South Africa has many big cities, and a whole lot of smaller towns and villages sprinkled in between. The country is also well known as ‘The Rainbow Nation’, and for good reason. South Africa almost has it all in as far as cultural diversity goes. Over and above local cultures, there are also Germans, Chinese, Malaysians, Australians, Americans, Belgians, and the list goes on. You will find these various international cultures sprinkled through out the country, yet there is one city where South Africa’s cultural diversity is the most apparent, one city where you will find someone from almost anywhere. Considered to be one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, an international cosmopolitan melting pot of people, culture and food, the city I speak of is…..drum roll, if you please……see the title of this article.
So here are just a few of the many facts that make Cape Town what it is: Mine, and millions of other peoples favourite place to live or visit.
Cape Town is also known as ‘The Mother City’
Founded in 1652 by Jan Van Riebeeck as a place for The Dutch East India Company to grow fresh produce for passing ships, Cape Town is also affectionately known as ‘The Mother City’ as it was the first established European settlement in South Africa. The original veggie patch, or ‘The Company’s Garden’ as it is officially known still exists to this day, smack bang in the middle of the city. It still has the oldest cultivated pear tree in the country, circa 1652. Now a very well maintained garden full of indigenous plant species, it makes for a nice relaxing stroll or picnic right in the bustling city centre.
The Noon Day Guns of Signal Hill
Also known as The Lion’s Rump, Signal Hill is home to the worlds oldest working ‘guns’ (very big cannons). Before telegraphs were brought to South Africa, the guns were originally used to signal the arrival of ships as their sound travelled faster than a messenger on a horse. This was to notify the farmers in the interior to bring fresh produce. The guns were initially set up in the city centre, but due to their rather loud noise upsetting people and horses, they were moved up to Signal Hill, where they are still in use to this day. In addition to signal duty, the guns were also used since 1806 as a time keeper for ships to synchronise their chronometers to. If a ship was many kilometres away, they would have to instead synchronise their clocks on the puff of smoke in compensation for the speed of sound. Representing one of Cape Towns oldest living traditions, the Dutch made 18 pound smooth bore muzzle loaders are still being fired at exactly 12 noon everyday, except Sundays and public holidays. Both the main and backup have only ever failed to fire on schedule once since 1806 due to a technical difficulty with the remote control relay in 2005.
The Cape Winelands
Van Riebeeck was also tasked with planting vineyards in Cape Town to produce wine and table grapes for the passing sailors as a means to help ward off scurvy. The South African wine industry has since grown into one of the most well known in the world. It is also the oldest wine industry outside of Europe and has one of the longest wine routes in the world. Starting just outside of Cape Town, Route 62 runs for 850km and ends in Port Elizabeth.
Table Mountain, A Cape Town Icon
Long before anyone actually got to Southern Africa, the sea levels dropped, and this huge rock appeared out of the ocean. Previously an island millions of years ago, Table Mountain now towers over 1000 metres above the city creating what is probably one of the most famous cityscapes in the world. Table Mountain is also one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The mountain gets its name from the table cloth like cloud that covers it when the infamous South East wind blows. Capetonians are so proud of it they even light the whole mountain up, on some nights.
Happy Feet in Cape Town
Not only does Cape Town have many geological attractions, it also has a lot of animal attractions, in their own natural habitats. In the early 1980’s at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town along the Cape Town peninsula, just 2 breeding pairs of African penguins showed up, and never left. Today there are 1000’s of them calling Boulders beach their home. What makes this even more interesting is Boulders beach is right in the middle of a residential area, which allows the little birds to be observed at close range.
The worlds first ever heart transplant was performed in Cape Town at Groote Schuur Hospital by Dr Christiaan Barnard on 3 December 1967. Although the patient only lived for 2 weeks afterwards, having died from pneumonia, it was considered a success. This transplant pioneered and paved the way for what has become one of the most routine operations today.
Visit: Den Anker
It started in 1978 with just a few hundred participants in an effort to bring attention to the need for cycle paths in South Africa. Now with as many as 35 000 cyclists taking part, it makes Cape Town the host of the worlds largest individually timed cycle race. In its history, The Cape Town Cycle Tour has been stopped twice due to bad weather: In 2002 when temperatures hit +42°C and in 2009 when wind gust in excess of 100km/h blew cyclists off their bikes.
The V & A Waterfront, a shopping and culinary paradise
As part of South Africa’s oldest working harbour, The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront receives in excess of 23 million visitors a year. With over 450 retail shops spanning 123 hectares, the shopping centre has contributed ZAR 200 billion (US $14 billion) to the South African economy over the last 10 years.
Just over Table Mountain, palm trees, expensive classy restaurants, Humvees, Maseratis and Jaguars are the order of the day. Clifton, Camps Bay, Bakoven, Bantry Bay and Llandudno are home to some of the most expensive and exclusive real estate in the world. You can be forgiven for thinking you are in Beverly Hills. Llandudno is also the access point to the well known but very secluded nudist beach of Sandy Bay.
Founded in 1913 in order to preserve South Africa’s unique flora, The Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens boasts over 7000 plant species. Nestling on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, the gardens are one of 9 in the country covering 5 of South Africa’s 6 biomes. Kirstenbosch gardens were also the first gardens in the world to be founded on the ethos of preserving a countries plant life.
Of all the cities I have ever lived and worked in, Cape Town is the one I would most like to return to. It is a fantastic place for a holiday, but it also makes for an amazing standard of living and way of life. I look forward to returning one day soon.
Have you visited Cape Town on holiday? Do you live there? Would you like to visit or move to ‘The Mother’ of all cities?
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