On a city walking tour it is very easy to get distracted by all the architecture, art and craft shops and walk passed this poster which shares the story of an important protest march which occurred towards the end of the dramatic eighties decade.
Protest marches against apartheid were illegal and on September 2, 1989, protesters on route to Parliament were stopped at the corner of Burg and Church streets. As the protesters refused to move, the police retaliated with tear gas and a spraying of purple paint so that the fleeing protesters could be identified easily and detained.
One brave protester, climbed onto the armoured vehicle and turned the purple paint canon onto the police and surrounding buildings. The next morning, grafiti on the walls "The Purple Shall Govern" injecting some humour into this significant event.
As you are walking from the African market on Greenmarket Square towards St George's Cathedral, take a pause on the corner of Burg & Church streets and reflect on this event.
Eleven days later, 30,000 Capetonians marched in solidarity and peace after a request from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, this time the police did not interfere with this march against apartheid.
Tucked away in Ryneveld st (close to the corner of Van Riebeeck st) in Stellenbosch is the synagogue , of which the foundation stone was laid in 1923. Prior to this the first services were held from 1900 in a private house and a rented hall. The adjacent house became the residence for the Rabbi which is today rented out as offices.
In 1956, congregation consisted of approximately 70 families and unfortunately today there are only 10 actively participating families remaining.
A 30 minute service is held every Friday evening at 7pm, and all visitors to the area are welcome to attend.
A pleasant detour along the Cape Peninsula route has to be a visit to the Slangkop Lighthouse, Kommetjie which was established in 1919.
I was fortunate to meet Cyril, currently the keeper of Slangkop Lighthouse and has been working in lighthouses around our coastline for 25 years and able to share many stories about the history of lighthouses in South Africa.
Slangkop Lighthouse is open to the public Monday-Friday between 10m-3pm and for a small charge of R16, you can climb up inside and see the views.
Cyril explained how the architecture moved towards iron structures by the beginning of the 19th century and that each of these iron panels arrived by ship from England and were bolted together to build the current lighthouse.
There are multiple stairs but it is definitely worth the climb for the views
Plus you can get an idea about the inner workings of a lighthouse
The circular lighthouse is 33m in circumference and made entirely of cast iron. It was painted white so that it would be visible against the green backdrop of the mountain from the ocean. Commissioned by the Govenor of the Cape of Good Hope, Sir Francis Hely-Hutchinson, and became fully automated in 1979. The Slangkop lighthouse draws its power from the Cape Municipality and has a stand-by diesel alternator as a back-up.
Lighthouses are an important part of South African history and Slangkop is certainly worth a stop while visiting the Cape Peninsula route
I was fortunate to visit Robben Island again a couple of days ago, and as always, visitors crowd eagerly around cell #7, Mr Nelson Mandela to take a photo. I usually take the opportunity to learn about a new cell each time, and today I found myself in front of Cell # 18, Mr Tokyo Sexale. Tokyo Sexale was convicted in 1978 and served 12 years of his 18 year sentence, being released in 1990.
On many of our private wine tours, we always take a pause outside the entrance to the Klein Drakenstein prison, Franschhoek.
The majority of visitors think that Mr Mandela was released from Robben Island, but he served the final two years of his sentence at the Klein Drakenstein prison (under house arrest) and it was from here that he was released on February 11, 1990.
It is thanks to Mr Sexale for commissioning this statue from sculptor, Jean Doyle, who structured this remarkable bronze statue based on a photograph of Mr Mandela leaving the prison, giving visitors the idea about what he looked like on that day.
The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest building in South Africa and is a must-see on for visitors interested in the history of Cape Town.
The Castle of Good Hope opens at 9am and I would suggest you consider making it your first stop while visiting the city and arriving by 9.45am at the latest.
Everyday at 10am, a brief key ceremony is performed, carrying on the traditions of the past whereby soldiers lock up the Castle for the night and return the key to the Governor of the Cape.
Immediately after the key ceremony, follows the Canon Association of South Africa, sharing their passion with the public for the preservation of cannons in South Africa which funded by donations.
For a donation of R100, a visitor can fire the canon, all donations go to the Cannon Association of South Africa.
Historical Bo Kaap can be a great place to pause, interact with some residents and get a flavour of Cape Malay cuisine. If you don't have time (2.5 hours) for the full Cape Malay cooking experience, you can opt for Cape Malay snacks.
Local residents open up their homes throughout the day and show us the fine art of samosa folding (with a variety of fillings), and you get the opportunity to interact with their families.
After you have prepared your samosas they are deep fried immediately, along with some chilli bites and for dessert, some koeksisters. Once you have tasted samosas freshly fried you will find that this is the only way to enjoy them.
