At first sight, it looks almost too good to be true, this tiny Dutch island in the southern Caribbean, just a few miles from Venezuela. The neat little houses painted in candy stripe pastels (a former government complained that reflections from the previous sparkling white walls hurt his eyes) could have been transplanted from the Netherlands or Switzerland. Curacao, a sunny haven blessed with gentle trade winds, cool waters, and pristine diving, has an interesting terrain of arid countryside and coast outlined with rocky coves, craggy cliffs, inlets and bays. Here is the perfect place to recharge your spirit and enjoy a laid back picturesque vacation. Curacao is part of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) and is located 35 miles north of Venezuela. Its highest elevation is 1,239 feet and the spoken language is Dutch and English.
A visit to Willemstad, Curaao’s capital, brings you the best of the island – old World charm and contemporary culture. This lively city’s unique architecture, activities, and neighborhoods shape the islands historic center.
A high point of the year in Curaao is the annual Carnival Parade, when the entire populace turns out to applaud and cheer the elaborately costumed bands. So small, yet so full of surprises! Friendly faces appear on all sides, friendly greetings are in the air. Even the dolphins in the Sea Aquarium, almost next door to your Breezes resort, will invite you to swim beside them and yes nuzzle in for a kiss.
Historically, Curaao has been tossed about like a child’s balloon between European conquerors. Sighted first by a crewman on a voyage of exploration by the sea admiral Amerigo Vespucci, the island became a Spanish possession. But as thirty years passed the Dutch captured the jewel island only to lose this prize, and more, in the Napoleonic wars. Yet, the Dutch regained Curaao in one of history’s most disputed business deals: Peter Styvessant, the Dutch Governor, traded New Amsterdam (now New York City) for six Caribbean islands. (Today, you may hear people mention “the ABC islands” they are referring to three Dutch possessions nestled together: Aruba, Bonaire and Curaao.) Lying on the beach in this blissful Paradise, you may decide the Dutch got the best of the bargain!
Meanwhile, locals joke that their grandfathers had to look at the Government House each morning to see whose flag was flying.
Naturally, this small island is of great interest to historians. Of particular note is the first Jewish Synagogue built in the New World. To avoid European persecution, the first Jews arrived in Curaao in l65l. The Mikevah Synagogue, built in l730, is one of only five Synagogues in the Americas with the traditional sand-covered floor. (One other is in Jamaica).
Talk the Talk
Because the little island of Curaao has changed European hands so often, most local folk are fluent in Dutch, English, French and Spanish as well as a wonderful new language Papiament. It is made up, they say, of “three jiggers of Spanish, one of Dutch, half jigger each of French, Portuguese and English, with a seasoning from Africa. Ready to try out a few local phrases?
Bon dia Good morning
Bon tardi Good evening
Bob bini Welcome
Kom bai How are you?
Hopi Very much
Hopi bon! Great
Wak bo otra ana See you next year!