A Walk Through Cape Town

On our last day in Cape Town we set out to see some of what we had not seen on foot, well we took a cab to the starting point and another back to the V&A Waterfront but this was our walking day.

We started at the Cape of Good Hope Castle, an old Dutch “star” fortress that was an active military base until the end of Apartheid.  Apparently the garrison wants to know what time it is because there are sundials on some of the walls.  They do not tell the current correct standard time.  On these sundials solar noon is noon.  They have a guard ceremony where the NCO marches, with his armed guard to the commander’s office, get the keys, march to the gate at 10 AM, ring the bell ten times and open the gate.  Then they march back to the commander’s office to return the key.

Right after that there is a demonstration of the firing of a signal gun.  A society of retirees comb scrap metal yards, dumps and old basements finding guns and they restore them.  He showed us how a cannon is prepared, loaded and fired.  He said it is a complicated process, learned over centuries of artillery disasters.  It took him several minutes to clean, load, and prime the gun but he told us an expert crew could repeat the process every 30 seconds.  He then offered the chance to fire the gun to anyone who would contribute 10 Rand to the society.  I contributed the money but wanted to take a picture of the gun being fired.  (For pics from the Cape of Good Hope Castle click here.)

There was an exhibit by a white colonial artist in the commandant’s quarters of the Cape of Good Hope Castle.  The paintings were first publically displayed by the Apartheid government.  The theme of this exhibition is reinterpreting this art with an eye to what was omitted as well as what is depicted.  I was surprised at the number of colonial era statues still standing. Cecil Rhodes, the ultimate imperialist, stands in the Company Garden while in Britain there is a debate about removing his statue from a university. Jan Smuts still presides in front of Parliament along with Queen Victoria. Parliament is on Parliament Street, but Parliament Street has some interesting intersections, like Parliament and Bureau St. and Parliament and Spin St.

Major General Sir Henry Timson Lukin still stands in the company garden.  But he is not faring as well as Rhodes or Smuts.  On his plaque a graffiti tagger changed the L F and added a G after his name.  I don’t know if this graffiti was a comment on Sir Henry or just too convenient to pass up.  In front of “Sir” was the prefix “poe”.  I suppose a misspelling of “Poeseur” but close enough for me to get the meaning. Poor Sir Henry!

The Company Gardens are the old gardens of the Dutch East India Company.  They grew (still grow) frish produce.  The produce was to replenish ships rounding the Cape of Good Hope headed for India or Indonesia.  They must have saved many from scurvy.

From there we walked down Long Street to Green Market Square where we caught a cab back to the V&A traveling by way of Bo Kaap.


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