Posted by: Caroline | June 27, 2012

Sans Souci Palace

Haiti is not a country designed for the independent traveler. In our week or so here, other tourists have not been as sparse as I expected, but they’ve often been NGO workers or wealthy Haitians with their own 4WD vehicle. Without our own wheels, we earn the bonus experience of Haitian public transport–all of which hinges on the tap-tap, basically a pick-up truck that has been outfitted with wooden benches and maybe a metal covering to protect us from the Caribbean sun. A conductor hangs precariously from the back, yelling out the destination. When we heard “MILOT-MILOT-MILOT,” we hopped on and settled in for a not-too-bumpy journey to the jumping off point for Haiti’s most impressive historical attractions: The Citadelle and Sans Souci.

A view of the town of Milot and our destination: the palace of Sans Souci.

Henri Christophe is one of Haiti’s most notable figures (as I write, I sit at the Hostellerie du Roi Christophe–Hotel of King Christophe). After Haiti gained its independence and ousted its first dictator, the country split in two. Henri Christophe took control of the north and, eager to prove  Haiti’s political and cultural power to the European former rulers, built a palace to rival that of Versailles.

A statue of Henri Christophe outside Sans Souci’s gates.

This fountain marks the entrance to the palace. A mirror once hung behind it, reflecting the Sun so powerfully that entrants needed to walk in backwards.

The whole place feels eerie. Despite being mostly destroyed by an earthquake in the mid-1800s and further by time, you can easily imagine its former opulence.

Adding to the spookiness is the fact that Christophe died here. When he caught word of an internal uprising and suffered a stroke in short succession, he committed suicide on the second floor of the palace.

The queen also had her own palace, seen in the background of this picture.

Our guide claimed this tree was 2000 years old. Not sure, but it’s definitely old!

A church that was built around the same time as the palace.

The palace also serves as the start of the trail to something even more impressive: Christophe’s mountain fortress, The Citadelle. We’ll tell you about that next.

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