My travel report – Cape Impressions – The Winelands and the Prison on Robben Island
My travel report
Impressions from the Cape – Part 4
The Winelands and the Prison on Robben Island
By Ralph Kratzer
Editor´s note: To remember the first three parts of my travelogue – click Part 1, Part 2or Part 3.
On this day we took the bus to bring us into the hinterland of Cape Town, this vibrant megacity at the Atlantic coast. First leg for the day was The Winelands of the Cape. They comprise a region of grand mountain ranges, fertile valleys, vineyards and orchards heavy with fruit, and of homesteads built in the distincive and gracious style known as Cape Dutch. These were the first rural areas to be taken over by the early white colonists in the 1660s, turning the traditional land of the indigenous Khoisan people over to pasture, the growing of wheat and, increasingly, the cultivation of wine grapes.
However, although the Dutch settlers were indeed hardworking people and experienced farmers and ranchers, about vineyards and the production of wine they had little idea.
The turning point came with the Huguenots, french Protestants who were persecuted in the days of the reign of King Louis XIV for their faith and killed in large numbers. Hundreds of thousands fled from France to other European countries or overseas, a number of them to the Dutch colonies in South Africa. Many Huguenots were excellent winemakers and improved the skills in wine-growing and the quality of wine at the Cape enormously.
Stellenbosch, university town and one of the most important wine-growing centres of South Africa, is home to no less than 22 wine estates and cellars in a radius of just 12 kilometers (7 miles).
And it is very Dutch. Old buildings in the colonial style, thatched cottages, neat front gardens, lush green parks and distinctive European flair.
After a coffee break in one of the cosy bistros of Stellenbosch and the admiration of two excellently preserved vintage motorcycles that were parked in front of it, we went to thewinery “Vrede en Lust” (Dutch for “peace and delight”).
There, a tour through the wine-cellar, the production areas and a subsequent wine tasting was on the programme.
In the early afternoon we went back to Cape Town.
On a quay at The Victoria & Albert Waterfront a motorboat already waited for us, in order to take us to the famous prison island „Robben Eiland“ (Dutch spelling for “Seal Island”).
The World Heritage Site lies just offshore of Cape Town and had in former times served as a penal settlement, a leper colony and as a lunatic asylum at the same time. Many of the prisoners were so-called political prisoners who had to serve long-term or even lifeimprisonment for minor offenses (or out of sheer arbitrariness of the government). The most famous prisoner was the late president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who spent most of his 27 years in prison there, and also many other anti-apartheid activists such as Robert Sobukwe and Walter Sisulu who were detained there for many years.
Today, many South Africans consider Robben Island on the one hand as a symbol of oppression by the Apartheid regime, but on the other hand as a symbol of resistance and the liberation of the black people of South Africa. Nelson Mandela is also posthumously still revered as the father of modern South Africa.
In the evening we visited the legendary Gold restaurant in the heart of Cape Town with authentic African and Cape Malay food and fantastic dance shows. Should you visit Cape Town one day, the “Gold” is an absolute MUST!
This visit was also the end of our stay in Cape Town. The next day we planned to set off to the east, specifically to Oudshoorn, the “world capital of ostriches”. But more about ostriches, the unique Cango Caves, the Route 62, the Garden Route and the beautiful coastal town of Knysna in my next report.
Note: As always in my travelogues you can learn more about an issue mentioned in the article by clicking the bold links.