The Togolese Republic or Togo for short is a narrow strip of land sandwiched between Ghana and Benin. At 57,000 sq.km (22,000 sq.mi.) it is one of the smallest countries in Africa. Its capital Lomé is situated at the Gulf of Guinea. Despite the population that exceeds 1,8 million people, Lomé is surprisingly laid back, particularly in comparison to Nigerian cities of similar size.
Social life of Lomé centers around its sandy beaches that stretch along the entire coastline of Togo. Do not get deceived by the inviting looks of the sea, though. Common undertow and rip currents are dangerous here and locals will advise you not to go into the water any further than knee-deep.
There are about forty languages spoken in little Togo. French is the official one. The Ewe are one of the most numerous ethnic groups in the country. The word "togo" derives from their language and means "behind the river".
"It is one of saddest countries in the world" - this is the most surprising statement about Togo I found in internet. Who could come up with such an original idea? Smiley and polite people surround you and if you make the effort and learn a couple of words or phrases in Ewe, everyone around will be thrilled.
Perhaps the misconception of general "sadness" of the Togolese is associated with the infamous history of this part of Africa known as the Slave Coast. From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century trans-Atlantic slave trade throve here. You may wish to refer to the map at the end of my post to learn more about it.
The coast was also known as a "white man's grave". A lot of Europeans died here of yellow fever, malaria and other diseases. Anyone travelling across West Africa should be aware of health risk even today.
In 1884 Togo became a German protectorate known as Togoland. After the First World War it was transferred to France. Like many African countries, Togo gained independence in 1960.
Nowadays Germany and France are the main economic partners of Togo. The affection to its past reflects not only in the street names of Lomé but also surprising eagerness of the people (in particular the elderly) to practice their German.
Football (soccer) is king in Togo and children play it on dozens of permanent and makeshift pitches all around the place. Every boy wants to be a Messi or a Lewandowski. Although this passion does not translate to major inernational sports achievements, it is great fun and passers-by can always join the game.
After a quiet weekend in Lomé, it is time to head north. Numerous second-hand minibuses imported from Europe ply the roads of Togo. The procedure is very simple: you find a station, ask around for a minibus or collective taxi to your destination, get in the vehicle, wait 30, 60, 120 minutes until other passegers come so it is packed like a tin of sardines and ... of we go on the next adventure.