From shoestring to luxury
27.09.2008 - 24.10.2008
We met Sunes' father Karl in Lomé (Togo) the 27th of September at one of his former colleagues, Christa, where we had spent a couple of nights. This was the beginning of an overwhelming luxury we faced for most of October at our stay at Karls' fine villa in Cotonou, Benin. We quickly managed to get a pleasant daily routine at Karls' home, where we woke up in the morning to a nicely prepared brunch of fresh fruit, french baguette, juice and sometimes croissants. After brunch the cuisinier, Honoré, would clear the table and our Professeur de Français, Madame Tossa, would arrive to the house to give us 3 hours of intensive french lessons. After this strain of great concentration, we could recover at the lunch. Honorés' cooking was excellent and his fine French cuisine was greatly appreciated by us as we enjoyed roasted lamb in a french sauce accompanied by haricots verts steamed in garlic and butter and potatoes roasted with herbs at our first lunch. The next days he prepared butterroasted chicken, pork roast with exquisite garniture, and white fish with no bones in a sauce of fresh herbs and tomatoes - the four weeks we stayed there, we hardly didn't get the same meal twice. During the afternoons we went down to the finest hotel of Cotonou and played tennis while Honoré either did the laundry, ironed our clothes, or prepared the dinner. During the evening we could tend to intellectual stimulation by reading books, study french or engage ourselves in long conversations with (or sometimes lectures by) Karl about ancient or newer world history.
In the weekends we went on tours in southern Benin, where we saw Ouidah, the city from which voodoo originates, Ganvié, a big village with 27000 people, that all live in the middle of a giant lake in bamboo huts set on stilts (think of Venice, but made out of twigs), Porto Novo, the old colonial style capital of Benin, and the royal palaces of the Abomey kings, which were amongst the people that profitted the most from the European slave trade. Some very brutal stories are associated with these palaces, such as how thousands of slaves were sacrificed at the kings festivities, how the Prime minister was also the executioner and if he failed to decapitate a person in one stroke, then he would himself be decapitated and many similar stories. We were furthermore told the price for a european canon in the former currency of this region, i.e. slaves, which were 23 women or 15 men.