The highlights of Punda
The colonial heart of Willemstad is one of the six Caribbean sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It earned this title partly due to the pride of Curaçao - the Penha building on the corner of Handelskade and Heerenstraat. This huge canary-yellow warehouse and home with its red-tiled roof from 1708 has no fewer than 4 typical clock gables. The elegant curves, decorations and curls show that the colonial buildings in Willemstad are not as Dutch as they initially seem. Architects were often influenced by other colonial powers such as the Spanish and Portuguese. Straight across from Penha is another of the island’s treasures: the Queen Emma Bridge from 1888, also locally known as the ‘ferry bridge’. This connection between the districts on either side of St. Anna Bay is the world’s only floating wooden pontoon bridge. It opens many times a day to let vessels into the port, at which time pedestrians get to the other side by ponchi (ferry).
Our boys in the West
The Spanish ‘discovered’ Curaçao and its Indian people in the late 15th century. When they failed to find any valuable resources, they called it an isla inútil, a useless island, and soon departed. In 1634 the Dutch West Indies Company took over the island. They immediately started building Fort Amsterdam to defend the strategically located port, and established plantations for sugar cane, cotton and tobacco. Curaçao developed into the centre of the Dutch slave trade, and Willemstad became the flourishing port city. The result is still visible today: no other Caribbean island has more protected monuments (over 860) than Curaçao.