Located between the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, Cape Town – the oldest city in South Africa – is a perfect travel destination for the enthusiasts of paradise beaches and local wines. Cape Town is also a place where the past intertwines with the present, and a chance meeting with the largest sea mammal is nothing out of the ordinary.
The unique character of RSA can be observed, i.e. in its cultural and ethnic richness. This African country is inhabited by the Bantu, San, and Khoikhoi peoples, as well as the Boer – descendants of Dutch colonizers, Jews, Germans, the British and Asian people – especially the Indians. The colonization period was started by the Spanish near the end of the 15th century, followed by the coming of Dutch farmers, the French Huguenots and German protestants in the 17th century. The subsequent centuries in the history of the country passed under the British rule, and only in the year 1961 did the Republic of South Africa declare independence, although its first democratic election did not take place until 33 years later.
In Cape Town, a city founded by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, even today can you find the traces of the times gone by. The Company’s gardens, currently vast areas of green perfect for some rest and relaxation, were a supply port mid-way to India, while in the Malay district Bo-Kaap you can see renovated slave huts from the beginning of the 18th century. The surroundings of Cape Town are strongly connected to the movement against apartheid – Nelson Mandela, the icon of fighting for the country’s independence, was incarcerated in the prison located on Robben Island, just a couple of kilometers away from the city.
Not only seals
The climate in Cape Town is Mediterranean, with two distinct seasons: the hot, dry summer from November to March, and mild, humid winter from May to September. However, during a couple of months in winter (from June to August), it may get quite chilly (6 to 19°C), while from September to November, the weather is usually full of surprises. Regardless of the time of the year, though, you certainly will not be disappointed by the variety of the flora and the fauna. The unique and rich vegetation can be seen in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, located in the southern slopes of the Table Mountain. It’s a home for a couple of thousand of different plants, including rare and endangered species.
Cape Town also amazes with its collection of exotic animals, at least in the eyes of us Europeans, that can be seen in their natural habitat. There are on Boulders beach there can be encountered free living penguins. For some more excitement, go on a boat ride to Duiker Island. This cruise is one of the most popular attractions among tourists due to the fact that almost every inch of the island is occupied by seals. Furthermore, from July to November, along the southern coast of The Western Cape, you can encounter whales, while in the mountains you’ll find hiking partners in mongooses and porcupines. While in RSA, its also worth going on a safari to see the so-called Big Five Game (lion, elephant, leopard, Cape buffalo and rhinoceros).
The mountain at the heart of the Cape of Good Hope
When talking about the natural beauty of South Africa one mustn’t forget about the Cape of Good Hope. It’s unique character is best described by its early name, the Cape of Storms, as a place where thunderstorms and lightning occur there more frequently than anywhere else in the world. The Table Mountain situated in Cape Town is named after its unusual shape.
This unusually flat, table-like mountain is often topped with a “tablecloth” of clouds, a view so often admired by its visitors. The panorama viewed from the top of the mountain is also breath taking and accessible to everybody thanks to the areal tramway. Lovers of great views shouldn’t miss the opportunity of walking to Chapman’s Peak from which the view of the stunningly clean Noorhoek Beach can be admired.
Cuisine in Cape Town consists of an interesting mix of different cultural heritages that percolated the area across centuries. The Dutch, German, French and British settlers brought seeds of some plants such as beans and lettuce and they introduced meat dishes as well as stuffed pies. The local cuisine has also been influenced by the customs of the slaves who came from Java, India and Madagascar, introducing the locals to eating seafood, curry and chutney.
Some of the popular dishes worth trying are lamb bredie or photo – a traditional maize meal served with sour milk. Regional wines are an ideal accompaniment to the local dishes which can be enjoyed directly in picturesque vineyards. The most popular grape varieties come from Constantia (a wine-producing suburb of Cape Town) and are sauvignon blanc and merlot. One of the region’s touristic attractions are wine tastings held in exclusive restaurants.
A city of contrasts
In the touristic part of the city is where contemporary style meets extravagance. We mustn’t however forget that Cape Town is a city of contrasts with many living in poverty in the city’s suburban slums.