Gondar & Simien updates

Former Bradt commissioning editor Tricia Hayne has kindly sent me the following feedback:

Page 216                  Getting there and away/By air Asking around, it seems that almost no-one reconfirms tickets.  Certainly no-one we spoke to in Gondar or Addis.  We did in Lalibela – but when I went to the Ethiopian Airlines office it seemed a formality rather than a necessity.

Pages 220-1                  Where to eat

Our favourites were the Mini Fogera (main dishes around US$1.50), and the new:

 

Masterchef (218 D3). Opposite the Belegez Pension (which isn’t in quite the right place on the map), it was set up by an Ethiopian chef who has spent time working in Dubai.  Simple seating is both indoors and outdoors, service is friendly yet professional, and the food is excellent – both fish goulash and fish dulet (US$3.50) make it worth the trip.  US$2.50-5.

 

There’s also a convivial restaurant at the Nile (218D1) which is on the map as a hotel, but not in the text.  Tables are under cover but the restaurant is open at the front, with foliage and lights blocking the rather urban surroundings. US$2.50 average.

 

Goha Hotel The three-course dinner here (see also p217) wasn’t up to much: the soup was OK, and the stir-fry was good, but the fish was dry and unappealing, and the dessert horribly oversweet.  At 150 birr (US$8) a head without drinks, it was the most expensive meal we had in Ethiopia, and far from the best. Service, though, is indeed good, and there was live entertainment when we were there on a Saturday night – though note that you’re expected to tip the dancers.

Fogera Hotel The restaurant at the Fogera looked empty and unwelcoming when we went there, and no-one we spoke to recommended it.  Instead, we went across to the Mini Fogera opposite.

 

Four Sisters justifies its reputation – once we found it – the map is somewhat misleading. Tej served with the meal was an added bonus.  Prices at US$3-6 aren’t as expensive as locals make out, though drinks are higher than average.

Sofa Juice doesn’t serve pizzas; instead try a huge slice of cake or a pastry with your juice!

Page 223                  Central Gondar There’s a beautiful 400-year-old ficus tree in front of the castle, which as you might expect has all sorts of legends attached!  The area around it, effectively an oversize roundabout, was being ‘beautified’ when we were there, with arches, paths through the gardens, and posh new toilets nearing completion.  In the centre of the Piazza is a gleaming new statue of Emperor Tewodros, which I think was erected in 2012.

Page 224                  Fasil Ghebbi Guide fees are US$5 (100 birr) for 1-3 people, or US$7.50/150 birr for 4+. We didn’t see any connecting tunnels – though they could of course be there.  Only the first floor of Fasilides’ castle is open to the public.

Bakafa’s banqueting hall was – according to our guide – used as a bunker by the Italians, who concreted it to withstand bombing from the British. Or not, of course!

Mentewab’s Castle has been closed for a couple of years for structural reasons, and there is no longer a gift shop at the castle.

Gemjabet Maryam is accessed from the road rather than from within the enclosure.

Page 225                  Ras Ghimb (end of page 225) is almost opposite the Church of Medhane Alem.  It was apparently open to the public until 2012 (50 birr), but is currently swathed in scaffolding and closed for restoration.  You can still get inside the complex, though!

Page 226                  Fasilides’ Pool  To get there, take a minibus (1 birr) from opposite the Circle Hotel and get off at Fasilides’ School.  From there it’s about 300m: take the road that forks to the right, and follow on round the back of the stadium, where there’s a signboard.  We were particularly struck by the gnarled roots of what I think are banyan trees, seated like some fairytale ogres  along the exterior walls of the pool.

We couldn’t find the House of Chickens – though it’s possible this is the building that’s by the road and is being restored (I’ve no idea for what purpose).

The domed pavilion mentioned in the box above is in a state of partial collapse, and is now held up by scaffolding.

Page 226                  Kuskuam As with Fasilides’ Pool, take a minibus from opposite the Circle Hotel , and get off at the hospital (1 birr). There’s no signpost, but the road is clear.  At Kuskuam, we searched everywhere in and outside the banqueting hall, but found no sign of the cartoon-like etchings that you mention, though they could have been hidden by scaffolding.

Page 227                  Debre Birhan Selassie It’s worth getting a guide to interpret the paintings, but make sure as always that he’s official…   We didn’t get any sense of a helpful caretaker!  Re the symbolic architecture box, the info at the end about the seven-pronged medallion relates to many churches that we saw in Ethiopia.

Page 230                  Wolleka is about 3km, not 5km, from Gondar, a pleasant 45-minute amble along the main road. Plenty of crafts stalls all line the road here, but there’s a fair amount of ‘persuasion’ from youngsters touting their wares or seeking to take you to the synagogue.  Much better and more peaceful is to visit the Ploughshare Women’s Crafts Training Centre, which is on the opposite side of the road at the start of the village (not 2km away), on the right as you’re heading from Gondar. You can watch the potters and weavers at work, as well as buying their crafts; standards are high and prices fair.

Pages 236-7                  map In the key it says that ‘hiking route follows road for much of the route’. Our experience over three days suggests that it does in parts, but is more often off road.

 

Page 239                  Three days (two nights) Walking from close to Simien Lodge, sleeping at Sankaber and Gich, then walking a circle to Imeg Gogo and back to Abergirna (I think!), where we were collected and driven back to Gondar.  Superb walking; stunning scenery and fantastic raptor population; would love to go back!

 

There are a few Simien specialists in Gondar, including one based at the Atse Bekafa Hotel, and the one we used, who although a little more expensive, we’d recommend:

www.simienmountains.com; mob: 251 0911 404792; email: alebachew_2005@yahoo.com

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One thought on “Gondar & Simien updates

  1. Monika von Oppell says:

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