Lake Tana and Gondar, Ethiopia

Bahir Dar and Lake Tana 

Bahir Dah stands on the edge of Lake Tana, the largest Lake in Ethiopia and the source of the Blue Nile.  With its relaxed atmosphere it formed an excellent base for visiting the surrounding monasteries and the Blue Nile Falls. 

The monasteries around the lake are interesting, but being on a lake there is little option for the solo traveller but to take a tour boat.  As is so often the case, the operator, having made the deal, is keen to get the business over and done with. The arrival of a boat is somewhat more obvious than strolling into a village and our little group was met by small children and priests eager to show us the delights of the 14th century and later edifices. Nevertheless, these distinctive monastery buildings, round and highly decorated have a charm all of their own.  Journeying across the lake in itself is interesting in the similarities between the reed boats that ply the waters and those of Egypt.  This is hardly surprising, given the connection through the Nile.

The Blue Nile Falls, known locally as Tis Abay are surprisingly spectacular; surprisingly as a hydroelectric scheme above the falls was said to have considerably reduced the flow. 

The outflow from Lake Tana is regarded as the source of the Blue Nile.  Other than that fact, there is nothing spectacular about the spot.  Nevertheless, it does seem like a photo would be a satisfying memory.  That was not to be.  A bridge crosses the spot where the lake spills out.  As soon as my camera emerged from my bag the sentry on the bridge came running, ‘No photo, no photo’.   No amount of persuasion would convince him that my innocent photo of the river, avoiding the bridge would not breach security.  Even explaining about the Chinese, Russian and American satellites above that could count every bolt in the bridge’s construction, or the probable existence of the plans in a museum in Rome, would shift him.  The source of the Blue Nile will remain in my memory.

The outflow from Lake Tana is regarded as the source of the Blue Nile.  Other than that fact, there is nothing spectacular about the spot.  Nevertheless, it does seem like a photo would be a satisfying memory.  That was not to be.  A bridge crosses the spot where the lake spills out.  As soon as my camera emerged from my bag the sentry on the bridge came running, ‘No photo, no photo’.   No amount of persuasion would convince him that my innocent photo of the river, avoiding the bridge would not breach security.  Even explaining about the Chinese, Russian and American satellites above that could count every bolt in the bridge’s construction, or the probable existence of the plans in a museum in Rome, would shift him.  The source of the Blue Nile will remain in my memory.

 

It was then on to Gondar.  We all have a preconception of the better known sites of countries we visit, the pyramids, the Taj Mahal, Stonehenge, but I had no such preconception of what was to confront me at Gondor.

Gondor was the capital of Ethiopia from its founding in 1635 by Emperor Fasilidas.  It remained the capital for 250 years, and during that time amassed fine castles and other building, many clustered within the Royal Enclosure in the city centre.

The city itself is an easy place to stay with a relaxed atmosphere and friendly locals who do not seem too absorbed in extracting what they can from the tourists.  Rather, they seem pleased and honoured that one has decided to visit.  Although Ethiopia was never colonised, it was occupied by the Italians who left behind a number of Art Deco structures.