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Cape Guide Wins Top Award - Mon, 29 Oct 2007

At an emotional ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in London, earlier this month Wanderlust magazine announced the winners of the second Paul Morrison Guide Award. The top accolade is shared between South African Selwyn Davidowitz who guides in the Western Cape, and Danut Marin, a guide from Romania who specialises in the Carpathian Mountains area. The runner-up is Goyotsetseg Radnaabazar who is based in Mongolia and is the first female guide to reach the finals. Set up to recognise the difference that a great guide, whether a naturalist, a sherpa, or a tour leader, can make to your travel experience, a shortlist of six was whittled down from more than 160 guides from around the world who were nominated for this year’s award.

Selwyn Davidowitz has a fascinating story to tell and has been recognised, not only for his outstanding contribution to tourism and making a true difference to people's travel experiences, but also for his tireless work within the local community and ensuring the interaction of the two. The judging panel was led by Bill Bryson and included Lyn Hughes of Wanderlust, top naturalist Mark Carwardine, and Mark Ellingham, founder of Rough Guides. In addition, the panel was thrilled to be joined this year by Michael Palin.

Selwyn has been an independent guide for the past eight years, realising his passion for the profession from many enjoyable trips showing visiting friends around his native Cape Town. A former owner of a clothing factory, he creates personalised itineraries for his guests and combines these experiences with trips to the township of Kayamandi. Here his foundation funds two creches and runs projects such as fruit for trash, encouraging up to 250 children to clear up rubbish in return for fresh fruit.

"Selwyn has changed my life"

Judge Michael Palin, well known for his TV travel documentaries, was particularly impressed and commented: "Selwyn seems to have the ability to listen to his clients, rather than just talking to them. Listening is such an important quality and it enables him to connect with travellers from all backgrounds and ages." Among the dozens of nominations which Selwyn received for the award, an email from Lara Vancans from the US who met Selwyn on a family holiday at the age of 12 stood out.

"Selwyn has changed my life. The most poignant memory is the day we visited Kayamandi near Stellenbosch. He spoke to everyone without any air of superiority and described the people's plight honestly. Instead of the usual zoo-like experience we were really given an insider's view. In the years that followed I kept in touch with Selwyn by email and then, with his guidance, I decided to take a gap year, raise 1600 dollars and return to Kayamandi to give something back to the community. He has encouraged and mentored with during the most amazing three months of my life."

Lyn Hughes of Wanderlust commented, "The main qualities we were looking for were knowledge, communication and empathy. It became clear that Selwyn had the respect and admiration of his peers - his fellow guides. And he has touched, and in some cases changed, people's lives. He is a remarkable individual and I very much look forward to having Selwyn guide me the next time I visit South Africa."

In addition to cash awards and equipment, Selwyn wins a bursary of 5000 pounds to spend on community projects. He intends to use the award to fund a soup kitchen, community centre and a fruit-for-trash scheme at Kayamandi. "It is an amazing opportunity for the kids to learn to earn and not rely on handouts. I hand them plastic bags at the start of my travels around the township with visitors. By the end of our trip, they return the bags full of trash in return for an apple a bag."

The annual award was created in 2006 as a tribute to Paul Morrison, Wanderlust's co-founder, who died in 2004. Lyn Hughes, Paul's widow and co-founder and editor of Wanderlust, says: "I am thrilled we have had such a great response to the awards. A travel guide is the one person who can inspire you to climb that mountain or get as excited about spotting an elephant shrew as an elephant. More importantly they can often be an important bridge between your travel experience and an understanding of the local community. Selwyn is an outstanding ambassador for his country."

The following stories are from Selwyn Davidowitz.

The Mother City

Cape Town is also known by South African's as the Mother City. At the same time of every one of us constantly using the phrase I wonder how many South Africans actually know where the phrase comes from? Well here is the answer.

In the 1930's some unknown party wrote to the local Cape Town newspaper claiming that Cape Town was the only city in South Africa that could justly call itself a metropolis. The public took to this description and because the word metropolis is derived from the Greek derivation of meter or metros meaning mother and polis meaning city, the nickname of "mother city" was born. Hence today we know our wonderful city as being "the mother city".

Even more fascinating is the fact that few South Africans or Capetonians know that there was a time when Cape Town was known as "Cape Grab". This was because of the grabbing practices of certain innkeepers in the old days in charging exorbitantly for board and lodging to sailors who passed by the Cape on their way to the East.

Tollgates in Cape Town

Did you know that even though we have no tollgates in Cape Town today [for how long we could ask! )-;)] there was a time when Cape Town did have tollgates. At the beginning of the century there was a tollgate at the junction of Sir Lowry Road, Victoria Rd and Searle Street. Till today the building on this corner still holds the name Tollgate (City Tramways)

What is interesting and not well known is that at one stage there actually were two tollgates leading into Cape Town. The first was the aforementioned and then there also was a tollgate for a short period at the end of Newmarket Street. The money at the tollgates was collected by a tollgate master who would sit at the gate with a small receptacle tied to the end of a rod into which the travelling citizen dropped the enforced toll.

Seems as even in those days municipal councils milked any money-cow that was available to them to fill city coffers, however the shrewd folk of Cape Town bypassed the tollgates and used to travel on the old Beach Road closer to the sea resulting in the fact that the tollgates eventually got closed down.

A Cape Town Living WELCOME

In 1947 The British Royal family visited Cape Town, South Africa. The joint school board in Cape Town decided that it wanted to do something special to commemorate the event and the idea of a "living welcome" was decided on.

The pupils or Ellerslie, Sea Point Boys High and Junior, Ellerton, Kings Road Primary and Camps Bay Primary were all put through their paces for the living welcome. Rehearsals took place on the Sea Point Junior School lawns. A Piper Cub airplane was flown by a local enthusiast during rehearsals so as to check that all looked right for the event. A site on Signal Hill was chosen. Footpaths were cut into the bushes of Signal Hill spelling the word WELCOME. The letters were 100ft long. On 17 February 1947 2000 schoolchildren, all dressed in white, lined out the marked letters with the girls forming the letters W E L and the boys forming the balance C O M E.

The family arrived in the battleship by name of Vanguard. On siting the "living WELCOME" a signal was given from the ship that it had seen the WELCOME sign from far and this caused all the children to thunderously cheer. The first contact by the people of Cape Town had been made with the Royal family. Up until the late 50's the carved paths of the words WELCOME could still be seen on Signal Hill, but alas today they are no more to be seen. The people of Cape Town however have never lost the wonderful sense of welcome that they have always had for foreign visitors to their shores.

Cape Town Rules of the Road.

In 1906, the now demolished Baptist Church in Wale Street Cape Town was used as a law-court. Somebody who would not have cared to remember this was a certain Mr.Rorich. The reason for this was because he was the first person to be found speeding in a city street in Cape Town. He was travelling at a speed of 12 miles per hour in an 8 mile per hour zone. For the offence he was fine 2 Pounds which was a heck of a lot of money in those days.

This case is clearly documented however in my opinion the question remains as to how the speed of 12 mph was correctly determined?

Restitution of Conjugal Rights

One of the favourite topics over which people shake their heads in disapproval is the ease with which divorce may be obtained in the modern world. Other sigh for the good old days! it is doubtful whether Catharine Backers would agree with them.

