The island of Curaçao in the southern Caribbean Sea may be small, it’s still full of surprises. Here’s 10 fascinating things I learned during my visit.
1. Free WiFi!
There’s free WiFi in Willemstad! All around the capital, in Punda as well as Otra Banda, you can surf the net for free. The network is conveniently called ‘Curaçao Free WiFi’. There’s a few hick-ups here and there depending on where you’re standing in the city, but all in all it works fine.
2. Polka dots
Traditional houses in Curaçao have a special feature in the kitchen: white polka dots on red walls. Can you guess why? Flies and mosquitos detest them! The dots make their heads spin, so they stay out of the kitchen. Clever!
3. The real deal
If you buy a bottle of Blue Curaçao in your home country, chances are you’re not drinking the original stuff… The only place where you can get the real deal, is on the island of Curaçao and a select amount of stores in the USA. So how come bottles of Blue Curaçao are available all around the world? Because the producers of the original drink never got a patent. As a result there are many, many imitations going around. More on Curaçao liqueur in a future post…
4. The shoe tale
Today you can cross the Emma bridge as many times as you like on foot, but until 1934, anyone who was wearing shoes had to pay toll (2 cents). As a result, wealthy people took off their shoes to avoid having to pay, and poor people who couldn’t afford shoes borrowed a pair from the rich and paid the 2 cents to cross the bridge, to maintain a sense of pride.
5. Sand on the floor
The floor of the Mikve Israel Emanuel Synagogue in Curaçao (the oldest Sephardic-Jewish synagogue in the western hemisphere that is still in use) is covered in sand. It has nothing to do with bringing the beach into the synagogue, but everything with the Spanish inquisition thad had forced the early Jewish settlers in Curaçao to practice Judaism in secrecy. The sand allowed them to enter and exit the synagogue without begin heard and to pray and hold Shabbat services without the soldiers finding out.
6. Naked buildings
Did you know Curaçao locals make a distinction between ‘dressed’ buildings and ‘naked’ buildings? The buildings are called naked when the original stones are visible and ‘dressed’ if the stones are covered with plaster and paint. Sometimes the salt inside the coral stones starts to affect the plaster and paint, which is called ‘wall cancer’ or ‘wall sickness’.
7. So Dushi!
There are 65 different nationalities living in Curaçao. As a result, most natives speak several languages. The most widely spoken languages are Papiamento, Dutch, English and Spanish or Portuguese. Here’s one Papiamento word you’re very likely to hear all around: dushi. It has a variety of meanings, from sweetheart to tasty, beautiful, nice or good. The word is so popular that it was turned into a piece of art in 2012. You can find it on the Wilhelmina square in Willemstad.
8. Eating lizard
In Curaçao, seeing an iguana crawling around the hotel pool is as surprising (or as normal) as seeing an iguana on a plate in Curaçao… Local favorites are iguana soup or stewed iguana, ‘stoba yuana’. You can try the reptile at Restaurant ‘Jaanchies‘ in Westpunt and sometimes at the old market ‘Plasa Bieu’ as well. I don’t eat meat but my travel companions said it tastes like chicken…
9. The place to be
The trendiest neighbourhood in town? Pietermaai for sure. The district went from being a neglected ghetto to a cool and artistic area with restored homes and hip bars and hotels. Visit by day and you’ll see some very cool street art and beautifully colored houses, visit by night and you’ll hear music and see dancing in the various cosy cafes and beach bars.
10. Purified sea water
Order still water at any restaurant, bar or hotel, and what you’ll get is… sea water! Everywhere in Curaçao, tap water is distilled directly from the sea and is completely safe to drink, don’t bother paying for the bottles of water in your hotel room. To add a little bit of oomph to your glass of water, ask for ‘awa di lamunchi’: water with lime and sugar. Very refreshing and a true Curaçao classic. Salú!
Find out more about Curaçao here: www.curacao.com