Koeksisters are like a spicy doughnut and enjoyed in the Cape Malay culture for a dessert or on a Sunday morning breakfast
This experience can be enjoyed by two people or a group and a great way to take a pause on a city walk.
The whole experience takes around 45 minutes, and afterwards we take a walk down the hill, enjoy this cultural heritage area of Bo Kaap and learn about the history of Muslims in South Africa.
I visit Robben island several times year as I always learn something new on each tour and feel it is a must-see attraction for anyone who has any interest in our political history.
The ferries leave from the Clock Tower side of the Waterfront at 9am, 11am, 1pm (and 3pm in the busy season) and booking in advance on webtickets is essential.
It is advisable to arrive at the Robben Island museum gateway at least 45 minute before your departure time as this will give you a chance to read the mural by departure area about the history of the island and important dates/events in apartheid history. Currently, passport identification is required to be shown on boarding the ferry.
The ferry crossing takes anywhere between 30-50minutes depending on the boat and on arrival you disembark and begin walking up the jetty towards the tour guides and buses.
The Robben island tour is in two halves:
Bus tour around Robben Island
If you are doing the bus tour section first, board one of the buses and you will be welcomed by one of Robben Island tour guides who will share stories about the history of the island, some of the first prisoners dating back to the 17th century and the more recent political prisoners.
The guide will point out churches and heritage buildings on route.
A pause by the area to hear the story of Robert Sobukwe, leader of the Pan African Congress who spent six years in isolation and no one was permitted to communicate with him
Half way through your bus tour there is a ten minute break to give you the opportunity to take photos, bathroom stop or grab a coffee.
An important pause on the bus tour is at the quarry where Nelson Mandela and many other political prisoners spent their days working. On a bright sunny day you will notice the glare from the quarry and understand why Nelson Mandela experienced issues with his eyes as prisoners were not provided sun glasses. The pile of stones close to the entrance were laid by all the political prisoners after the closure of the prison
The second half of the tour involves walking through the prison with a former political prisoner who was imprisoned on the island. This is a contributing reason why I like visiting Robben Island several times a year as each time you get to meet a new activist who shares their personal story.
Here in one of the larger, dormitory style cells, a former political prisoner gives us insight into the day-to-day life inside Robben Island prison, their diets, activities and the challenges they faced.
A highlight of the tour is to view Nelson Mandela's cell and visitors crowd around to take their photos, but a walk along the corridor will be a quick reminder that there were many activists who sacrificed their lives for racial equality.
The current price is R340pp which includes everything outlined above. Depending on the availability of a former political prisoner, there is a possibility that one tour guide takes care of the group for both the bus tour and walking tour through the prison. It is essential to book well in advance (in the busy season at least one month), no refunds are given unless they cancel due to bad weather, in which case they automatically refund the credit card used to make the booking.
More info coming soon
The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest building in South Africa, built by the Dutch East India Company, between 1666 and 1679, right on the water's edge for defense. Our Castle resembles a fort, a pentagon in shape and was home to a variety of governor's of the Cape.
Today it is a wonderful museum, rich in history and offers a variety of exhibitions.
It is worthwhile planning to visit the Castle at 10am or 12pm Monday -Friday, when soldiers display the key ceremony, a small canon firing and free 30 minute guided tours. Note that there are no guided tours or key ceremony on the weekends.
It takes around 45 minutes to guide you around our Castle and there are a couple of photo opportunities.
On Saturdays, Gerry de Vries, from the Canon Association of South Africa, does a small canon firing, every hour on the hour.
The Canon Association of South Africa relies on donations to continue their work and for every firing a member of the audience is invited to make a donation of R100, and have the opportunity to light the canon.
New bronze statues symbolise the Kings of the Castle
King Cetshwayo of AmaZulu (1826 – 1884)
Doman of Goring-haiqua (1618 – 1663)
King Langalibalele of AmaHlubi (1814 – 1889)
King Sekhukhune (1814 – 1882)
The Castle of Good Hope is open seven days a week from 9am - 4pm Tel 021 787 1260
Signal Hill is at an elevation of 350 metres and offers some of the best views over the city centre, harbour, Waterfront and of course of Table Mountain itself. Signal Hill is a popular spot to bring tourists when the cable car at Table Mountain is closed, but even if you have already been to Table Mountain I think that a drive to Signal is worth it if have the time. There are multiple photo opportunities and you will get a closer perspective of the harbour, historic city bowl and Waterfront.
Approaching Signal Hill, if you make a stop in the bend this is the best spot to view the harbour and historic city centre. It is interesting to see the Castle of Good Hope in relation to the harbour and get a perspective on the land reclamation which has taken place over the last two centuries.
I will point out to you the various historic landmarks and present an idea as to how Cape Town has changed over the last 350 years.
For the adventurists there are a variety of companies offering Tandem paragliding flights which land in Sea Point in front of the Winchester Mansions.