With today being our first real day in Cape Town, we wanted to gather a little bit of history. We had initially planned to do an excursion with the penguins down at the Cape of Good Hope but the wind and weather had other plans for us.
We made our way to Greenmarket Square to meet up with the Free Walking Tours folks- there were over 100 people this AM who were interested in doing the same thing. They had two choices of tours- Apartheid and Cape Town History so we opted for Cape Town History.
While I didn’t get everything down, I think I got the main points. Cape Town was discovered by the Portuguese in the late 1400s en route to the trade markets in the Far East. Once the route through Turkey had been closed, they were set on finding a path around the Southern tip of Africa. When landing in Cape Town, the Portuguese sailors had a hostile meet n’greet from the indigenous people and between that welcome and the limited ability to get additional supplies, turned around to return home.
The king was unhappy with this answer and said that they must have hope to find the passage way (allegedly hence the name- Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope). The real “conquerors” of the space were the Dutch East India Company. The town was really stood up as a monetary opportunity to sell materials to ships passing in and out of this new passage. The area was under Dutch East India Trading Company rule before being passed around between the Dutch and British and ultimately the British held for quite some time.
Aside from the history, we walked by City Hall which is most known for being not only the first spot that a freed Nelson Mandela walked on but also the spot of where he was introduced as President of South Africa in 1994. The building, showcasing its British roots, also has a smaller replica of Big Ben atop the building.
Next we made our way through some of the historical remnants of the slave trade in Cape Town. During its peak, there was a ratio of 3 slaves to every 1 non-slave in CT and we walked by the Slave Lodge, now a museum, which was home to many of the slaves when they arrived pre-sale as well as post-sale “lodging”.
We ended our tour in the Company Gardens and a controversial statue of Cecil John Rhodes. Rhodes was the pre-apartheid architect and was “responsible” for creating many of the laws that were utilized during the 1900s. He’s also known for helping foster the creation of what we know now as the De Beers Diamond enterprise. There were protests in the past few years to take the statue down but for now, it remains.
Post tour, we grabbed a quick bite to eat before deciding to do another tour to learn about the Bo Kaap area of Cape Town. This area is famous for the colorful houses that are often shown in many pictures of the city.
The colorful houses didn’t always used to be so colorful- it wasn’t until 1994 when the first democratically elected government of SA was installed that people chose to paint their houses in these bright colors. The story here is that indentured and enslaved individuals would often wear colorful clothes on their first few days of freedom and that painting the houses was a similar way of expression.
We learned that this area is home to the oldest Muslim community not only in South Africa but also allegedly in the southern hemisphere. The community got its start from the slave trade in Cape Town but really began to grow in the 1830s when slavery was outlawed and religious freedom/expression was possible.
The biggest risk to the area now is gentrification and we talked about how many of the city residents cannot afford to pay the taxes on the very expensive real-estate and is thus creating tension between the city trying to sell the land to investors and those that want to protect this heritage sight.
After the tour, we made our way back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner. On the recommendation of a friend from Woodward, we went to Codfather Seafood and Sushi- arguably the best restaurant of the trip. The menu is surprisingly simple. On the sushi front, they have a rotating sushi bar with no menu and just colorful plates for you to pick your appetizer. On the main front, they have two counters of fish- one shellfish and one of actual fish where you just point and choose exactly what and how much of it you want.
We both had a blast selecting our items- Debbie some shellfish and a SA local fish and myself a combination of swordfish, marlin, and tuna combined with vegetables and french fries. It was very fresh and surprisingly excellent and we’re so glad that we made the drive down there (15-20 mins from the hotel) for this experience on the water.
An excellent day in Cape Town had come and gone and we tried to reschedule our kayaking with penguins adventure for tomorrow but are left with making our own penguin tour tomorrow along with an afternoon at Robben Island.