Life could be distinctly unpleasant for a woman in the 17th Century if she happened to be married to a man who was a bully! at the least excuse he could beat her black and blue, and none could gainsay him, for the husband was the guardian of his wife, and was vested with the power to "correct" her. To such a man was Catharine Backers married - Louwrens Pietersz, a free burgher of the Cape, a solid citizen, and a wife-beater.

There was nobody to whom Catharine could turn, for her husband' s actions were perfectly legal. In a more settled community perhaps the force of public opinion might have stayed his hand, but the Cape in 1694 was a frontier on which the finer points of civilisation were noticeable by their absence. In such circumstances sometimes a wife run away and returned to her family; but even this was denied to Catherine, for it was impossible to reach Holland without a long and expensive sea voyage. Apart from which she had to have permission to leave the Cape.

Despite this, Catherine resolved to run away at the first opportunity. To do this, she required an accomplice, whom she found in the person of Andries Magnisse of Amsterdam, second mate aboard the Indiaman, Riderschap van Holland. The Ridderschap was on its way to the east, and spent nearly four weeks in Table Bay laying in supplies and waiting for her sick to recover. A couple of days before she was due to sail, Andries smuggled Catherine aboard the ship, dressed as a man. Whether Andries Magnisse was aware of it or not, Catherine arrived aboard the vessel quite well provided, for she had plundered her husband' s cash box, and substituted stones for the gold and silver she took. Perhaps she felt she was reclaiming her dowry; at all events she took the cash. This probably was a bigger blow to her husband than the disappearance of his wife, though the loss of an unpaid servant must have grieved him. The alarm was raised, and suspicion at once centred on the 2 ships in the bay.

There had been cases of women successfully working their way as men aboard the Company' s ships, but Catherine was too much of a woman to pass muster. Next day she and Andries Magnisse were arrested and haled ashore to be lodged in the Castle.

At her trial, Catherine told the full story of her hardships and her attempt to escape them; it was of little avail. She was found guilty, sentenced to be whipped in public, and to serve 15 years in a women's house of correction. The mate was sentenced to 15 years hard labour.

As it turned out, the Court had saved Catherine' life, for the Ridderschap disappeared on its way to Batavia. No doubt Catherine serving her 15 years in the house of correction was suitably grateful....

Table Mountain in Fact and Fiction

Table Mountain figures in 2 of the world' s best known tall stories. One of theses was known as the "Great Moon Hoax". A telescope on TM, through which "the inhabitants of the moon" could be seen, was described in a series of newspaper articles published in the US in 1835. Thousands of people believed the story told by an imaginative writer, Richard Adams Lock, in the New York Daily Sun. The journal claimed that it was quoting the startling account of the "moon people" from an Edinburgh science journal. It was stated that the journal had reported that Sir John Herschel, the noted astronomer, had viewed the moon through a new type of telescope which had been erected on TM. The telescope' s mirror was said to be 24 feet in diameter.

Through this instrument the most amazing discoveries had been made. The people of the moon were bat-men and bat-women, whose habits were described. There were also bison-like animals which roamed the grassy moon plains. The account of course, had no substance in fact. Although the hoax was exposed many gullible people bought reprints of the articles.

Table Mountain also figures in the adventures of another bogus moon visitor. He was the celebrated Baron Munchhausen, past master in the art of fabricating tall stories. His fantastic travels to various places were first distributed in 1785. He claimed he flattened the great rock behind Cape Town, which was subsequently came to be called Table Mountain. He says that he drove a chariot that had 10 000 springs and which was drawn by a team of bulls. He drove too close to the celebrated rock pile and the wheels slivered it in a horizontal direction, flattening it and causing it to look like a table....

Reference: "I remember Cape Town" by George Manuel.

Hansom Cabs in Cape Town

Cape Town's main street, namely Adderley street, used to have many Hansom cabs lining its central pathway right up to the mid 1950's.These Hansom cabs came to Cape Town in 1849 after being imported by Sir Robert Stanford. The cab was drawn by a single horse and the original patent on these taxis of the 19th century was registered to Joseph Aloysius Hansom and was named "Mr.Hansom's patent safety cab" They were originally introduced onto the streets of London in 1834.

Both the fare as well as the driver used to sit on the back axle. The question could be asked as to why the driver of the cab had to sit at the back of the cab and not in the front so as to have better control over the horse. It is said that the fare would always complain if this was the case in that the drivers posterior would be seen by the fare during the journey. This was summarized by the line The superior in the interior should not see the posterior of the inferior on the exterior."

The above however was not the main reason for the driver standing at the back. Hansom cabs had their door on the rear. This led to large scale hitching onto the cab for a free ride and the cad was designed in such a way that the driver could see his passengers get in & out thus preventing this thievery from taking place.

Sadly the Hansom cab is no more to be seen in Cape Town.

The Cape Town Noon Gun

For those who don't know it there is a noon day gun that gets fired daily, excepting on Sundays, from Signal Hill in Cape Town to mark the time of 12 noon for the citizens of Cape Town. There is one exception to this rule regarding the firing of the gun on a Sunday and that is when the Gun Run, which is an annual half marathon, takes place in the city. The race ends at 12 noon and the gun gets fired on that day signaling to those that have not crossed the finish line by the time of its booming that they have not completed the race in the pre-requisite qualifying time.

The gun booming also had another part to play in Cape Town's history when during the 2nd world war when the it was fired all the citizens of Cape Town would stop what they were doing for a 2 minute period of silence so as to reflect on those who had died during the war.

The Renaming of Devil's Peak

There was a time when certain Capetonians were unhappy with the naming of Devils Peak ,which for those who have never seen this mountain, is the peak that flanks our famed Table Mountain. In 1957 a Roman Catholic minister, Rev.E Klimeck, launched a campaign to have the mountain renamed to Christus Peak. He promoted his cause by saying that the name would be acceptable to all in both official languages of the time, namely English & Afrikaans. The whole campaign was launched in the press and climaxed when the reverend and his followers climbed Devils Peak while chanting prayers along the way. When the summit was reached a cross was planted to try an enforce the new name. Nothing came from the effort and till today Capetonians still know the mountain by the name it originally got namely Devil's Peak

St.Stephens Church

We have a church in Cape Town which is also reputed to have been the first theatre in South Africa called St.Stephen's church. This church stands on Riebeek Square. There are many stories of the past to be told about this church but one that has always been a delightful one in my opinion is that it is told that the cellar of the church used to be hired out in days of old. One of the tenants used to be a wine merchant who kept his liquor there. One day somebody painted the following graffiti on the walls of the church:

"There's a spirit above and a spirit below,
The spirit above is the spirit of love,
The spirit below is the spirit of woe,
The spirit above is the spirit divine,
The spirit below is the spirit of wine."

Seating for Cape Town's Working Ladies

In the late 19th century the general public started to worry about the females who used to work in shops as assistants in that they spent many hours standing behind shop counters. Letters were written to the local newspapers to highlight the problem.

The result was that in 1899 a law was passed where every owner of a shop had to provide seating accommodation for his female staff. The law stated that one chair had to be provided for every three members of the staff and that these chairs could be used buy assistants at all reasonable times.

I wonder whether this law is still on our statute books today and what a shop owner of today might do if this law was enforced against him/her today ?? (-:)

Green Point Common - Cape Town

Green Point Common has fulfilled many functions in the city of Cape Town. There was a time when the Common was a lake on which sailboats used to sail. The Common was also the first racecourse in South Africa. The piece of land also served as a military camp during the Anglo Boer War.

