Published: October 3rd 2010October 3rd 2010
Some of you may have never heard of Suriname and would probably hazard a guess that it lie somewhere in rometest Africa. So would I before this trip. It´s also a difficult place to gain entry into - the Suriname embassy in Caynne (French Guiana) appeared all too unwilling to issue us Visas despite being mere tourists. The 40 Euros paid for the Visa was hardly worth the amount of time spent in Suriname, being restricted only to the capital, Paramaribo. All three of ´The Guyanas´are moulded from their colonial past which is now found in their language: French Guiana being French, Suriname being Dutch and Guyana being English. Despite the English having brief meddlings with Suriname, everybody now drives on the left (much to the Dutch tourists annoyance!) and even BBC news was on the TV at customs! In addition, it would be fair to say that the locals would regard themselves as Carribean before South American.
The Colonial past is perhaps best observed from Paramaribo whose inner city was listed as a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2002. It is in this centre that I stay at a very comfortable hostel, equipped with its own swimming pool, oh what luxury! The inner city is a very well preserved site of Dutch colonnial architecture and is a wonderful and safe place to wander around. Most buildings are constructed of wood and painted black and white; this being a style being much copied in many prestige housing developments, particularly north American. It is also good to see that improvements and refurbishments of old buildings are continuining to retain the quality of this historic built form. Have a browse of the photographs on facebook.
The most noteworthy places we visit are Niew Amsterdam (by bike and which contains an innumerable amount of small Asian supermarkets!) the Roman Catholic Cathedral (which the Surinamese claim to be the largest wooden building in the world although I very much doubt this), Fort Zeelandia (being a 17th century fort where the first colonists alighted) and a mosque and the Dutch Israeli Synagogue which sit harmoniously side by side; I doubt there are many locations, if any, in the world where such neighbours can be peacefully observed!
We had planned to visit the Suriname Central Reserve in the south but it is very well protected and almost impossible to visit independantly. Even if it were possible the transport there - particualrly the boats - would be very expensive. The tours also turn out to be very expensive so we decide to give it a miss knowing that we would be heading into the Amazon in southern Guyana. Hence, we opt to head to Guyana on a very practicle minibus which picks us up from our hostel and drops us off at another in Georgetown, Guyana. Read my next blog for more.