Exploring the City| May 30, 2013
On Saturday, I explored the city of Cape Town. I started at the top of the Company Gardens, which the Dutch East India Company set up to grow fruits and vegetables, in order to fight off scurvy. Established in 1852, the Gardens are flanked by various museums, including the South African Museum and the South African National Gallery. Within the Gardens, birds of paradise or strelitzia grow freely, as it is a plant native to South Africa.
After meandering around the Gardens, I ended up at the Slave Lodge, in which the Dutch East India Company held its slaves. The Lodge is one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town and served many functions, including the seat of the Supreme Court. Within its walls, the Slave Lodge tells the story of slaves brought to Cape Town. Brought from all over Africa and Asia, most were given Biblical first names and their surnames were derived from where they came. Those slaves born on the Cape were given the surname “van der Kaap” or “van der Cabo,” meaning “from the Cape.” During its operation as a slave quarter, the conditions inside were horrendous, as it was cramped and without proper facilities. In 1838, South Africa abolished slavery officially. Opposite the Slave Lodge are the Parliament Chambers, which house the South African Parliament.
After touring the Slave Lodge, I walked up to Greenmarket Square, where venders sell various curios from all over Africa. Hides (including a few full Zebra hides), handcrafted sculptures, and various artworks are widely available and purveyors are eager to sell. From Greenmarket Square, I went to Long Street for lunch. Long Street’s architecture looks very similar to that of New Orleans’s French Quarter with ironwork balconies. Long Street is full of bars and cafes and is heart of Cape Town’s nightlife.
On my way back from Long Street, I stopped at the South African Museum, a natural history museum protraying aspects of life in South Africa. On display are all animals found in South Africa, including Rhinos, Springboks (the national animal of South Africa), and Lions. Marine life and insects were also on display, as well as a special exhibit on drawings of various animals made during colonization. This coming weekend I hope to explore Table Mountain, assuming the weather permits, the Castle of Good Hope, and the District Six Museum.