After World War 1 the Common was used as a landing strip for airplanes owned by the Solomon's brothers who were pioneer aviators in South Africa.

In 1930 the area was used by cows to graze on.

The stadium that eventually got built on the Common was once staged used for many a soccer clash between many of the football clubs in the National Football league in the early seventies.

These days the stadium is used for rock concerts with Michael Jackson being one of the latest entertainers to have performed there. On Sundays and public holidays the area surrounding the stadium gets used a flea market.

Looking at the above one has to admit the Common has an incredible historical background in the growth of our city.

Cape Town's Pipe Track

For those who are hikers we have a wonderful walking track which is in the mountains overlooking some of the most marvelous scenery on our Atlantic Seaboard. The track is just over 7 Km in length. You could ask the question as to why is this trail called the pipe track?

In the late 1880's our municipality gave the instruction to have the Woodhead tunnel built on Table Mountain. Water was led from the Disa Gorge Rivulet on the mountain to the Molteno Reservoir via this tunnel. The reservoir is located in a suburb called Oranjezicht which is on the slopes of Table Mountain. The pipeline got laid on an area which was soon commonly known as the pipe track.

So if you ever visit Cape Town and you do this wonderful hike remember where the name for the trail that you are walking on comes from.

Interesting Table Mountain Facts

Our wonderful mountain has many little interesting facts that it holds within its rock base. Here are some of them:

These days we see Table Mountain floodlit by night and simply take the lighting for granted, but do you know when the mountain was lit up for the very first time? The answer to this is in 1947. The occasion was the Royal visit. Another occasion when the mountain was then lit up once more was during the Van Riebeek Festival in 1952.

Most Capetonians who love their city know that the first man to ascend Table Mountain was the Portuguese navigator and solder Antonio da Saldanha. He accomplished the feat in 1503. This leads to the question of who was the first woman to ascend the mountain and when did this take place? The answer to this is not documented as an individual but as a group of women who were in the company of Governer Simon van der Stel in 1680. To commemorate the event a pile of stones was heaped up on the top of the mountain.

Did you know that the first man to ascend Table Mountain on horseback was General Sir James Craig who accomplished the feat in 1818. Not to be outdone J. A.P.Cartwright also ascended the mountain in 1930 in a rather novel way to record a first in that he got to the top in a Baby Austin motor vehicle. There are photographs available to prove this feat. Let it however be told that the car had to be lifted almost bodily over some of the bad terrain.

The Penguin Colony at Boulders, Simonstown

I think that most Capetonians as well as every Cape Town tourguide and tourist have been to the Penguin colony at Boulders Beach at some time or other in their lives but I wonder how many of these folk know how it got established?

The Boulder Penguin colony developed as a result of a school project involving the pupils of Fish Hoek High and Simon's Town High Schools? The pupils of the time aren't given much credit for this unfortunately.

The project was launched circa 1980 -1985. Some pupils discovered a pair of breeding penguins as they were caring for their newly laid eggs. The nest was vandalised and the pupils and public called for support. The news attracted attention when it appeared in the local paper The Simon's Town Council appointed a guard to protect the nest and this led to the start of the protection and eventual growth of the colony.

The principal of Simon's Town High School was Mr Brian Ingpen and the Fish Hoek principal was Mr Terry Hepworth. Mr Ingpen is presently acting head once again at Simonstown and he remembers the details of the project vividly.

It seems as if the schools has not realized the value of this bit of history and consequently the educational institutions as well as it's pupils have not the received the kudos that they should have.

The question that should be asked is whether a plinth in honour of the pupils at the schools should be erected to record this fact or whether the project and outcome should be highlighted to UNESCO?

Cape Town Bioscopes

In Cape Town there presently is a tussle going on between our local newspaper group and the cinema companies with regard to advertising movies at the various cinemas, or should I say bioscopes.

To my knowledge the word bioscope is one which originates from Cape Town and it's origins can be traced back to 1935 when there was a bioscope in Adderley Street called Wolfram's Bioscope. The owner was (yes, you've guessed it) Mr.Wolfram who was a leader in the entertainment industry in Cape Town. While the United States labeled the word "movies" into their vocabulary and the British utilised the word "cinema", Cape Town called it a bioscope. It has been told that Mr.Wolfram took the name from the Dutch word bioskoop.

Cape Town Blackouts

If you ever get the opportunity to travel along the Green & Sea Point beachfront again think of the people who lived there in 1941. During this period nobody other than naval intelligence knew about German U Boats that were expected to at the approaches to Table Bay. The Germans sent their U-boats to this area because of the strategic value of Table Bay. These unfriendly visitors to Cape Town were the cause of the residents of Green & Sea point to have enforced black-outs every night. It was said to be child's play in comparison to what was happening in Britain as Green & Sea Pointers groped around in the darkness trying to get on with their lives. Even motorists were not allowed to switch on their headlights during this period.

Today we start complaining as soon as our electricity supply gets cut off after 5 minutes. I would imagine that when this happens the folks from Green and Sea Point who were around in 1941 would start smiling. (-:)

Christmas in Cape Town of Old

With Christmas around the corner I am reminded of the times when as a young schoolboy our whole family would on a Sunday night join other Capetonians in Adderley Street to view the festive lights in the month of December. The main road of Cape Town was jam packed with families all looking upward at the lights. It also gave everyone a chance to do their Christmas window shopping as most of the stores showed off their very best in their windows. The highlight of the night used to be when the animated Disney type characters on top of the OK Bazaars building, which today is the home of many a fast food venue, would start singing pre recorded Christmas Carols. Once this happened all in the main road of Cape Town would burst out into accompanying song with the machine sounds coming from the robotic figurines on top of the building. Families were happy and the festive cheer was in the air.

Cape Town's Grave Street

When the original Groote Kerk (Great Church) was built in Adderley Street (Our main street today) a graveyard was established in the area behind the church and the official company gardens. The street between the Gardens and the graveyard was known as Grave Street. Today the same street is known as Parliament Street as parliament now stands on the same avenue.

Sometimes when one looks at what some of the politicians of past and present have done in this country one wonders if every now and then the original name of the street should not have remained. (-:)

Cape Town and the Bouganvillia

There is a road in Cape Town called Bougainville Road. The road is named after Louis de Bougainville who commanded the first French expedition around the world in 1766. In 1769 as he was ending his voyage Bougainville arrived in Cape Town. While he sojourned in Cape Town he was entertained royally by the Dutch people in the area.

The interesting fact about the expedition was that there was an official naturist on board by name of Philibert Cammerson. When the Bougainville expedition was exploring in South America they came across the beautiful climbing plant that we today find in Cape Town, as well as other parts of the world, known as what Cammerson called the Bougainvillia.

Cape Town and Jan van Riebeek

I don't normally send out mails and stories that are not verified but when I read about this little story in the archives of the "Tavern of the Seas", a column of our local newspaper the Cape Argus, I felt that it was worth sending out for interest as well as to see if there was anybody out there in cyberworld who could confirm the below-mentioned for me.

It was incredible for me to learn that the title of the founding father of South Africa as well as Cape Town, Jan Van Riebeeck, was not the same man that we have come to learn to recognize via his statue or as we have come to see him on our local paper currencies in the past.

