A few months back, my mom came to visit us. She was with us for a week before my dad joined in on the fun, and it was really great to take some time to explore some of the fun parts of Nairobi together. When mom found out that we were living in the neighborhood of Karen at the foot of the Ngong Hills, and that it was named after the Karen Blixen, and that the original Karen Blixen House (also called the Karen Blixen Museum) was just a few minutes from where we were staying, she was really excited. To be honest, I tried watching the movie “Out of Africa” that made Karen Blixen so famous once and fell asleep, so I’ve never thought twice about visiting. But, since I knew it was something my mom really wanted to see, we took an afternoon to go and check it out.
We arrived at the Karen Blixen Museum where we purchased our entry tickets (1,200 KSH/ $12 for adults and 600 KSH/ $6 for kids; prices are less for residents). The museum is open everyday from 9:30 AM to 6 PM. We were then escorted to the front lawn were we sat in some plastic chairs (ok, I have to be honest- these were very uncomfortable and dirty plastic chairs) while one of the museum guides gave us a brief overview of who Karen Blixen was and of the history of the house. I hate to sound rude… but this tour was completely, 100%, not interesting to me. I try to shine a positive light on most everything about Kenya, but I also promise to real with what I post… and it’s hard for me to find the silver lining in my Karen Blixen experience. Maybe it’s because I haven’t read the book, or because the movie was past my time… I’m not sure. I’m a history nerd and usually eat stuff like this up, but I just wasn’t feeling it! I do know my mom quoted Meryl Streep about a million times throughout the tour with her British accent saying, “I had a farm in Africa…” which kept us cracking up. (I’m pretty sure our tour guide didn’t know why we kept giggling like idiots and was super annoyed…)
The first disappointment- the guide tells us that the movie was filmed in another house on the property, and not at the actual house that Karen Blixen lived in. So nothing really looks like what you remembered from the movie, which could be a little bit of a bummer. While the tour guide was very friendly, the entire script was memorized and, well… it got real boring, real quick (especially when we walked outside and got a lesson on what every type of tree, bush and flower there was on the property). I felt like the house itself was not well maintained, (there were random piles of boxes and books stored in the corners of one of the rooms), and half of it was being used as office space (which no one is allowed in except for the staff!) I thought that was a bit of a bummer… especially if you happened to be a person who traveled out of your way to see the place. While there were some actual artifacts, artwork and pieces of furniture that once belonged to Karen Blixen, I felt like the entire experience was overpriced and not worth it. Later, I asked my mom, the true Karen Blixen fan what she thought. She said it was definitely worth the visit for any die hard Karen Blixen fans, but didn’t quite meet up to the experience she had anticipated and expected.
So, if you watched the movie or read the book and dreamed about “a farm in Africa…”, you’ll probably be glad you made the Karen Blixen Museum a part of your travel itinerary. Otherwise, I’d say don’t bother. Instead, spend your 1,200 KSH on a visit the Karen Blixen Coffee Garden just up the road for a nice lunch and cup of coffee.