Into Africa; Wonderful Cape Town

When I think of the most impressive airports in terms of the view out your window on arrival a couple that come to mind are Hong Kong (the old Kai Tak Airport, not the new one) and Rio with its blue water and lush, jutting peaks. While Cape Town, South Africa is not quite up there with this upper echelon of stunning airports it is certainly an impressive first view with the sleek Lion’s Head peak next to the imposing Table Mountain and the verdant vineyards at its base and the cool, clear water beyond that.

Our first few days in Cape Town were spent luxuriating at the Steenberg Hotel & Spa in the Constantia wine growing region twenty minutes from downtown Cape Town or, as the locals call it in their native Africaans, “Kaapstad”.

Hearing Afrikaans spoken is a strange experience for a couple of reasons.  To me it sounds a lot like German (although apparently it is much closer to Dutch, which makes sense since the first settlers in Cape Town were Dutch), but I can’t make out any of the words.  Not that I know German, but I can at least recognize some words or phrases (hey, I was in Munich for a night).  Also, and this may just be me, when I think about Afrikaans apartheid immediately comes to mind and rings in my ears with a strong impression of white oppression and racism and its hard not to tag the speaker with that as well.  Of course it is the native language for the majority of South Africans and is spoken by blacks as well as whites in South Africa and Namibia.  Anyway, back to the Steenberg Hotel….

The Steenberg Hotel, formerly known by its more pleasant sounding German name “Schwaneweide” (meaning Feeding place of swans) was founded on land given to Catharina Ras by her 4th husband….or was it the 5th?  She had quite a few husbands.  Anyway, Ms. Ras was a widow (the first time) at 22 years of age when she stowed away aboard a ship from Germany bound for South Africa. In 1682 they started growing wine there. They added an 18 hole golf course some years later.  We attempted to play, but they were fully booked up during our stay.

The accommodations and the food were excellent and we enjoyed exploring the grounds and seeing all of the flora and fauna.

After our stay at the Steenberg we explored the greater Cape Town area including a visit to the adorable penguin colony…..

lunch at Camps Bay…..

….and the emotionally charged Robben Island Prison tour where we were taken through the prison by a former political prisoner who had served eight years inside.

Interestingly, while Nelson Mandela was certainly mentioned, both our bus tour guide and the former prisoner who took us around the facility made it very clear that while Mr. Mandela gets all the press in the West the fight to end apartheid was waged by several individuals, not just one man. They almost appear to want to downplay Mandela’s contribution while highlighting that of others like Robert Sobukwe (who founded the Pan Africanist Congress) and Billy Nair.

Still the prison tour gives the people what they want with a visit to Nelson Mandela’s cell and numerous photograph posters of Mandela during his twenty seven years of incarceration on Robben island (which means Seal Island in Africaans and was originally a leper colony).

That evening we took the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain with a bottle of wine and enjoyed one of the most spectacular sunsets we have ever seen.

Then it was up The Garden Route in our Thrify rental car……..

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2 Responses to “Into Africa; Wonderful Cape Town”

  1. Cape Town is great. Don’t miss Penguin Beach (Boulder Beach) about a 45 minute drive away.

    • aroljahns Says:

      Hi Brian,
      Thanks for the recommendations. We definitely hit the Penguin Beach. Great stuff! Actually, my postings are not in real time as we dont always have internet and when we do its sometimes takes a LOOOONG time to post photos so by the time anyone reads “where we’re going next” we’ve already been there. 🙂 If you check out our itinerary on our “about our trip” page you can see where we plan to go. if you have any other recommendations (Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam) let us know! Thanks!

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