Tom Bulpin was a renowned author on Cape Town who unfortunately passed away two years ago. According to his research and via an article in the "False Bay Echo" he had discovered that the portrait always believed to be that of Jan van Riebeeck, on which the face of the founder was modeled in later years, actually was the portrait of a Hollander by name of Bartholomeus Vermuyder.

If this be true then could you just imagine Bartholomeus Vermuyder back in 17th-century Holland living life with absolutely no idea that one day his portrait would grace millions of banknotes in a far-off African country or that his statue would be seen by virtually every Capetonian or tourist travelling in our main road viz. Adderley Street. (-:)

Reference: Content found in "Tavern of the Seas" by Dave Hughes - Cape Argus

(Highly recommended daily column well worth reading)

The Wife of Jan van Riebeek of Cape Town Fame

Last week I pointed out that the Jan van Riebeek that we have got to know over all the years actually was Bartholomeus Vermuyder. I now have it on expert verification via information provided to the late Tom Bulpin by FGLO van Kretschman, who is a well known portrait expert, that this fact is true.

The plot however thickens.

Van Riebeek we are told was married to a lady whom we have got to know as Maria de la Quellerie. Firstly, this not 100% correct as he was married to Maria Quevellerius. Furthermore the lady whom we have go to know as Maria, via her statue on the Cape Town foreshore as well as her portrait, is just like her make believe husband not actually her. The statue WAS a copy from the relevant portrait that we have all got to know, however the portrait is of a lady by name of Catharina Kettingh.

It is also interesting to note that according to Kretschman there is no known authentic portrait of Jan van Riebeek and his wife and that the portrait of Vermuyder and Kettingh are in the Ryks Museum in Amsterdam.

Don't worry next week I wont be writing to you to tell you that Bartholomeus Vermuyder was married to Maria Kettingh because they were not. (-:)

The Pulpit in the Groote Kerk in Cape Town

There is a marvelous pulpit that has been hand carved in the Groote Kerk (Great Church) in Adderley Street, Cape Town. The carving of this pulpit always gets credited to Anton Anreith and his assistant Jan Graaf.. Anreith's name is the biggee when it comes to carvings in Cape Town resulting in the fact that Graaf's name is generally left out when guides credit someone for the carving of this magnificent pulpit.

The funny part is that Anreith had very little to do with the pulpit carving. He was originally appointed to do the work and submitted a design which he called Faith, Hope and Charity. This represented three ladies in flowing garments. The Church Council considered the garments to be too revealing which caused the design to be rejected, however with the rejection came the request that lions and tigers had to be incorporated in the design. A design containing lions was resubmitted and both Anreith and Graaf did the carving, however Graaf got paid 2/3 as much as Anreith because Anreith lost interest in the work. The inclusion of the lions was the cause of this as Anreith had done many carvings of these animals before and got bored of doing the work

Fish Hoek's Cross

While travelling back from a fire torn Simonstown area last week with 13 absolutely wonderful American visitors in the back of the Mercedes Sprinter, we happened to be looking straight at the mountain on the Muizenberg side overlooking Fish Hoek. At that point one of my visitors called out loudly "look at the cross on the mountain". I looked up at the mountain and there for the first time I saw the shape of a crucifix made out of rock and gravel paths that was as large as the mountain itself. I was stunned in that after having seen the mountain so many times before I had never seen this phenomenon. I don't guess when it comes to telling my visitors facts about Cape Town so I immediately phoned two fellow guides whom I respect highly for their knowledge of Cape Town for advice. They both told me that they had never seen the cross before and obviously thus did not know its origin. On the following day both these guides came back to me to say that they had been to Fish Hoek that day and low and behold not I nor my American friends were dreaming as they also saw the cross. This set me on the path of trying to get to the origin of the cross and a wonderful lady by the name of Beverly from the Fish Hoek tourist information centre solved my problem with the following explanation:

Years ago on the mountain there was a natural ledge of rock that today makes up the horizontal sector of the crucifix. There was no crucifix or cross at that time. About 20 years ago (still to be verified) a group of religious folk from Fish Hoek decided to use the mountain as a place of silent worship by having prayer meetings on the top of the mountain twice a week. This meant that the group had to ascend the mountain by foot. A foot path steadily but surely started to evolve on the mountain face. This footpath soon became a small trench and after a while rocks starting to naturally roll into the trench. Little did anybody know it but the footpath started at the bottom of the mountain exactly in the centre of the horizontal rock edge and continued straight up past the rock edge in a direct line up to the top of the mountain. The horizontal rock ledge is about 2/3 of the way up the mountain, so what was created was a perfect rock faced crucifix. Fish Hoekers all seem to know about this phenomenon that has now been visible for the last 2 years on their mountain. All in all when one sees the crucifix this whole experience of seeing the cross gets a very eerie feeling of a very powerful force that goes with it. Go to Fish Hoek and experience the sensation yourself and you will see exactly what I mean.

Cape Town's First Electrical Supply

I wonder how many Capetonians know where the first electrical supply came from in their city.

The first electrical supply ever generated in South Africa came from the power station set up in 1891 just below the Molteno Reservoir with the turbine being driven by stream. This stream later on was also used to feed the original Graaf Electrical Works which was based in Dock Rd.

The Supreme Court in Cape Town

We have a wonderful Supreme Court building that faces the Lions Head mountain area. If you ever see the building give the following a thought: Why does the building face in this direction and not in the direction of Queen Victoria Street which would then mean that a view of the beautiful tranquil company gardens would be enjoyed?

When the original plans for the court were submitted the plans showed that they would face Queen Victoria Street which would mean facing the opposite direction as to what the building faces today. The reason for the "turnaround" is that the Chief Justice of the Cape at the time of the building of the court, Lord De Villiers, saw the plans beforehand and he found that his office faced the late afternoon sun as well as the lively atmosphere of the adjacent road called Keerom Street. To avoid this he had the plans reversed and hence the building faces in the direction that it does today.

The Old Town-House in Cape Town

If you ever come tot Cape Town and visit the Old Town House on Green market Square stop and look at the following:

As you enter the Townhouse on the landing directly in front of the main entrance you will see a big white red circle painted on the floor. Go stand on it and once you have done this you will be positioned on what is known to be the exact central position of the city of Cape Town. All measurements that are taken from the city, such as distances to nearby towns, are measured from this spot.

While in the Old Townhouse wander through to the back of the building where you will today find a coffee shop. This little garden in which the coffee shop operates from used to be where the first fire Station was in Cape Town. The fire engine of the day was kept in this area and when it was wheeled out to go fight fires the bell above the castle was rung so as to tell the people of the city how the fire fighting procedure was progressing. If the bell rang slowly then it meant that the fire was being beaten whereas if it rang quickly it signaled that the fire was spreading..

Interesting and Unusual Facts about Fynbos in the Cape Peninsula of SA

The 470 sq km of the Cape Peninsula, including Table Mountain, is home to 2256 different plant species called Fynbos (Fine Bush)

This represents more than all the plant species in the whole of Great Britain which is an area that is 5000 times bigger than the Peninsula!

The 60 sq km of Table Mountain alone supports 1470 of these species.

There are some Fynbos species of which the total world range consists of areas smaller than half a rugby field.

