Lying on the warm desert sand, using the light of the moon to spot sparkling diamonds in the sand and collect them by the handful. This story is not fictional, this is the true story of how the Ghost Town of Kolmanskop began. Now you can visit it, to the south of Namibia and witness an entire town slowly drowning in the sands of the oldest desert in the world.
Kolmanskop or Kolmannskuppe is perhaps most popularly known for the breathtaking characteristic photographs that can be taken there. Be sure to bring your camera as you move from one decrepit building to the next. Brightly painted, German architectural interiors half consumed by white desert sand construct vivid images. Door less archways and glassless windows with waves of sand passing through as well as sand filled bathtubs and old dilapidated furniture transport you well away from any from any reality that you are used to.
The town serves as an open-air museum and as you make your way through the designated remains you can teleport to a time that once was. Rewind to the year 1920, twelve years after the first diamond was found and the town was alive with a feeling of excitement as the diamond rush has brought miners and their families from Germany looking to score. There was a feeling of grandeur and money as a fifth of the world’s diamonds were coming from Kolmanskop at the time. As you make your way from the Schlächterei (Butchery) to the Bäckerei (bakery) to the Lehrer (teacher) you will notice that they were lacking nothing in this town. Declared a Sperrgebiet (forbidden territory) by the German government, only the affluent colonialists benefitted from this haven in the desert. The residents were well taken care of with big houses that still can be explored of the Architekt (architect), Ladenbesitzer (store keeper), Arzt (doctor), Minenverwalter (mine managers) and many double story and once lavish like the Buchhalter (accountant). Rich in diamond money the town boasted great exploits for the time. They were already using electricity while the rest of Europe was still using gas and they introduced the first x-ray machine in the southern hemisphere mostly to protect their precious stones from being stolen. They had a grand ballroom and theatre where they used to invite famous performers from Germany and import champagne from France. The women wore the latest fashion and they employed a daily sand removing squad to keep the area clean. They even had an Eisfabrik (ice factory) from which an ice vendor delivered ice every day. Despite being abandoned about sixty years ago some of these buildings can still be seen in a preserved state, protected from the harsh sand. You can view the gym equipment and a piano in the ballroom, play skittles in the skittle-alley and see the swimming pool now full of sand. Some of the buildings still have a made-up table and clothing hanging to give you a feel of the time.
The krankenhaus (hospital) was the last building to be abandoned before the ghosts claimed the town from the residents in 1956 only forty years after it was founded. Walking around this eerie place is both chilling and thrilling. There is a floor of sand everywhere you go and always fresh prints of both humans and animals. A protected area you should watch out for brown hyena and could see geckos, wild rabbits and the odd jackal as well. However still a tourist attraction, it is still wild nature and you should look out for snakes and wear protective shoes for the hot sand and debris.
You would do yourself an injustice not to visit this fascinating place. This area is proof that the force of nature can take over from any constructed civilization and the town has become part of the desert it once was.