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Cape Town

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Cape Town

Cape Town, the mother city of South Africa, nestles in one of the most dramatic scenic settings of any city on earth. Cradled by the imposing bulk of Table Mountain, Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head, this is the famed Tavern of the Seas—a vital haven for the world’s seafarers.

The city was born on 6 April 1652. On that day, Jan van Riebeeck gazed in wonder at Table Mountain, dropped anchor in Table Bay and hoisted the Dutch flag. Soon he had built an earthen-walled fort and planted a vast garden of fruit and vegetables. The new city had begun to grow. Table Mountain, often visible 200 kiometres out to sea, now beckoned like the gigantic sign of an inn. Here was not only shelter from the stormy seas. Meat, vegetables, fruit and wine could be bought, ships repaired and the sick cared for in a large hospital.

Before Van Riebeeck landed, others, their history lost in legend, had long lived in the blue shadow of the mountain. They were Hottentot pastoralists, with flocks of fat-tailed sheep; Bushmen hunters, who lived off game animals; and primitive beachcombers, who searched the shores for seafood.

Of their origin only a few tantalizing clues remained—bones, fragments of ancient tools, and myths which had somehow survived the graveyard of the past.

Legends of earlier visitors also lingered. Phoenicians and Arabs from the days of Sindbad the Sailor are reputed to have been among the many who foundered in storms off the Cape Peninsula. Others are said to have found the eggs of giant birds on the shores of Table Bay.

Today Cape Town remains the great tavern of the seas. Countless ships have used its magnificent docks. The mammoth tankers which round the Cape of Good Hope each day, too huge to allow easy docking, continue purposefully on their course while supplies are delivered from helicopters.

The city is one of the world’s primary export ports for fruit. It is a major base for fishing and a principal container port of Southern Africa. In its cosmopolitan population and atmosphere the cultures, foods and colours of East and West are blended. And its past, present and promising future create a stimulating air of romance, vitality and excitement.

The principal Street and the centre of Cape Town, Adderley Street is named after Sir Charles Adderley, a British parliamentarian who, in 1850, led the successful opposition against a British plan to turn the Cape into a convict settlement.

Notable buildings in Adderley Street include the Groote Kerk (great church), the parent of the Dutch Reformed Church in Southern Africa and the oldest church in the Republic of South Africa. It was completed in 1704 and has twice been enlarged. The church contains a wooden pulpit elaborately carved by Anton Anreith.

At the northern end of Adderley Street is the lodge which housed slaves who worked in the garden of the Dutch East India Company. The lodge is now the South African Cultural History Museum. Among its exhibits is a unique display of furniture and household items of early Cape Town. Also displayed are arms, maritime exhibits, coins and silver, costumes and Malay arts and crafts.

Other buildings of interest in Adderley Street include the Heerengracht Hotel and the imposing new Golden Acre, with its weather- protected shopping area. The Woolworth’s store in Adderley Street marks the site of Cape Town’s first trading centre.

Here, too, is the modern railway station, southern terminus of the railway network of Southern Africa. On the concourse of the station stands South Africa’s first locomotive, a handsome ‘puffing billy’ built in Scotland in 1859 and shipped out in pieces to Cape Town.

In front of the Medical Centre, where Adderley Street runs into the Heerengracht, is a small bronze ship dedicated to Robert Falcon Scott - the famed Scott of the Antarctic - who stopped in Cape Town before sailing to his death in the icy wastes far to the south.

                                                      Ref - Illstrated Gide to Southern Africa, Readers Digest, 1978.

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