Van Riebeek - The father of Cape Town Crime (-:)

I wonder how many people know that Jan Van Riebeek was originally imprisoned for financial misconduct in the Netherlands. He was released with his punishment being to be sent to try and start up the halfway station between Europe and the East at Cape Town.

Once he founded the halfway house at Cape Town he redeemed himself in the eyes of his employers and after 10 years at the Cape he was posted to Batavia as a promotion.

Does this explain the origin of Cape Town's crime? (-:)

University of Cape Town

I wonder how many folk know where, when and how the University of Cape Town really came into being.

The University of Cape Town was born in the vestry of the Dutch Reformed Church in Cape Town on 14 October 1828. Heads of families all got together and discussed how better schooling could be obtained for their children as government and free school standards were on the decline.

The outcome of the meeting was the opening of the South African College at the Weeshuis or Orphanage on 1 October 1829. 100 students attended school in this venue until The South African College was built. This school in turn superseded the Cape Town University on the slopes of Devils peak.

Cape Town's Metropolitan Golf Course

In Cape Town we have many golf courses with the one that is most accessible to those living on the Atlantic seaboard being the Metropolitan Golf Course. The course, affectionately known as "The Met" is a 9 hole golfing challenge that is the second oldest golf course in South Africa with the Royal Cape golf course being the oldest. The course has existed for 105 years and was only closed to golfers for one period during its colourful history and that was during the Anglo Boer War when the British Army commandeered the area as an area for their tented barracks.

The Lutheran Church Swan Emblem

Many people pass the Lutheran Church in Strand Street and only some notice the swan emblem above the entrance to this magnificent building. This sculpture was designed by the well know sculptor Anton Anreith and is representative of the teachings of Martin Luther who became the spiritual heir to the Bohemian priest and martyr, John Hus.

The origin of the swan emblem is a very interesting one. The word "Hus" in Bohemian means goose. When Hus was burnt at the stake (1415) he spoke the words "Today a goose roasts but in time a swan will arise which nothing will destroy", hence the origin of the insignia.


If one asks most Capetonians where the suburb of Woodstock got its name from most will know that it did not come from the rock festival held in the sixties. At the same time most of them would not realize that the area was once called Papendorp after a certain Pieter Papendorp. In 1784 the name Woodstock came about by popular demand from the residents of the area when the name was changed to honor the favorite drinking hole of the locals viz. The Woodstock Hotel. <hic> (-:)

The Company Dairy

When visitors are shown around Cape Town a regular site to visit is the Natural History Museum/ Planetarium in the upper part of the Company Garden. I wonder how many people realise that this site also has historic value in that it used to be where the Company dairy of the early Dutch settlers used to be housed over 3 centuries ago.

Cape Town's First Motor Car

The first motor car to be used in Cape Town arrived on South African shores in 1898. The car was a Royal Enfield Quad and was imported by a Mr.W. Jenkins who was a manager of Garlicks Cycle Supply which was a department of the Garlicks Store. The car was later sold to Sir Alfred Hennessey.

It is told that Mr.Jenkins first started the vehicle in front of the Garlicks store. As he travelled up Lower St.George's Street he lost control of the vehicle and charged the crowd who were watching the event. An Irish policeman is reputed to have admonished him by saying "when next you intend to go motoring may I suggest you leave that machine behind".

Kirstenbosch Gardens

Most Capetonians have paid a visit to the famed Kirstenbosch botanical gardens in their city. I wonder if those who made this journey know the following about this venue:

The gardens were originally started up when Jan van Riebeek, the Dutch founder of the Cape, planted a bitter almond hedge on the boundary of the Dutch East India company's land in 1660. He did this so as to keep the companies cattle in a place of safekeeping. The land was then developed into a garden. In 1795 the land was bought by Mr.J.F.Kirsten and the botanical gardens got named after him. After being owned by Hendrik Cloete and then Cecil John Rhodes it was on the death bequest of the latter in 1902 that the Kirstenbosch Gardens became the property of the nation and in 1913 it was declared to be a national monument.

Mostert's Mill in Cape Town

When driving past the University of Cape Town one cannot miss seeing a windmill on the side of the road. This mill is the oldest surviving windmill in South Africa and was built in 1796 on a farm called Welgelegen (Translated -= Well positioned) owned by Gysbert van Reenen.

The question that always comes up is where did the name Mostert come from and the answer lies in the fact that on Van Renen's death his son-in-law Sybrand Mostert inherited the mill and the building was named after him.


In the early 1850's there were a group of Filipino fishermen who on Sunday's used to row from the area close to Muizenberg to Simonstown so as to attend church services. Their spiritual needs led to the building of a church we today know as the St.James church. The magically scenic area in which this church was built soon became known by the name of St.James. I wonder how many current residents of St.James actually know this piece of history revolving around the naming of their village.?

Just Nuisance

Most people who arrive in Simonstown find out about the dog who has such fame in this town called Just Nuisance. This Great Dane became famous when he was given the naval ranking of Able Seaman in the Royal Navy. If one goes up to Klaver Camp just above Simonstown one can see AS Just Nuisance's grave. There it can be seen that Just Nuisance died on 1 April 1944. I wonder how many folk know that according to the records Just Nuisance was born on the same day of the year that he died namely 1 April 1937. At birth he was registered under name "The Pride of Rondebosch" with the SA Kennel Union.

52 Wale Street

If you ever are in the centre of Cape Town then go to 52 Wale Street and look up to the heavens. Why? Well in the pediment of the building at number 52 you will see the sculpture of a large horse's head protruding from the wall. Most Capetonians have never ever realised that the sculpture exists as it is so high up on the building. The significance of the head is that during the 1890's this building housed the L.J. Louw Livery Stables. The building itself was erected in 1862 and in 1977 it was named the Van Dyck's Carpet building, however the stable heritage of the building lingers on via the horse who oversees Wales Street.

The Standard Bank Building with "Old Who" on the Top

Many people in Cape Town marvel at the beauty of the majestic old Standard Bank Building. in Adderley Street. The building, which was originally designed by the well known architect Charles Freeman in 1880, had 2 floors added to the original design in 1897. There are amongst Capetonians quite a number of people who do know about the above-mentioned alteration however I wonder how many people know that in 1921, using the designs of architects Black & Fagg, major alterations were once again done to the building. In the course of the alterations the original statue of Britannia, sculpted by a "Mr Cranmer of Twickenham", that used to stand on the original building's dome, was mounted on the "higher" dome. once again. During the moving of the statue the shield that Brittania holds developed a crack in it which till today still exists The trident that she carried had no harm come to it whatsoever and this led to Capetonians giving the statue the nickname of "Old Forkup".

Facts about Cape Town's Gun Run

Cape Town has an annual half marathon that takes place on a Sunday morning in September The race is organised with normal rules EXCEPTING for the fact that at exactly midday the gun on Signal Hill is fired to signal the end of the race and all those who don't beat the gun to the finish line do not qualify as finishers.

Funnily enough the most important trophy of the race goes to a non qualifier. As soon as the end of the race has been signaled by the cannon shot, the blank from the firing of the gun is brought down from Signal Hill to the finish line. This blank gets mounted and presented to the first person who crossed the line after the gun was fired and the relevant runner is presented with what is very aptly named The Good Afternoon Trophy.

Another interesting fact about the Gun Run is that the organisers of the race have to pay the militia a fee to fire the gun and the cost of this service has never changed since the race's inception. This fee comes to R82.50. It has been told to me by the organisers that every year when they do the accounting for the race it becomes a standard expression to comment "don't forget to add in the R82.50".

Newlands Cricket Ground

Many Capetonians watch cricket in the summer months. The home of cricket in Cape Town is Newlands Cricket Grounds. I am one of those Capetonians who has been watching cricket at Newlands regularly since the late fifties right up to today so you can imagine my joy when I uncovered the following piece of information.

The Newlands cricket grounds originally stood on a farm called Loevenstein. This land was owned by Jacob Letterstedt. In 1886 he donated the ground to his daughter as a wedding present when she married Viscount de Montmarte. The Viscount in turn leased the ground to the Western Province Cricket Club at a rental of 100 Pounds per annum. The first match ever played on the grounds took place on 2 January 1888 and was played between Mother Country vs Colonial Born.

The Gentoo in Cape Town

If you are, or ever were a Capetonian, who could understand a sprinkling of local Afrikaans, you certainly would know what would be meant if you heard a local person calling a woman a "gentoo" or in even more crass style a "jintoe". If you do not understand the language, may I point out that this word is the local colloquialism for a prostitute. The question that is sometimes asked is where did the name originate from. The answer to this is that in 1846 a boat was shipwrecked off the Cape coast. Several women were cast ashore from the vessel and these ladies were allegedly suffering from venereal disease. The name of the boat was as you have probably guessed "The Gentoo".

Signal Hill

On a daily basis most Capetonians pass or see Signal Hill from wherever they are in the city. It always fascinates me to hear why Capetonians think the hill is called as such. Most say that it is because the noon gun fires a signal from hill. This answer would be incorrect.

The reason why the hill is called Signal Hill is because in bygone years a signalman was permanently stationed on the mountainside which has a great vantage point over the whole of Table Bay. The signalman's duty was to warn the castle of the approaching ships that were coming into the harbour. When ships were sighted a coded system of flags and cannon shots were used to provide the relevant information about the ship as well as it nationality. Amongst others a shot was fired for every ship that was spotted and a flag was hoisted at the same time of the shot being fired. When the ship was visually identifiable a red flag was hoisted if it was an enemy vessel attacking the harbour. This signal brought every man to the harbour so as to defend the shoreline.

The Heart of Camps Bay

Next time that you are in the Camps Bay area ask one of the locals where the "Heart of Camp Bay" is situated. They are sure to look at you with a frown and openly admit that they don't know.

To get a good view of the heart of Camps Bay travel to the Maidens Cove parking area between Camps Bay and Clifton and near the Glen Country Club. Look up at the cablecar station and you then will then see the narrowest view of Table Mountain that can been seen from anywhere in Cape Town. Take a vertical view line below the cablecar station and move your eye in a downward fashion very slowly. You will then see a HUGE ditch type structure come into view in the mountain landscape. Look very carefully at the shape of the area and you will see that it forms the perfect shape of a heart. Voila you will have found the heart for Camps Bay. A fair warning is that you will not see what I am telling you unless you know what you are looking for and you follow the instructions that I have given you to the letter. Once you have seen the heart it will be with you forever. Let me know per return mail if you get to see this awesome part of the Camps Bay scenery.

Signal Hill

On a daily basis most Capetonians pass or see Signal Hill from wherever they are in the city. It always fascinates me to hear why Capetonians think the hill is called as such. Most say that it is because the noon gun fires a signal from hill. This answer would be incorrect.

The reason why the hill is called Signal Hill is because in bygone years a signalman was permanently stationed on the mountainside which has a great vantage point over the whole of Table Bay. The signalman's duty was to warn the castle of the approaching ships that were coming into the harbour. When ships were sighted a coded system of flags and cannon shots were used to provide the relevant information about the ship as well as it nationality. Amongst others a shot was fired for every ship that was spotted and a flag was hoisted at the same time of the shot being fired. When the ship was visually identifiable a red flag was hoisted if it was an enemy vessel attacking the harbour. This signal brought every man to the harbour so as to defend the shoreline.

District Number 6

Much has been written about District 6 in Cape Town but I wonder how many people know that District 6 originally was called District 12.

In 1840 the town of Cape Town was demarcated into 12 districts and the area now known as District 6 was then named District 12. In 1867 it was decided to change the demarcation and the town was split into 6 districts. District 12 then became what today is known as District 6. During this period the area also was nicknamed Kanaladorp. In 1909 the City of the Cape Town was split into 8 wards and the District 6 area was renamed Castle Ward, however the name just did not stick and District 6 remained the preferred name for the public of Cape Town. Strictly speaking the area today is called Zonnebloem, but once again the name is not used by the local Capetonian public in preference to the name of District 6. It truly seems as if the spirit of District 6 will never die for the local Cape Town community. Now the question is whether anybody who reads this mail knows where the old District 5 is in today's makeup of our city?

District 5

For the past two weeks I have been writing about an area in Cape Town called District 6. When the Cape Town municipal area was demarcated into 6 districts in 1909 other areas of the city also had District names. In that way the area today known as Loader street was known as District 5. It was in this fashionable area that most bankers and insurance men stayed. The area was renamed Loader street as this was the first road to be completely restored in District 5.

Forced Removals in District 6

The forced removals of the local Cape Coloured population from District 6 in 1966 is what most people remember the area for. I wonder how many Capetonians know that the first forced removals, on the basis of colour from District 6, took place in as early as 1901. It was in this year that the African people (Black) staying in District 6 were forcibly removed to Ndabeni so as to allow for "poor whites" to stay in the area.

Cape Town's Oldest Restaurant

When visiting Cape Town there are many good restaurants where one can have a good meal at very reasonable prices. Amongst all these wonderful establishments one of them has to be the oldest operating eating house and this honour goes to Constantia Nek Restaurant. In 1923 the land where the restaurant today stands was bought by Sydney Vincent Halls. Mr. Halls set up a farm stall and tearoom on the area which was popularly known as "The Nek". A couple of years after starting up the tea room the present day "Candle Room" was constructed and teas were served in this area. This room soon became what then and today is known as Constantia Nek which not only was famous as a restaurant but also as a dining/dancing venue on weekends.

If one arrives at the restaurant one sees a large mountain that overshadows the building. This hill is known as Vlakkenberg. It was originally known as Vlagenberg (Flag Mountain). The high point on the hill was where a flag was raised as part of the signalling system that was used when the flagman on Vlagenberg heard the sound of the Signal Hill cannon. The flag viewing then signalled to all in the Constantia Valley that a boat had entered Table Bay.

Fighting in the Camps Bay's Rotunda.

If you ever travel past the Bay Hotel in Camps Bay take a look back at the Rotunda on the side of the hotel and bear in mind that it has hosted many an event under its roof . In this way parties, rollerskating, concerts and dance evenings were a regular event in the venue. It might also surprise you to know that one of the activities that the Rounda was well known for hosting in the early 1900's was prize fighting evenings. An interesting fact about these boxing evenings was that smoking was not allowed in the venue while the fight was taking place.

The First Telegram Sent from Cape Town.

The first telegram sent from a venue in Cape Town was delivered in 1860. A building, named Woolvens Pagoda (because it looked like a pagoda), was erected on the one corner of the Grand Parade. This structure would serve as the first telegraph office in Cape Town. A Mr. Pickering installed the first telegraph line which stretched from Woolvens Pagoda to Simonstown. It was Pickering himself who sent the first telegraph from Cape Town. It was addressed to Governer General Wynyard and it crossed the prime distance of about 400 yards as the governer general was housed in the Castle at the time of the mail being sent.

Koopmans De Wet Huis in Cape Town

Many Capetonians pass Koopmans De Wet House when they travel through the city centre while driving or walking in Strand Street. This house is an example of 18th century domestic architecture in Cape Town. Since 1913 it has been a showpiece for all in Cape Town to see. The question that needs to be asked was where does the name Koopmans De Wet come from. The answer lies in the name of the last owner of the house who was Maria Margaretha De Wet. After De Wet's death there were no heirs to her estate and the government of day bought the house so as to have it as a permanent exhibition for the people of Cape Town. Maria De Wet's last name certainly explains part of the name Koopmans De Wet House but a further question needs to be asked as to where the Koopmans section of the name came from. The answer to this lies in the fact that in 1864 Maria De Wet married Christoffel Koopmans. They had no children. Christoffel Koopmans died in 1880. Maria Koopmans De Wet always insisted on being called by her maiden as well as married name right up till the day that she died in 1906. The house was named after her full last name incorporating both sections as per the way that she always wanted it.

The Twelve Apostles in Cape Town.

If you ever pass Camps Bay or ascend Table Mountain then take a look at the mountain range called the Twelve Apostles. Try and count the jutting out edges or Apostles and see if you find twelve. I doubt if you will succeed in doing this and you might well ask why the original name of the mountain range viz. The Gable Mountains was not kept so as to avoid arithmetical embarrassment to Capetonians when telling their visitors about this range. (-:)

The Naming of Durbanville

On the outskirts of Cape Town we have a northern suburb called Durbanville. Just recently I found out where the name of Durbanville came from and I found the reason for the naming of this little suburb rather amusing.

In 1836 Sir Benjamin D'Urban, the governer of the Cape, granted the request to the villagers of the above mentioned area which was then known as Pampoenskraal (Pumpkin village) that they could call their village Durban. In later years the name was changed to Durbanville so as to distinguish it from the city of Durban in the province of Natal.

CAFDA in Cape Town

Most Capetonians have heard or know of CAFDA village or the CAFDA bookshops. CAFDA is an organisation that is manned by volunteers and does heroes work in the city providing for those in distress. With that being said I wonder how many Capetonians know where the name CAFDA originates from. The origination is very simple CAFDA = Cape Flats Distress Association.

The Blue Route

In Cape Town we have a highway that is travelled on by most Capetonians that is nicknamed "The Blue Route". The real name of the highway is "The Van Der Stel Highway". It is also known as the M3. The question arises as to where the nickname of the Blue Route comes from. The answer to the above poser lies in the fact that when the original plans for the highway were drawn up, the highway was drawn on the plans in a thick blue pencil colour and someone started calling it the Blue Route. The nickname got very popular and it even led to a local shopping mall being called the Blue Route Centre.

Graaf's Pool in Cape Town

If you ever travel in the Sea Point area of Cape Town and are passing the Bordeaux flats complex on the beachfront then stop in front of the building and ponder about the following. The Bordeaux apartment building used to be a family mansion originally owned by the Marais family, hence the naming of Marais Road on the one side of the present day building. The Marais family named the original mansion Bordeaux in honour of their French heritage. The mansion was bought from the Marais family by the Graaf family who became well known in SA political circles for many years thereafter. Lady Graaf, who stayed in the Bordeaux mansion, used to on a daily basis cross the gravel road in front of her home so as to go swim in the sea for health purposes. There was however a railway / tram line on the beachfront that used to obstruct her path of travel to the beach. To accommodate this problem her husband built an underground tunnel from the Bordeaux mansion to the natural pool where she bathed daily. This pool is today known as Graaf's Pool and is used as a male nudist swimming pool while the "secret" underground tunnel still exists and runs under the Sea Point's Beach Road. If you don't believe me then when you do visit the area walk down to Graaf's Pool and as you go down the steps from the promenade look to your right and you will see the entrance to the tunnel boarded up in the beachfront wall.

Saunders Rock in Sea Point

This past week I was asked an interesting question about Cape Town which resulted in me visiting the archives to find an answer. The question was "Where does the name of Saunders Rock beach come from in the Sea Point / Bantry Bay area?" The history of Saunders Rock goes back to 1850 when Robert Saunders, who was a teacher of repute in Cape Town, moved into a house named Bellwood which was at the top of what is today known as Queens Road. Robert Saunders's son John also stayed with him at Bellwood.. After some years both Robert and John Saunders moved down to Rock Cottage which was on the eastern fringe of Botany Bay. Their neighbor who stayed in Sea Point House was Judge Menzies. One day Judge Menzies,in bewigged state with gown fluttering, went down to the beach off Botany Bay and with due ceremony named the highest rock on the beach Saunders Rock. Thus Saunders Rock Beach was born. Till today it is not known whether the good judge was paying tribute to Robert or John Saunders when he did this. Rock Cottage was turned into Rock House and thereafter it became Sea Cliffe. This home remained in the hands of John Saunders till he died in 1908. Thereafter it became a boarding house and a eventually a hotel. In 1961 the building was taken down and the apartment building called Seacliffe, that still stands, was built on the property.

The Last House on the Sea Point Beachfront

If you ever travel along Cape Town's Sea Point beachfront take a look at the apartment buildings on the Beach Road and bear in mind that all these buildings, pre 1945, used to be single house, family dwellings. Today these majestic houses of the past have been demolished to make way for the apartment buildings of today, EXCEPTING 323 Beach Road. This is the house of the Gesundheit family who steadfastly have refused to bow to the sytem of building development. Their house stands next to the Winchester Mansions Hotel. Looking back at some of the pictures of the wonderful houses on this beachfront I wish there were more people like the Gesundheit's years ago. Had this been the case we today would maybe not have lost the classic architectural heritage that we used to have along this popular road. I suppose one has to call this progress???

The First Jewish Marriage in Cape Town

The great synagogue in Cape Town was the city's first synagogue and it was erected in 1862. It is however recorded that the first Jewish marriage in Cape Town took place in 1848. The interesting fact about this marriage is that it took place in the St.George's cathedral.

The Naming of Muizenberg

When in Cape Town if you ever travel past Muizenberg you might wonder where the name of this suburb comes from. In 1670 the area that is today known as Muizenberg was a cattle farm owned by the Dutch East India Company. 70 years later the area was a military post and the commander of the post was a Sergeant Wynand Muys. In 1743 the area was named as Muysenburg i.e.Fort Muys. When the Cape became a British colony in 1795, Muysenburg became an English stronghold and the name was Anglicized to become Muizenberg.

Voortrekker Road in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town

Most Capetonians have travelled on Voortrekker Road in the northern suburbs of Cape Town. I wonder if these folk know where the naming of this road originates from. The road originally used to be known as D'Urban Road. In 1938 there was an upsurge in nationalism amongst the Afrikaner peoples of South Africa when the 100 year celebration of the Great Trek (the great move northwards) was celebrated. This commemorated the period when the Voortrekkers (Pioneers) moved to the northern areas of South Africa so as to establish an area where they could live their own lifestyle without being under English rule. It was during this festive, nationalistic period that the main road of the northern suburb areas of Cape Town was renamed to be known as Voortrekker Road.

