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The word Otrobanda, used for the district on the opposite side of the famous pontoon bridge in Willemstad, is Papiamento for ‘the other bank’. Many people cross the bridge to take the much-seen photo of the pastel-coloured houses on the Handelskade in Punda. And in addition to these splendid views, the other bank also features many restaurants, luxury hotels and a great shopping mall.
In its colonial heyday, the rapidly growing Willemstad was expanded with a district across St. Anna Bay. The ‘other side’ soon became the less popular part of Punda; those who were unwanted within the city walls ended up here, in modest houses in small streets. The situation started to change in 1888. After the opening of the Queen Emma Bridge, rich traders moved over the water and started a new era, building the sort of spacious merchants’ houses you see on Brionplein square.
“100 colonial homes were converted into a stunning 5-star hotel village. ”
Another great example of the amazing transformation of Otrobanda is the Riffort, one of the 8 fortresses on Curaçao. Built in 1828 on the eastern point of St. Anna Bay, its 56 cannons were supposed to protect the fort. In WWII, the fortress was used by the American army which closed off the harbour to German submarines by using a huge steel net. The stronghold went to seed after the war until a new purpose was found: the metres-thick walls of the Riffort now accommodate a luxury shopping mall, expensive restaurants and a 5-star hotel.