I guess I should have known it, for the very first moment. For the first moment, when we got off the airplane and my hair seemed to announce enthusiastically: From now on, there is anarchy! At least from our point of view. And that was, unfortunately, only the very first of quite a few unpleasant surprises.
Curacao - caribbean slightly different
Allright, let's do some thinking: How would you imagine the Caribbean? A lot of sun, white beaches, exotic flowers, rare animals and maybe in between some palmtrees snuggling up between colorful houses? Does that sound like the Caribbean to you? Well, so did it to us. But we had to learn the hard way: There is the Caribbean, and there is Curacao.
As a citizen of Amsterdam it stroke me the best idea to just assimilate the dutch way and explore the previous dutch rules ABC-islands. The dutch frontyard so to say. And of course there is no need to mention those handy non-stop flights from Schiphol right to Willemstad.
Arrival in Slow Motion
I, well, we surely dreamed of all this things mentioned above. Which was a great start. No question about that. We shared books, check google pictures and watched short trailer on tourism websites and therefore consider ourselves as prepared for the Caribbean. We even knew that island time goes a little slower than Central european time, so we didn't mind waiting a while until receiving the keys for our rental car. Well, if there are 3 employees but only one computer working, I guess, you cannot help it.
CaribBean dreams come true - almost
Also our hotel was beautiful. Perfect. Period. Flowers shining from beautifully carved fascades, white balustrades and gables, pointing into the flawless blue sky. Behind the hotel, a hidden garden, a beachbar and nothing but the ocean for miles and miles. Trust me, there can be worse things to see when you wake up in the morning.
At the reception we received a map of the island, proactively helping with points of interest, marked with a big star, so you simply won't manage to ignore them. So we hit our car, towels in the trunk, bikinis under our tank tops and sandals at our feet, totally excited and eager to face the beauty of Curacao.
Let's just say what hit us right in the face, unfortunately, was not beauty, but reality.
An Ideal Summerholiday - the truth about Curacao
As we followed the road heading for one of Curacao's most beautiful bays, everything was perfect. Emerald colored water blinding our eyes even through the sunglasses. And i wish i could have kept this impression in mind, but we made an unforgiveable mistake that managed to change everything. We just turned right.
Because right there, only a few 100 metres away from the perfectly white beach, was an oil platform. And let's just say not the most modern oil platform the world has ever seen. Dirty pillars piercing through the surface, dubious old constructions and suspect substances finding their way into the water. From that moment on it was clear that there would be a manta for this vacation: Laugh if it is not enough for crying. And in case you still ask yourself tha question: No, we didn't take a swim in there.
Nonetheless, one must give that to Curacao's tourism management, they do provide visitors with flawless beaches, shining bright in the warm summer sun. Yes, those do exist. And you know you are entering one of them as you will be asked wether you prefer to pay your entrance fee in Gulden or US dollar. Obviously they damage that the desolated roads will cause on your car is not expensive enough.
Caution: Driving is different too
Speaking about driving in Curacao: It is fun. Like riding a bike in Amsterdam. Just forget everything you've ever learned about traffic regulations or safety and you will be good. Speed limits, indicating or this thing called left yields to right simply do not exist. And why bother? It works anyway, perfectly, if you just stop caring. So, if you see a green light, it doesn't automatically mean that not somebody else also feels like driving since they have already been waiting for so long and got bored by now...
Pure nature or the truth about Curacao
Driving with some sense of humor worked for us but when it came to exploring the island's nature it turned into some sort of challenge. Mainly due to the fact that there is no nature left.....To be honest, i was expecting butterflies, colorful birds and amazing flowers. What i got in the end were goats and a handful of Iguanas, most of them dead on the road (some of them had quite some suicidal intentions). Same about plants... no orchids, no blossoms, no nothing, unless you make a difference wether the bush still has some green leafs left on it or not.
Unfortunately, even though I am sure it is really trying hard, nature cannot stand a chance against wind, burning sun and worst of all polution. If you really dare to leave your All-Inlcusive 5 star resort, the only thing you find is a depleted island covered in glass, plastic and bulk garbage that somebody just dropped where there is some space left.
Willemstad keeps its promise - Carebbean
If you find that too frustrating (I'd understand) there is still the option to have a look at the island's captial and explore Willemstad. Good thing to do and the best about it, you will be quick. It is not like you will be struggling to do all the sight seeing in one day. It is more like walking around for one hour and as a highlight admiring the (really!) beautiful wooden bridge in it's center that frequently opens for a way to high amount of oil tanker coming from Venezuela. I can assure, that this will leave an impression, but i am not promising you a good one. Considering the condition of those ships, my word of choice would be terrifying.
But still - Sun, Relaxing & a great holiday
And still, Curacao seems to be the first choice for Dutchies that feel like going on vacation. Because it is like the Netherlands, only with sun. (If you are german, as I am, you might know this phenomenon from the spanish island Mallorca). My personal theory about vacationers engagement with Curacao: Who refuses to look closer won't be bother. And of course hotels and agency make sure you won't have a closer look as there is no need. Your accomodation will satisfy all your needs for beaches, food or shopping in the local Albert Heijn. They will pick you up from the airport and after two weeks they will drop you off again. The perfectly relaxing type of vacation, because some mind work is not required. If you are happy with sun bathing, warm temperature and sand under your feet I recommend you Curacao without any reservations. Please do not forget your sunlotion.
Conclusion - my (dream) holiday
But if you feel like looking a little closer and leaving your comfort zone (literally) I am here to tell you that the real Curacao you will have to see with your own eyes. Because there is no way that you will find it in google pictures. Not even on page 7. Because it is unpleasant. Because it does not fit the vacation mood. Because it only reveals it's beauty on the second look, or even the third or fourth. Beauty as in contrasts, beauty as in paying attention, beauty as in understanding. As in facing reality - reality as it is and not as we want it to be.