Shop of Small Wonders

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The shop, Peter’s Antiques, has become synonymous with cultural tourism in Swakopmund and indeed Namibia.

By Catherine Sasman

SWAKOPMUND

A steady stream of foreign tourists and interested Namibians ring the bicycle bell mounted onto the freshly painted yellow door of Peter’s Antiques, a unique small shop that turns 25 in August.

Some visitors come in to buy old German colonial and wartime memorabilia after peeping through the large windows of the shop. Others come in merely to browse through the thousands of items, big and small, to get a “sense” of days gone by.

Ludwig Haller, son of Peter Haller, who started the shop in August 1983, remembers the day when a heavily pregnant Angelina Jolie during her much-publicised stay at Long Beach in 2006 walked through the doors of the internationally acclaimed shop with three of her burly bodyguards.

Ludwig’s father, Peter – now retired after handing over the shop to his son – failed to recognise the high-powered Hollywood actress. But, says Ludwig, many more stars and other personalities of note have walked through the aisles stacked with interesting historic and more recent articles, and all have inevitably walked out with one item or the other.

“I am always flabbergasted at how popular the shop is internationally. The New York Times ran four pages on where to shop, and one of the places was Peter’s Antiques,” he says with a certain degree of wonder.

So much is the interest in the shop that it has attracted small and large film productions to look for props among the many and varied items in the shop.

This has resulted in Peter being recruited to work as an extra in as many as 25 films. Ludwig has also been enlisted to play as an extra in an Afrikaans film as a boy in the 1970s.

And the intrigue persists.

The shop is a product of his father’s entrepreneurial spirit, a passion for antiques, and the insatiable wanderlust of the Haller family.

“My father sold his first old antiquated coach at the early age of eight years,” muses Haller.

The young Peter, his son remembers, hailed from Landshut in southern Germany where his passion for the old and interesting grew.

In 1963, the older Haller first arrived in the then South West Africa with a German textile company, Von Tippeskirch, and met his wife, Gabby Henrischen, and decided to stay in the coastal town for a while.

The couple, young with “hippie blood” in them, however, soon packed up and first moved to Johannesburg, South Africa, where Peter “tried his luck” in business, creating and selling figurines of famous figures for about four years.

In 1970, the couple decided to move to Germany, where Peter started out as a salesman for the Encyclopedia Britannica before the family yet again decided to pack up – this time to tour the world.

This time with two young sons, Michael and Ludwig, “and their Tibetan guard dog that behaved like a teddy bear when required”, the family set off in their Mercedes Benz – a twin-wheel, four-tonne wagon converted into a caravan.

For a number of years the family trekked through European and Scandinavian countries, with the aim to travel through China and then eventually reach New Zealand and Australia.

They travelled through countries like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Tibet, and reached the Chinese border in 1972. There, their hopes were dashed when they were stopped at the border and where the young Ludwig was – erroneously so – diagnosed with a weak heart by the Chinese authorities. The family could not proceed and instead returned to Germany via India, Pakistan and other countries along the way.

In the meantime, the family’s finances got tight but they managed to get back to Germany.

By 1976, the German authorities decided it was time for Michael to go to school, but his mother balked at this idea, and the family summarily decided to move back to Namibia where the school system was more rigid and where children were allowed wide-open spaces to play in.

This time, the family drove through Africa with their trusted Mercedes Benz to reach Namibia in 1977.

“By the time we arrived here we were dead poor and by the time I started school, we had travelled through 50 different countries and we knew we were privileged in that sense,” remembers Ludwig.

It was also on this trip that the passion for collecting historic artifacts was fired up again, and where invaluable contacts with dealers were established that sustained the shop’s interesting, beautiful and diverse fa?

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