Monday, June 19, 2006

Warning! Gratuitous Tourism!

Willemstad is a truly remarkable city. Much larger and more refined than other Caribbean settlements, its streets are safe and well kept. The simple fact that there were street signs puts it several hundred years ahead of most islands. People are friendly and helpful to tourists, and everyone we ran across was gracious and polite. Dutch sensibilities extend far and deep here, creating a feeling more like a European port city than a Caribbean tourist town.

Even though it doesn't do much floating these days (except for the fact that the merchandise may have "floated" over from Venezuela), the floating market and the retractable pedestrian bridge which leads to it are unique and inimitable highlights. Apparently, the locals like to amuse themselves by watching oblivious tourists strand themselves on the bridge for 40 minutes or so as it moves aside allowing ships to roll through.

While a few places have been preserved (the city is an UNESCO World Heritage Site), such as city hall, the old synagogue, and the fort overlooking the harbor, it is interesting to see how many other buildings and forts have been turned into shopping centers. Progress overtaking posterity - very European.