Togo, our first foray into West Africa, has the unfortunate distinction of having been colonized by three European countries, Germany, Britain and France. France, the last colonial master before independence in 1960 seems to have influenced Togo the most.
Together with the food, which is excellent, the French left arrogant and unhelpful civil servants, nonchalant if not sullen service and…constant strikes and demonstrations ! On the journey from the airport, our car gets stuck in a school children’s demonstration. The kids are demonstrating in support of their striking teachers and have occupied a main road, blocking traffic with stones laid out on the road.
Lome, the capital, is a run down, dusty city, with only a handful of asphalted roads, rubbish piling up on the sidewalks and street vendors relieving themselves in full view of the passing traffic. Its few high rise buildings, built well before Perestroika, are proud examples of the Stalinist school of architecture. Their saving grace is that most of them have been long abandoned and they are slowly falling apart so that they will eventually spare humanity of their grotesque presence.
To complete the picture, Togo, with a currency (the CFA Franc) pegged to the Euro, is outrageously expensive. We come to love Lome though because here, for the first time in over one hundred days of travelling through Africa, we find consistently good food and…ice cream. On a permanent ice cream high, the city does not look so ugly after all!