We happened to be in Paramaribo during the first week of April 2013, and witnessed the "Avondvierdaagse". The name of this yearly happening can be translated in English as "four days' evening hike". Groups and individual hikers cover a different distance around town for four aftrenoons in a row, Wednesday through Saturday.
Many groups are accompanied by a band and not so much walk as dance, which makes for slow going. The first day it took two hours just for everyone to pass the street corner where we stood. Groups may be from schools, government offices, private enterprise and political parties. President Bouterse's NPD came out in big numbers.
We noticed that the great majority of participants were of the Creole ethnic group. Few hindustani's, amerindians and whites took part, and these mainly as individual walkers.
If you happen to be in Paramaribo during the right period you can join the hike, even for one day. Just make sure you register with committee, participation is free.
Venue: Start and finish were at a field on Johannes Mungrastreet, at 4pm. Here festivities extended into the night until 11pm.
Plenty of people have commented here on the Open Air Museum and Fort New Amsterdam. However, nobody touched on how to get there.
You can take bus #4 for 1.5 SRD to the north edge of the Suriname River. To get this bus, catch it from Waterkant & Kromme Elleboog.
(Alternatively if you rent a bike, from Zuz & Zo's for example, you can ride up to the boat. This will allow you to explore more of New Amsterdam and the plantation areas)
From there a boat can take you across. The boat will be 20 SRD total, so price can be between 1.25~20 depending on how full and/or impatient you are.
From the opposite bank of the river, the fort is less than 10 minutes walk (to the left).
There is an open-air museum on the compound, for an entry price of 2 SRD.
Open hours are 9am~5pm weekdays, 10am~6pm weekends
The 'palmentuin' or Palm Garden lies just behind the presidential palace. It is a favourite gathering place for all kinds of festivities. And of course it is crowded on independence day.
Here you can enjoy all kinds of local snacks.
But do not pass by the sad monument for little Ruben, who died because he got locked in a refrigerator. The monument was made by his father, who was a sculptor.
We arrived in Paramaribo on November 23rd, and Saturday the 25th happened to be independence day (Srefidensi in Sranan Tonga, Suriname's own language).
Through a friend we obtained invitations for the president's reception from 12 to 14 pm. But no one checked on the invitations, so if you happen to be in Paramaribo on November 25th, just walk in. Dress code: no shorts for men!
In a former life president Venetiaan was a math teacher at the AMS (Algemene Middelbare School or secondary school). So he was willing to pose with his former student, Helen.
From New Amsterdam Pier we returned to Paramaribo by boat. It was really interesting to see life along the riverside from a different perspective. Many people live on the banks of the Surinam River, making a living from fishing.
Prior to the abolishing of slavery in 1863, Commewijne was home to soem 60 plantations, mainly sugar. Once the plantation would no longer have access to cheap labour, they realised that they would be unable to continue with their large scale cultivation of the area, and many sold chunks of land to the freed slaves. Now only a handful of plantations remain.
The mansions were built on stilt for several reasons:
1. To remain elevated and above the workers.
2. To keep the dwelling cool.
3. To prevent vermin from entering the house.
A human-powered bicycle-ambulance was one of the exhibits in the museum. This is the first of its kind that I have ever seen, and I was fascinated by it. A stretcher would be placed on top of the frame - I can only imagine the discomfort that would be added to the already sick person being transported in this manner on what would undoubtedly be very unever tracks!
In a shed in the museum grounds, several historical vehicles were kept, including this 18th century horse drawn fire engine. Every plantation owner was required by law to train three slaves as firemen.
Also of interest was a beautifully preserved horse drawn hearse.
Construction of the fort was started in 1734, and it took 15 years to complete.Set in 15 acres of land, it is a pentagonal shape and the only clay-wall fort in the Caribbean. 350 slaves tolled to construct the fort.
The fort has never fired a short and ceased being a defensive stronghold in 1907. In 1968 the fort was turned into an open air museum.
In the grounds of the fort / museum are found a few rusting hulks of German vehicles from the war, the powdre room, a sugar burner and a sluice.
The fort was the first prison in Surinam, and we were shown the cells where one of our party was shackled to show how the slaves would work with their hands tied to their feet, constantly stooped! Those who were willing, could be (temporarily) locked in the soltary confinement cell. Not me!
Although the museum was quite interesting, I feel it did not warrent a half day visit. It didn't help that we only arrived the previous day and were still feeling rather weary from the long flight, and were unaccustomed to the heat and humidity.
There are two ways of reaching Commewijne from Paramaribo:
1. Drive over Jules Albert Wydenbosch bridge
2. By boat to New Amsterdam Pier.
The pier - and fort - was protected from foreign attack by two cannons along the riverside.
From the pier, we looked out on the river, where we spotted dolphins frolicking in the water, and beyond that, the Atlantic Ocean! Below us, in the murky waters, a cut eye swims merrily. Like mud-skippers, this surface swimming fish has eyes with two parts: one which can see above water and one which looks out below the surface.