natural beauty. Even though the trip down to the Bahamas had been long, I quickly dump my stuff in my room for the night, and walk the town until the light of the sun has disappeared. I walk without a plan, which often is a great way to explore a new place: just following my instinct, turning corners, discovering places that are in no travel guide, appreciating the small things, establishing first contact with the locals.

Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): Pink traditional house in Nassau

After walking past a few churches (I would find out there are many different ones: presbyterian, Greek orthodox, anglican, catholic, etc.), I see a cemetery, and, returning towards the old part of town, traditional, colonial wooden houses which turn out to be well maintained. A large building houses a museum of the pirates that were all over the Bahamas for centuries. Crossing small Rawson Square with a statue of Queen Victoria, I arrive at the harbour. The town is quiet now, at the fall of dusk, but whenever cruise ships are in, this is where thousands of short-term visitors are set ashore every day. After exploring some of the outer islands, I am back in Nassau, and wake up early for sunrise. Now, I have more time, and I start by walking west to Fort Charlotte. One more fort to defend the town, it was a project of colonial governor Lord Dunmore, and was never tested in war. Nassau has a ridge just off the coast, and its several forts are, of course, built on top. Late 18th century Fort Charlotte looks sturdy, and even though it is not open yet, I can walk its walls, look at it from all sides, and enjoy the panorama over Nassau from a distance.

Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): The sharp contours of Fort Fincastle seen from below

From here, I walk back to town, pass the Hilton which is located in one of the biggest colonial buildings, and which has the statue of Woodes Rogers, the first governor of the Bahamas, who stamped out piracy around the archipelago in the 17th century, and who is also famous for rescuing Alexander Selkirk, the figure on which Daniel Defoe based his novel Robinson Crusoe. From Fort Charlotte, I have seen several cruise ships arriving, and I know that, soon, hordes of people will be swarming the streets. I see the Government Building, with a statue of Christopher Columbus in front, and several other colonial buildings, before walking up the Queen's Staircase to reach Fort Fincastle, one of the other forts built to defend the city. It has a peculiar shape: a sharp, pointed wall makes it look like a stranded ship, and is surprisingly small. Inside, the fort has several small rooms, but is mostly interesting for its great views over Nassau, the sea, and Paradise Island. The original cannons have since long been taken back to the United Kingdom, and replaced by models that have never been used. Initially, the fort doubled as a lighthouse, until a separate lighthouse was erected on Paradise Island. I can see groups of cruise ship passengers arriving, and by the time I am back in Bay Street, the main street of Nassau, the town is overrun by thousands of people on a shopping and sightseeing spree. Time to go.

Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): Brightly painted wooden houses in the harbour of Nassau
Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): One of the many churches on the west of the old part of Nassau
Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): Government House with statue of Columbus in front
Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): Woodes Rogers, the first royal governor of the Bahamas, lives on through this statue in Nassau
Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): The fastest way from downtown Nassau to Fort Fincastle is the Queen's Staircase
Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): Cannon defending Fort Charlotte and Nassau
Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): Wooden house in Nassau surrounded by flowers
Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): The history of the Bahamas is rife with pirate stories, shown in the Pirates of the Bahamas
Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): Fort Charlotte was considered a folly, and it was never used; now, it remains as a landmark castle in Nassau
Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): Sunlight shining on Providence House, one of the colonial buildings in Nassau
Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): Wall of Fort Charlotte, one of the forts defending Nassau against invaders
Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): The rounded wall of Fort Fincastle topped by cannons seen from below
Picture of Nassau Old Town (Bahamas): Cannons on the walls of Fort Fincastle pointed towards the sea

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