When I look out of my office window, I see an architectural masterpiece, done mostly in granite – the Reserve Bank at the top end of St. George’s Mall. And as I step out of my “office”, St George’s Cathedral fills my view, beyond that glimpses of Devil’s Peak. This is one of the perks of working for a walking tour company. My office is a coffee shop for parts of the day, and the rest of the time I literally spend on the street, between Cape Town’s attractions, meeting and signing up guests.
Cape Town is my office, and she never seizes to amaze and surprise me. Walking the streets of the CBD, you have a worm’s view of the world. And the gems I’ve found strolling Cape Town’s streets on day trips, I would never have been aware of had I explored the Mother City by car, bus or helicopter. Here are interesting tit-bits behind some of the familiar structures:
– The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest building in South Africa and stands where the ocean used to be.
– Cape Town City Hall is built from honey-coloured oolitic limestone imported all the way from Bath in England in 1905.
– The Old Town House was used as a watch house – captains and officers took turns to watch over the town to make sure the citizens behaved themselves. They would have had a busy time today.
– South African Museum has been standing in its current location since 1897.
– The Slave Lodge is the second oldest building in Cape Town. Cape Town’s first library and post office also used to be stationed here.
– St. George’s Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in South Africa. It is a classic cruciform building, with a courtyard garden which includes a labyrinth.
– Auwal Masjid is the oldest mosque in South Africa. Situated in the Bo Kaap, it was constructed in 1794.
– The foundation for the Groote Kerk in Adderley Street, a Dutch Reformed church, was laid in 1700.
– The original building for Houses of Parliament was built from Victorian Baroque brought from England. Many of those components have survived through the years.
– For something more modern, there are three huge murals of Nelson Mandela, Winnie Madikizela Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu against a building in Longmarket Street (just off Adderley Street).
These are just some of the interesting buildings and monuments you can find in the CBD when doing a Cape Town tour. Many of them are well-known, but they hide secrets in every corner, nook and cranny. If they could speak, politicians would listen. And getting up close to them transforms you to another lifetime. You can’t get that from a moving vehicle. Walk the city and get to know her. Then you can truly say you’ve done a South African tour and have been to Cape Town.