It was "the Monday": I came home from work after a heated discussion with my boss. I wrote a resignation letter, had a glass of wine, had a second glass of wine, collected my thoughts, deleted the letter, scheduled a couple of days off and browsed Air Berlin website. On Wednesday morning I took a commuter train to the airport and... flew to Seychelles.
Seychelles are a group of about 100 islands located in the Indian Ocean 1,500 km (930 mi.) east of the African coast. Famous for their sea, sand and sun, they attract tourists mainly from Europe and the Middle East. It is a pity so few of them venture beyond all-inclusive resorts to learn about fascinating mix of cultures of this smallest sovereign African nation.
When Admiral Vasco da Gama sighted and passed by the archipelago in 1502, he named it Amirantes, after himself. The islands were uninhabited until the landing of Captain Alexander Sharpleigh of British East India Company in 1609. Once British, once French, the independent Republic of Seychelles was proclaimed in 1976.
Of all African countries, Seychelles have the highest GDP per capita, on par with the one of Chile or Croatia. Seychelles are a welfare country where local bus tickets are subsidized and tourist infrastructure is controlled by the government. The aficionados of all-inclusive fun are confined to resort areas while most of the beaches remain unspoilt.
Tourism with focus on upmarket facilities plays a big role in the economy of Seychelles. Avoid looking like a backpacker and do not come here with the romantic idea of sleeping under the stars. Polite border officers may guide you to the booth at immigration facilities where you can choose among the Kempinski, Oberoi or Beachcomber and book your stay there or fly back home.
While there would be no prize for guessing where the name Victoria comes from, the name Seychelles is by no means the derivative of "sea shells". This would be too easy. The archipelago was named after Jean Moreau de Séchelle (the Minister of Finance on the court of King Louis XV) after France took possession of the largest island Mahé in 1756.
Saturday hustle and bustle of Sir Selwyn Selwyn Clarke Market in Victoria is an excellent opportunity to chat with the locals. They are very friendly and proud of the heritage and the achievements of the Republic, which they often emphasize in the conversation. For the ones inclined to cooking, Selwyn Selwyn market offers fresh fruit, veggies and fish.
Visit the Immaculate Conception Cathedral, the main Catholic church in Victoria on Sunday. A friendly parish and people beautifully dressed for the occasion will gladly talk to you after the service. Of all 100,000 residents of Seychelles, more than 90,000 are Christian. The second largest religious group are Hindu.
La Repiblik Sesel is the official name of the country in Seychellois Creole (or Seselwa). Next to English and French, Seselwa constitutes the third official language of Seychelles. Creole develops by simplifying and mixing different languages into a new one in a relatively short time. About a hundred creole languages have come to existence over the last 500 years as a result of the European Age of Discovery.
It was a lovely extended weekend in Seychelles. On Monday evening I took a bus to the airport, enjoyed espresso and cake in Air Seychelles lounge and mouthwatering fish à la Creole in the plane. On Tuesday morning, after breakfast and landing at sunny Düsseldorf Airport, I took a commuter train to the office. My boss was in a very good mood. So were I.
... and the map is here: