Cape Town, Camps Bay, Signal Hill, Castle of Good Hope

Unwelcome stranger to this woeful place
Adieu to friendship and to mental peace
Content is fled; o tedious time;
When sad reflection ponders o’er no crime
No cheering comfort glads the weari’d eye
As the incessant hours in dull rotation fly

These are the words etched into some of the prison doors at the Castle of Good Hope, the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa.

Originally constructed as a timber fort in 1652 by Jan van Riebeeck, the castle took on its current stone form when the threat of war between Holland and Britain became imminent. Its purpose was to serve as a maritime replenishment station for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) ships. Today it is a tourist attraction.

The fort has the shape of a pentagon with five corner bulwarks and an almost 10 metre high wall from massive boulders. It was a small town on its own, containing a church, a prison and even a bakery.

Matt and I struggled through this tour as the sun beat down on us, and our tour guide was not the most engaging of storytellers. At one point he told us – with an absolute straight face, and no sense of irony – that prisoners were tortured until they confessed. If they didn’t confess, they were executed for their insolence. If they did confess, they were executed for their crime.

But the former cells of the prison were a definite highlight. Our guide told us that most of the prisoners were soldiers drunk on duty, but the castle’s prison was also used during the Second boer war.

According to Wikipedia:
During the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the castle was used partially as a prison and the former cells remain to this day. Fritz Joubert Duquesne, later known as the Man who killed Kitchener and the leader of the Duquesne Spy Ring, was one of its more famous residents. The walls of the castle were extremely thick, yet night after night, Duquesne dug away the cement around the stones with an iron spoon. He nearly escaped one night, but a large stone slipped and pinned him in his tunnel. The next morning, a guard found him unconscious but alive.

This was day four of our holiday, and we were getting a tour of Cape Town by Matt’s sister, Kate.

We started the morning in Camps Bay, one of the most affluent suburbs in Cape Town. The beach sits at the foot of a magnificent mountain range – the twelve apostles. Trendy bars and restaurants populate the palm-tree lined beach.

We didn’t stop for a swim, but next time we must as the beach has blue flag status.

Instead, the car climbed up the windy Kloof Nek road as the beach winked at us with promises of cool respite (icy cool) from the African sun.

Tempting Camps Bay Beach

We clambered out of the car at the top of Signal Hill, and were rewarded with a view over Cape Town. The place is popular for sundowners, or even for a legendary ice-cream van (but sadly the ice-cream van did not make an appearance that day). Matt particularly liked the new stadium, built for the World Cup.

We got there a little early for the noon gun, which is fired every day from the hill.

We posed for a photo with Table Mountain behind us. A little bit different than the usual tourist photo on Table Mountain, because you can’t see the mountain when you’re on the mountain.

Side note: In fact, Matt and I have both been up Table Mountain before and to Robben island on a previous trip. They are both very much worth seeing, but we didn’t repeat our adventures this trip.

Aside from the Castle museum, we also visited the Company Gardens, impressively large and the squirrels are so tame they eat out of your hand.

This blog post originally posted on What Shmatt Did.

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