When I enter the Marichi Pier, I feel the sun burning on my shoulders and think “I forgot my sunscreen”. At a bay or pool I never skip sunscreen, but in case of photographing the city in the morning, it is not in my system yet apparently. It is mid-day, the warmest time of day, but it is still doable here close to the water with the cool sea breeze. There are a few people at the beach, which originated because of the breakwaters along the coast. In the demarcated part of the sea a women swims with her two dogs and on the other side of the pier, a man is looking for shellfish, on the side of the rocks.
I walk towards the end of the jetty. Two boys are sitting on the edge, their legs dangling down and they hold a fishing line in their hands. With only a wire and a bobber, they try to get a tasty snack. The view of the ancient fort wall is beautiful from this side. The imposing building is steeped in history and makes you curious about its past. I also sit on the end of the jetty, next to the young weekend fisherman and ask them about their knowledge of “De Boogjes”. “It’s very old”, the first answers me. “To defend the island”, the other tells me. We look at the brick coral stone, each with our own thoughts…
Curacao has eight different forts, which are spread strategically over the island. Waterfort in Punda is by far the largest. On “de Punt” (the Point) of the city – which was translated as “Punta” in Papiamentu and later transformed into “Punda” – the original walls of the Waterfort were built in 1634. During this period, Johan van Walbeeck began the construction of Fort Amsterdam and Waterfort which protected the island from attacks from sea.
Nearly 200 years later, in 1827, the original walls were replaced by the impressive, elongated structure that still embraces the mouth of the St. Anna Bay today. The Waterfort was extended with towers, arches, stables and even a kind of hospital. The arches – De Boogjes – which are situated along the entire length of the city wall, are the most characteristic aspect of the Waterfort. And especially in its current function they provide – in my eyes – a mysterious atmosphere.
It is still morning when I walk into the restaurant area. You walk through one of the arches as a sort of tunnel to the sea terraces. The square – Plasa Gobernador Cola – is named after Cola (Nicholas) Debrot, who was Governor of Curacao from 1962 until 1970 and a magnificent bronze bust is located here. Several restaurants are located at the sea side of the arches and the restaurants which are open for lunch are already preparing their lunch. The other restaurants are still closed and wait for the afternoon to welcome their guests.
At the square, next to Perla del Mar, I saw a staircase. I am curious and try to open the door, but it is locked unfortunately. At the backside, almost at the end of the restaurants, I discover another way up. This time the door is not locked and I look around, but no one notices me. With one last look over my shoulder, I sneak upwards.
The ‘roof’ of “De Boogjes” appears to be one big contiguous space. On either side I see remnants of the old walls. And the view? The view is breath-taking! In front of me I see The Temple, below the Debrot square and behind me Downtown Punda. I can see all the way to the Sea Aquarium Beach and behind that even further the Table Mountain. And right next to me, between the peepholes, the view of the restaurants below and the horizon.
While I walk on this Fort wall, I try to imagine that centuries ago this was a matter of life and death if you stood here waiting and defending the island. Gazing for hours over the endless water, waiting for a friend or enemy?
“De Boogjes” go even further on the other side of the Plaza Hotel. I have been told that a hairdresser is located since the 70’s. In addition an artist is supposed to be located here which uses the arches for a magnificent exhibition. But this is something for me to discover another time. With my shoulders and cheeks are glowing as a tourist, with little knowledge about the Caribbean sun, I walk back to Plasa Gobernador Cola Debrot. I walk over to Wilhelmina square looking for a bottle of water…
When I photograph, I lose all sense of time, something my shoulders are not appreciating after a few days later. Nevertheless, it was a pleasant acquaintance and I enjoyed the discovery of a very special place in Downtown-Curacao.
With thanks to Manon Hoefman