Cape Town

"Cape Town is not Africa, it's Europe!", a Senegalese friend of my flat mate said. Except: it is not. It does offer a lot of European lifestyle though, excellent food and beautiful landscapes. Could I live here? I guess so!

Not that excellent cuisine is particularly reserved for Europe, I have had delicious food and wonderful landscapes on other continents as well. Still, I get why my flat mate's friend is saying that Cape Town was not Africa. Compared to Uganda, which I visited in 1996, my trip to Cape Town was a relaxing time off, but offered little of an adventure or culture shock. Somehow we Europeans, when travelling Africa, still expect to see a dark and difficult piece of land, and black people. It is both a longing for exotism and fear of being robbed, raped or shot at daylight. Luckily my Cape Town trip offered none of that. Instead I was drifting along coastlines and wineyards, eating fish, drinking wine. I think, I'd come here more often if the flight wasn't 14 hours, and my fear of thrombosis wasn't that big.

Beautiful sunset over the mountains in Betty's Bay.
Beautiful sunset over the mountains in Betty's Bay.

The trip came to me as a surprise. My aunt invited me to spend New Year's Eve with her in Betty's Bay where she and her love own a house. When I was planning the trip (I wasn't actually planning, more letting it come to me) I had a couple of things in mind of which I managed to do quite a few. I had a relaxed New Year's Eve with some lesbian elderly ladies and a Braai at Betty's Bay. I did not have Nature, Game Drives and stuff, but I had penguins. I still need to return for a surf! I had skipped that part because I was feeling a little groggy from a cold. Plus I was afraid of (white) sharks.

Cape Town and Table Mountain. A must see.

The view is incredible, and despite the crowds of people it is defenitely worth climbing up there. We took one of the tourist bus lines to get to the cableway station. I can only recommend to do that. You learn about South Africa's recent history, and you do not have to worry about finding a parking spot at the cableway station. Riding these buses is a bit weird though. Everyday about 3000 visitors (I am guessing) get to know the 'real Cape Town' via audio tapes in 16 different languages. Informational pieces are alternated with a cross-section of African pop music. To my surprise, in those two weeks of my vacation, on radio kfm 94.5, I was listening to a lot of stuff from my teen years like Ace of Base and Kylie Minogue's 'I should be so lucky'. Mainstream radio in the Cape is not so different from mainstream radio elsewhere. And it did not have anything to do with the Afropop songs presented on the bus.

The sea, the sunset, penguins and Cape Gannets

Although the Cape area to me is characterized by small villages and cities along the coast line, there are also wonderful landscapes and wildlife to observe. Wale season at the Cape is from mid-August to mid-October, and I wasn't so keen on seeing sharks, so I sticked with the smaller dudes and visited a penguin colony in Betty's Bay and Bird Island in Lambert's Bay.

Franschhoek wines and delicious food all along the coast line.

I was longing to see the South African wine lands (I am not an expert, but I do enjoy a good wine and the laid-back atmosphere that comes with it). So we packed the car and drove towards Franschhoek. On the party for New Year's Eve in Betty's Bay, when I said I grew up in Oldenburg in Germany, one of the women mentioned that there was an excellent wine estate called Oldenburg in that area. Curious for traces of other Oldenburg people we went to see Oldenburg Vineyards, a truly beautiful place, with great but pricy wines and a magnificent view over the mountains. I brought a bottle of Syrah home, and I am still waiting for the perfect moment to open it drank it with my loved one recently. It was an ordinary Tuesday evening, the wine made it just perfect. I never understood, why one would keep stuff and wait for the right moment to come (how will you know? you can only tell retrospectively anyway).

Back to the Cape: Franschhoek is a lively city with a frenchie style, nice restaurants and galleries to stroll. It seems most wine estates try to make the most out of the business and also offer B&B, wellness or even a gallery or café.

Lambert's Baai on the Western Cape was a completely different atmosphere. Windy and rough coast lines with its very own attractiveness. We drove on sandy roads past salt lakes, left our bags in at a tiny B&B, had a puncture repaired at gas station in Lambert's Bay, and went to have lunch at Muisbosskerm, a famous outdoor restaurant in that area. I tried a couple of fish, all fresh from the braai, and I fell in love with angel fish. Accompanied with a sip of white wine, salads, bread and jam, the lunch left nothing to be desired.

I would not recommend any places or sights to visit this time. If you travel South Africa, make sure you get a mix of the following: nature, wines, fish, steak, and art. Try angel fish, yellow tail and snouk. I personally enjoyed rusks, sweet biscotti-like breakfast pastry, mostly made from butter milk. So if you are lactose intolerant as I am, don't forget to take your pills. Make sure you have time to relax at the coast line. Be careful in the sun, the sun really has more power at the cape. If you want to get a glimpse at South African history and politics, visit one of the shows of Tannie Evita. Hilarious, plus, a very pointed sartirical view on South Africa, also for outsiders who do not understand Afrikaans.

If you fill your holiday with these highlights, you will probably return and say: Indeed, you do not need a holiday, you just need to spend time in the Cape area, and your energy levels are filled up. Enjoy!