It’s odd enough to find yourself in the capital city of Suriname on a quiet Sunday morning as it is. But to waken up for breakfast and head to the city’s central square for a “bird singing competition” makes it even more bizarre. This “Tweetyfest”, held weekly on a Sunday morning in Onafhankelijkheidsplein in Paramaribo is one of the must do things while staying in the leafy tropical capital city. So off I went, with a lovely Dutch couple from the hostel – Rene and Raschida.
We caught a taxi down to the central square, known as Onafhankelijkheidsplein. This is basically a large park in a square opposite the country’s government buildings.
There’s not many tourists, it’s not busy and it’s hardly on the list of things to do before you die. However watching a bird singing competition is something I had never done before so I had to see it.
OK, so there were two other tourists there – these two Dutch girls. Hardly strange that most of Suriname’s tourists are Dutch – given that they have daily direct flights to Amsterdam, they speak Dutch and until 1976 Suriname, was a Dutch colony.
Local owners of singing birds plant their cages on sticks in the grass. And the singing begins.
The background setting for the bird singing is full of Dutch style government buildings.
The morning I was there was a particularly low turn out apparently but still enough noise is made from the birds to fill the air with joy.
The owners sit on their cars and judges come over to decide which bird is the winner. But it’s hardly that official. There was no medals ceremony. More a local pride thing. Birds also go into the shop window here – some try to make a profit on their singing pets.
Flags of the world at Onafhankelijkheidsplein in Paramaribo, Suriname.
In front of one of the cages of bird singing. It felt very untouristy. Nobody else was taking photos!
I don’t remember how many birds were there but every post or pillar is one. Probably between 20 – 30 in the whole square.
The Surinamese are all very proud of their birds. To be honest I am not really sure how the whole thing works but enjoyed the experience of it. It was certainly one of my oddest travel stories to date. The birds are called “twatwa” (song birds).
The backdrop for this melarkey is the Suriname National Presidential Palace. While I’m at it, I might as well detail the actual buildings at Onafhankelijkheidsplein, as it’s the city’s central square. So you’ve got the Presidential Palace, the statues of Johann Pengel and Jagernath Lachmon, the National Assembly, the Ministry of Finance, Fort Zeelandia and The Palmentium. Plus nearby it all leads on Waterkaant Street – a famous UNESCO World Heritage street of typically old Dutch buildings.
Suriname flag and Palace.
Tweetyfest in full flow at Onafhankelijkheidsplein. I had read that the popularity of this event was petering out. And I was there in January 2011 and must agree. There weren’t many people about at all. I wonder at its peak was this a major attraction for tourists. At least I was there to see it, before (dare I say it) it dies out completely. I sincerely hope it doesn’t, as these little crazy ridiculous things are what makes travelling so interesting. I bet no other capital city in the world would advertise local bird singing outside its government halls on a Sunday morning as a popular tourist activity.
The statue of Jagernath Lachmon. A famous politician and former president of Suriname.
Plaque for Jagernath Lachmon.
Onafhankelijkheidsplein. The name of the square. Roughly translated it means Independence Square.
A sign up in Onafhankelijkheidsplein.This means something like “watch and exit”. I didn’t really get it.
Another typically Dutch building on the edge of the square. Used for the Ministry of Finance.
Gate to the National Assembly.
Paramaribo is tropical and in the baking heat I also flew my Northern Ireland flag in front of the parliament. Though this was taken the day after on my sightseeing tour.
A close up of the sign for the square and the flag, plus the clock tower in behind.
A map of Paramaribo, one of the world’s lesser known and lesser ventured capitals, I’d have thought.
A War Memorial near Onafhankelijkheidsplein.
The view out to the Suriname River from just beyond Onafhankelijkheidsplein.
The Palace from the corner – a few more shots of the nearby sights and we’ll have to bid a singingly fond farewell to Onafhankelijkheidsplein.
The tourist information centre. If this is the busiest one in the entire country (which it probably is) then it’s bizarrely quiet!
Another war memorial near Onafhankelijkheidsplein.
A nice I love Suriname sign close to where the Tweetyfest takes place at Onafhankelijkheidsplein.
The Palmentuin. An odd place. Tropical birds, trees, wildlife and even monkeys all lurk here. Sadly the shanty huts in behind make it a dodgy area for tourists, despite the fact that it sits on the edge of Onafhankelijkheidsplein in behind the Palace.
The poshest hotel in Suriname. Nope, I didn’t stay there!!
The famous Waterkaant Street.
Nice corner shot of Onafhankelijkheidsplein from the beginning of Waterkaant Street.
And these birds didn’t quite make it into the Tweetyfest…
Where – Onafhankelijkheidsplein, Paramaribo, SURINAME
What – Tweetyfest (Bird Singing Competition)
When – Every Sunday Morning (say 9 am – 11 am ish)
Why – Because it’s something different to do!
Nationalities Met – Surinamese, Dutch
Transport Used – Bus, Taxi
Strange Currencies – Suriname Dollars and Cents
Key Songs –
AN OASIS/THE BEATLES DOUBLE A SIDE:
1. OASIS – SONGBIRD:
2. THE BEATLES – AND YOUR BIRD CAN SING:
My Videos –
TWEETYFEST IN FULL FLOW IN ONAFHANKELIJKHEIDSPLEIN:
A HOT DAY AT ONAFHANKELIJKHEIDSPLEIN:
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