Click on the map above and you’ll see the village of Grand-Popo!
This map was drawn some years ago by Finnish artist Tini Sauvo, and as she writes, it is an outline ment to give the idea of the village: and to encourage to discover and find new paths.
Life in Grand-Popo is lively and new establishments are always appearing on the places of old ones. In this map you can’t for example yet see the Lion Bar – very popular reggae bar and hostel on the beach, just below Église de Pentecôte. Restaurant Ibis Bel in the Carrefour of Grand-Popo is also missing, and some new hotels. And hotel-restaurant Saveurs d’Afrique is nowadays somewhat bigger. But the churches and cemeteries and schools are still in their old places. And of course Villa Karo.
On the right side of the map, in east, is the old town of Grand-Popo: Gbecon. It used to be the historical center of Grand-Popo and a lively commercial town with a cathedral, post office and several majestic stone buildings. In 1930 the sea started to rise and caused a coastal erosion that slowly wiped away three-fourths of the town. Today Gbecon is a magnificent “ghost town” with its abandoned colonial buildings – but some are also repaired, like Maison de Svanhild. The festivities of Vodun are also held in Gbecon every year on January 10th, and the Stadium of Vodun is situated on the beach, between the sea and the Mono river.
The former administrative center of Grand-Popo used to spread between the building of Villa Karo and Gbecon – in the area which is nowadays almost “outside” of the village (the road pavement ends at Villa Karo). The house of Montgeron used to be the mayor’s working place, and also a building for colonial administration. The building of l’Auberge, which looks very much like Villa Karo, was built in 1917 and it served as the préfecture of Grand-Popo, and after 1936, as a girls’ school.
The building of Villa Karo was built around 1900 and it used to serve as a colonial hospital: the operating room was in the first floor and patiens stayed in the second floor. The Museum building used to be a wing for contagious patients, Lissa Gbassa the maternity ward and the building of Farafina (in the neighbour of Villa Karo) the house for midwives. In 1939 the second floor of Villa Karo was destroyed and the hospital was moved across the road. And after second World War, Porto-Novo became the capital of Dahomey and the hospital was moved there. The hospital of Villa Karo slowly reduced its operations, until the building was completely abandoned in 1990.
From Villa Karo to west is the “new” centre of Grand-Popo: restaurant-hotel Saveurs d’Afrique and the small shops (alimentation générales) at Leonie and Beaux-Arts. There is also a new beach restaurant and hotel, Maison Blanche, the Art Gallery of Victor Amoussou and a good place to (quite) quickly eat an omelette or a spaghetti “avec sauce tomate“: Bonne fourchette.
La Mairie, the City Hall, is nowadays situated close to Place de Nonvitcha, where the annual celebrations for the home district association Nonvitcha are held every June (the party is huge, like Vappu and Juhannus in Finland combined together – and no wonder, Nonvitcha is the oldest organisation of West Africa, founded 91 years ago this year). And from Place de Nonvitcha to west there is already the main road of Lomé-Cotonou. The Bush-taxis stop in the Carrefour, but also on the main road close to the water tower and at the market place.
So when you come to Grand-Popo, hop off at the Carrefour and take a zemidjan to Villa Karo, you’ll be there in a few minutes by moped, or in 20-30 minutes on foot!
The historical information about Grand-Popo has been collected in 2010 by Essi Jäppinen during her stay in Villa Karo.