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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

The Oldest in South Africa - Day 397

Today we visited the oldest in South Africa - a garden, tree and castle. Crikey, there's a lot of old things in Cape Town and that's not including me!

In the morning, we went on a fabulous Airbnb experience at the beautiful Company’s Garden, located in the middle of the city. The time was so profound that I have written a blog in Glows Coaching about it. Our experience was “Treat yourself to a digital detox and capture the natural environment around you with pen and paper. On this experience, you'll learn the basics of curating your very own visual journal with a resident Landscape Architect” who was a lovely guy called Rhuben and we were joined by Hermoni and Natasha, who work together in Dubai.

It was so much fun doing 7 different sketching exercises amongst the trees, and a few times people came up, curious to see what we were doing. And we all got so much more from this time together.

Afterwards, Tim and I wandered around the gardens; the oldest in the country created as early as 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck planted a vegetable garden here. There is still a vegetable garden which includes cauliflowers, fennel, chives, cabbage and onions and also the oldest cultivated pear tree in South Africa which is believed to have been planted at the same time. The Saffron Pear tree now needs metal poles to keep it upright. There was a very cosy feel about the place, in fact, I prefer it to the Botanical Gardens. More homely.

Next on our agenda was to visit the District Six Museum Imagine living in a vibrant community. You have lived there as a child, as a teenager and as a young adult. You went to school there, shopped and chatted to the local merchants. It was home. Then on 11 February 1966, the government declared this area, your home, as a white area. But you are not white. More than 60,000 people were forcibly removed out of the city, including you, just because of the colour of your skin. Your new home is in a barren outlying area aptly known as the Cape Flats. You feel flat, especially knowing that your lovely old house has been now flattened.

The District Six Museum describes many people’s story of this time, and my favourite was by Noor Ebrahim which is included in his book called Noor’s Story: My life in District Six. In 1975 he was fortunate enough to buy himself a home in Athlone which spared him from having to move to the areas designated for the ex-residents of District Six. So in January of that year, he and his wife and 2 young children moved with all their belongings, including his prize pigeons. After 3 months of keeping the pigeons cooped up, he opened their cage and allowed them to fly, hoping that they would return. When he got back home from work, he discovered that none of the pigeons had returned. He was so upset that he couldn’t sleep that night. The next morning, on the way to work, he passed by the demolished area which was once District Six including the empty plot that used to be his home. He couldn’t believe his eyes. There were all 50 of his pigeons. When he walked towards them, they didn’t fly away, but looked at him as if to say “Where is our home?”

As well as stories, there were many photos in the Museum that the locals had donated. One was of a tailor sitting crossed legged on a table. We smiled when we saw this as it reminded us of Ted, Tim’s Dad. When he was born, his legs were crossed, and the midwife told Tim’s Grandmother that Ted would become a tailor. He did and worked in and around Saville Row for over 65 years!

The museum aims to give voice to the cry of "never, never, never again", and support the cultural reconstruction and restitution of Cape Town. It was a very thought-provoking place.

Just down the road we discovered NUDE FOODS and remembered that Dr Mark Cyrus’s wife Stacey works here. (We met him on Day 391). What a great place. It reminds me of the Veggie Shop I nearly bought and wanted to create in Stoke Newington about 25 years ago! It is a plastic free zone with produce sold by weight and put into brown paper bags. I was a bit embarrassed to pull out our plastic water bottle when putting our big bag of delicious homemade granola into our rucksack!

We then discovered Charly's Bakery. Perhaps you can remember the Airstream caravan we stayed in at Old Mac Daddy a few weeks back, which was designed by this iconic bakery. Unfortunately, as it was a bank holiday, the shop was closed. It didn’t stop me having a photo opportunity of it though.

Our next destination was another historical place – Castle of Good Hope. After walking around nearly 3 of the 5 sides of the castle ground and returning to near where we started, we eventually found the entrance! And just in time for a tour. Our tour guide, who talked rather rapidly, informed us of the history of the castle, how it was built between 1666 and 1679, making this the oldest surviving building in South Africa. We were surprised to hear that this 5 sided castle used to be right on the shoreline. It’s a good kilometre from the sea now. The walls of this historical castle are unusually painted a mustard yellow. Apparently, this was to reduce the glare from the sunlight; not something that was required for castles in the UK!

Our guide took us to see the Governor’s house. Again, Tim’s Dad sprang to mind. As we walked underneath the Governor’s sleeping quarter, we noticed that the path was paved with wooden blocks, which we were informed dampened the sound made by the horses and carriages. Tim’s Dad confessed to us that as a lad, he used to steal wooden blocks in the east end of London, just like these, making them into kindling to sell them! How resourceful! As we exited the arch, there was an empty square pool with a statue of a dolphin. During recent restoration of the Castle, the existence of the original Dolphin Pool was found, and through looking at sketches of Lady Anne Barnard, who lived here in the late 1700s, a replica was created. The pool is empty at the moment due to water restrictions. We were then shown where prisoners were put in pitch black rooms next to the torture chamber so that they could hear the screams from their comrades. They usually quickly confessed.

I must admit that I just don’t connect with this type of history. I wonder why? Time to get back to our Airbnb, otherwise I’ll feel like the oldest traveller in South Africa!

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