The tale of one city

There is a trend on TikTok (yes, I’m a scroller), where creators ask random people on the street geography questions. Some questions are relatively difficult (which country’s flag is this?), and some are deliberate. These are calculated questions that the interviewer knows might elicit viewers’ reactions, because the answers are so gob-smacking. There is no need to elaborate on which country’s citizens make for the best interviewees, but the questions are downright elementary. These “challenges” usually include “Name me three countries in Africa” or “Name any three countries in Europe”. If the question seems to stump the subject, the standard of questions drops to “Name any other country except the one you live in”. The responses can be hilarious – and alarming. There are arguments that Africa is a country and answers to name countries on the African content such as Wakanda (Black Panther’s fictional location for those who just started googling it), Europe (yes, a country in Africa), and Mexico (really?). But, as Rachel said in Friends “Isn’t that just kick-you-in-the-crotch, spit-on-your-neck fantastic?” entertainment?

It’s sad. We’re not suggesting everyone should have wanderlust or have the means to be a regular traveller. But surely it must be good for the intellect, soul, and imagination to be aware of a world outside of your immediate reality? To dream about visiting far-off places with weird, wonderful, and different cultures? To listen to the tales a city must be able to tell? Think about it: More than 800 languages are spoken in New York City. Tokyo has the most three-star Michelin restaurants in the world. Zagreb is lit up by still-working gas lamps. Accra translates to “ants” because of all the anthills that used to surround the city. Before Brazilian independence, Sao Paulo was the home base for the Bandeirantes. These were explorers, enslavers, and prospectors who explored the interior of Brazil. Cape Town started as a vegetable garden.

If I at any point intrigued you or confused you, get a map. Baby steps. Get a huge map of the world (they still do exist – the paper kind), set it up in your quiet corner, and pinpoint your dream destinations with a bright red tack. If leaving your laptop for 10 minutes might lead to withdrawals, create a map online. Google has plenty of options. And when you’ve saved up leave days and cash and get to your dream destination, take a walking tour. Me advocating for walking tours? Yes. I’ve tried all kinds of methods to explore Cape Town – bikes, busses, even walking around in small circles by myself, running into my own behind time and again). Walking tours are still your best bet. When you walk a city, it’s not just about getting somewhere, it’s getting to see and experience every single place you go past. By walking, you will see many more local spots and have so many more unique experiences. And if you do this with a funny, intelligent, clued-up guide, you will hear the tale each city has to tell. Cape Town’s story starts way back with the San and the Khoi people (we’re talking at least 28 000), and #freetourscapetown will fill in the gaps right up to the present when our current president opened the South African parliament for the year 2024. You won’t miss a thing.

Photo credit: freebie.photography