Cape Town's Tallest Building in 1940

If you ever pass Cape Town's CBD take a careful look at its skyline and try to find the Old Mutual Building. When you have found this imposing structure bear in mind that when it was built in 1940 that it's height of 300 feet made it the tallest building in Cape Town. The building held the title of being "the tallest" until the SANLAM building was completed in the late 60's. Once you have found the building in the city compare it to the rest of the Cape Town building skyline and then ask yourself whether we have progressed or retrogressed in terms of beauty in the city!

The Naming of Claremont in Cape Town

Have you ever wondered where the name of the suburb Claremont came from? It originates from the words clear mount. These words existed because of the clear views of the back of Table Mountain that one gets from the area. Originally the territory was called Clearmount and with time the suburb name changed to become Claremont.

On Which River is Cape Town Found?

We all know that most big cities of the world are situated on rivers. In this way London is on the Thames and Paris is on the Seine. The question is "on which river is Cape Town found"? The answer is the Fresh River. This is a river that comes off the Table Mountain hillside and runs through the company gardens. It can be seen at the gates of Tuynhuys just off Government Avenue. The river then travels down Adderley Street and continues to the Waagenaar reservoir below the Golden Acre. The river might be a small one relative to the above quoted ones but it does exist.

The Naming of the Heerengracht

The main road of Cape Town is known as Adderley Street. Before this name was allocated the road was known as The Heerengracht. This name in Dutch meant "The Gentlemans Canal". Few Capetonians, if asked, know where this name originated from. The name of Heerengracht was taken on in the early 1700's when the road was named after a canal in Amsterdam. Till today many folk don't seem to realise that the section of the road leading from the fountain up to the Company Gardens is known as Adderley Street while the sector from the fountain down to the sea which is also known as the Foreshore, is now known as The Heerengracht. With Cape Town presently going through the potential procedures of changing the Adderley Street name I wonder if the powers that be who are trying to make this change even realise that the foreshore sector of road is NOT called Adderley Street. What's the bets that they don't realise this and think that the total road is called Adderley Street?

The Hout Bay Leopard

If one leaves Hout Bay via Chapmans Peak one sees a statue of a leopard that seems to be guarding the bay from its perched position on a rock overlooking the sea. This 100cm high bronze statue is the artistic product of the well known sculptor Ivan Mitford-Barberton who died in 1976. Many don't know that the leopard sculpture commemorates the Cape Leopards that used to be plentiful but unfortunately are now extinct in the area.

The Size of the Company Gardens

If you walk through the Company Garden in Cape Town you will see that it is approximately 3 hectare (6 football fields) in size. You should then ask yourself how this small area of land could be used, as a small sized farm, to supply vegetables to all the people of Cape Town as well as all the boats that stopped in at the Fairest Cape for replenishment of provisions in the 17th, 18th and 19th century? The answer to this is that the garden that we see today only made up one sixth of the original garden area as the first garden was 18 hectares or 36 football fields in size.

How the Grand Parade got its Name

In Cape Town we have a large area in front of our second Town Hall that is called the Grand Parade. Many historical events have taken place on this venue such as this was where Nelson Nelson Mandela addressed the nation when he was released from prison in 1990. The interesting part of the history of the area is where the name Grand Parade came from. The origin of the name stems from the fact that what we today know as Caledon Square was originally known as Little Parade. So as to be able to distinguish the two "parades" from each other the larger area, where the Grand Parade today stands, was named accordingly.

The Drill Hall

Opposite the Grand Parade and next to the old city hall stretching towards Buitenkant Street we have a building housing Cape Town's library services. This building still is known as the Drill Hall. The question that has to be asked is where did the Drill Hall gets it name from? The answer lies in the fact that the Drill Hall originally used to be known as the Volunteer Drill Hall. It got this name as the hall was built for volunteer military units to drill in during bad weather. As time progressed the name shortened to the Drill Hall.

Pollsmoor of Old

With the latest reports that Cape Town could soon become part of the international Grand Prix racing circuit it brings to mind the relatively unknown fact that in 1937 Cape Town staged what was called the Grosvenor Grand Prix. Leading drivers from all over the world came to the city to participate in the motor race. The race was held on Cape Town's own racing track which believe it or not is where Pollsmoor prison now stands. Eventually the track was closed down for various reasons but one of the main ones was that the south east wind was a hindrance to both competitors and spectators.

Cape Town Motor Racing info from the Past

After sending out the story of how Pollsmoor prison grounds used to be a grand pix racing track many years ago I received the following mail from Annette Mason which I felt was worth sending out as my bi-weely hidden secret of Cape Town. Annette wrote:

My dad was the general secretary of the old Royal Automobile Club in post war Cape Town. Sir Alfred Hennessy was the chairman. In those days car racing was held around the streets of the then new industrial area of Paarden Eiland. The straight, if I recall correctly, was along the Marine Drive. As a teenager, I also remember attending races at Gunners Circle on New Year's day. These races were then moved to the small track "out in the bush" at Killarney. There were also Cairo to Cape rallies that ended in Cape Town. Very exciting for a little girl when dad brought the French drivers home to a Cape Malay dinner as prepared by our cook, Rachel. I still have the badges given to me by the visitors.

The Naming of Tokai

When one travels through the Tokai Forest in Cape Town it is fascinating to know that the naming of the forest originates from Hungary. The sweet wines from the area of Tokaj (pronounced Tokay) in Hungary were the first to be planted in the area by the Prussian locksmith Jan Andreas Rauch. In honour of the vintage the area became known as Tokai.

Cape Towns Mayoral Position

With our current governmental problems in the Cape Town area and with me sometimes not even knowing who our mayor is, the following might come as a surprise to you. Do you know that the fisrt time Cape Town was recognised as a municipality was in 1867 (124 years ago). This is also when Cape Town got its first formal mayor who was a Mr.G.J de Korte. Bet you thought we had mayors in Cape Town long before 1867.

When was Chapman's Peak Built?

This week I intend dispelling a myth as far as Cape Town is concerned. I dont know how many times Capetonians as well as foreigners have told me that they thought that Chapmans Peak was built by Italian prisoners of war. This is not true as the scenic road along the mountainside, which we hopefully in years to come might be able to use again )-;), was built under instruction from the Cape Provincial administration and convict labour was used to perform the task. The road was built during the period 1916-1922. It has always crossed my mind that if it was good enough to use convict labour in 1920 then why cant we do this today now that we have to repair the road!

Ladies Mile

Lots of people have asked me where the naming of Ladies Mile, the off ramp on the Van der Stel Highway or Blue Route as we know it, originates from. Ladies Mile was named in honour of a horse by name of Lady whose owner, Colonel Cloete, used to exercize her on a dirt track that measured a mile, which today is known as Ladies Mile!

Xhosa Names in Cape Town

We have many townships in Cape Town that have Xhosa names that I am sure many local Capetonians dont know the meaning of. I want to take the opportunity of this mail to point out some of these translations.

Langa = Translates into "The Sun" however the township is named after a Zulu chief by name of Langalibalele

Nyanga = Moon

Ndabeni = Meeting place

Gugulethu = Our pride

We also have an informal settlement by name of the KTC settlement. The naming of this settlement stems from the fact that there was a supermarket on the edge of the setllement area by name of KTC Bazaars. From this establishment the name of "KTC camp" sprouted.