The picturesque town of Bahir Dar is the gateway to over 40 ancient monasteries that dot the shores and islands of Lake Tana. It is also the source of the Blue Nile, which fascinated ancient Egyptians and modern day explorers alike. Even 21st century tourists are still drawn in by the romanticizing tales and exotic flair.
On our strolls through the city, we saw not a single tourist, not even at the Saturday market, a place usually not missed by any traveler. Isn’t this one of Ethiopia’s major tourist hubs?
Only when we dropped in at the famous Ghion restaurant did we spot the “Faranjis”, gazing out onto the lake. And yes, the setting of this hotel is unparalleled, perched right onto the lakeshore. Its huge garden is full of orange-red colored flowers, it serves good food and the service is excellent. Why they do not fix the grubby rooms, remains the secret of the management. The Ghion is where you find everything – Internet, information about things to do in the area, boat rental to visit the lake monasteries and advice on onward travels…
The rooms at the Dib Anbessa Hotel (400 Birr / 25 USD for a double) were a tiny bit less gritty. A view of the lake? No problem, if you could endure the blasting videos of a stall selling religious paraphernalia across the street!
Bahir Dar lover we became. We strolled the streets lined with palm trees, downed addictive avocado juices at street cafes, walked along the lake and enjoyed the relaxed small town feel. The “Faranji Fever” mentioned over and over in the Lonely Planet and in many blogs turned out to be a myth and so we roamed the streets almost unnoticed. The few people trying to sell services and souvenirs always took the first “No, thank you” for an answer.