Cape Town has a rich history and is the oldest city in South Africa. It was here that the first recorded history of Europeans setting foot on African soil began. It is the legislative capital of the Cape Province and South Africa and is the second largest city in the South Africa. For many years, Cape Town was known as De Kaapsche Vlek (the Cape Hamlet). By the end of the 17th Century, however, it was referred to as Kaapstad (the Dutch word for Cape Town) or, in French, La Ville du Cap. In 1803, the Dutchman, Abraham de Mist unsuccessfully attempted to rename the city Van Riebeeck Stad, in honour, by that time, of its accepted founder, Jan Van Riebeeck.
|Jan Van Riebeeck - Founder of Cape Town 6th April 1652|
The Dutch Settlement
In 1651, Jan Van Riebeeck volunteered to undertake the command of the initial Dutch settlement in the future South Africa for The Dutch East India Company.
|Dutch East India Company|
Van Riebeeck landed three ships (Dromedaris; Reijger and Goede Hoop) at the future Cape Town on 6th April 1652 and fortified the site as a way station as well as a settlement on the shores of Table Bay at the foot of Table Mountain for the Dutch East India Company (VOC) trade route between the Netherlands and the East Indies.
|Dutch East India Company|
The Huguenots and the British Settlement
The first non-Dutch immigrants to the Cape, the Huguenots, arrived 37 years later in 1688. The Huguenots had fled from anti-Protestant persecution in Catholic France to the Netherlands. The VOC offered them free passage to the Cape as well as farmland.
By 1795 the Netherlands was invaded by France and the VOC was in complete financial ruin. The Prince of Orange fled to England for protection, which allowed for the establishment of the Dutch Batavian Republic. Due to the long time it took to send and receive news from Europe, the Cape Commissioner of the time knew only that the French had been taking territory in the Netherlands and that the Dutch could change sides in the war at any moment. British forces arrived at the Cape bearing a letter from the Prince of Orange asking the Commissioner to allow the British troops to protect the Cape from France until the war. The British informed the Commissioner that the Prince had fled to England. The reaction in the Cape Council was mixed, and eventually the British successfully invaded the Cape in the Battle of Muizenberg. The British immediately announced the beginning of free trade.
Under the terms of a peace agreement between England and France, the Cape was returned to the Dutch in 1802. Three years later, however, the war resumed and the British returned their garrison to the Cape. This period saw major developments for the city, and can be said to be the start of Cape Town as a city in its own right. (https://www.rhinoafrica.com/en/south-africa/cape-town/history)
A discussion about Cape Town would not be complete without some history on winemaking and the Cape vineyards. The Huguenots brought with them to the Cape, their important experience in wine production which greatly bolstered the industry, and provided the wine industry with strong cultural roots. Cape Town wines are still some of the most sought-after wines in the world. On the southern slopes of the Table Mountain range and its world-renowned floral kingdom lies the historic Constantia valley, the cradle of winemaking in the Cape. The valley, which falls within the Cape Peninsula district, was the site of Simon van der Stel's 17th-century wine farm and the origin of the Constantia dessert wines which became famous throughout Europe during the 18th century. Rooted in ancient soils, the vineyards climb up the east-facing slopes of the Constantiaberg, where the vines benefit from the cool sea breezes blowing in from False Bay. The ward receives about 1 000mm of rain annually, making irrigation unnecessary, and has a mean February temperature of 20.6°C. There are only a handful of cellars in this premier ward, where the cool climate favours the production of white wines, notably Sauvignon Blanc, and where the tradition of producing remarkable wines since 1685 continues.
The acclaimed Cape Point vineyards, some of them a mere 1.2km from the sea, are situated on the western edges of the Cape Peninsula. This cool-climate maritime pocket in the district of Cape Town is recognised mainly for its Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon.
A Cape Town landmark, the Castle of Good Hope, is a prime example of a “star fort”. It was built between 1666 and 1679 by the Dutch East India Company and is the oldest existing colonial building in South Africa. Its position marks the original shoreline before years of land reclamation changed the Table Bay coastline. The Castle was planned from a central point with five bastions, named after the main titles of Willem, the Prince of Orange. The Western bastion was named Leerdam, followed in clockwise order by Buuren, Catzenellenbogen, Nassau and Oranje.
The official founding of Cape Town was preceded almost two centuries earlier, when in
(1) 1460, Portuguese navigators, representing the interests of the Portuguese Royal House and merchants eager to find a sea-route to India around the south coast of Africa, reached the coast of Guinea, West Africa; and
(2) 1488, Bartholomeu Dias succeeded in circumnavigating the Cape, naming it "Cape of Storms" - it was later renamed "Cabo de Boa Esperança" or the Cape of Good Hope to stimulate optimism about creating a sea route to India and the East via the Cape;
(3) 1497, Vasco da Gama was mandated by King Manuel I and the Royal House of Portugal to expand on Dias' discoveries. Da Gama departed Targus on 8th July 1497, heading an expedition consisting of two ships, São Rafael and São Gabriel. They sailed along the southern African coast on the way to India. They put foot on South African soil for the first time on 8th November 1497 at present-day St. Helena Bay on the west coast of Southern Africa. It was here that they first encountered the Khoi-Khoi/San people (also known later as Bushmen). Da Gama’s description of the Khoi-Khoi/San in his diary reads as follows: 'The inhabitants of this country are tawny-coloured. Their food is confined to the flesh of seals, whales and gazelles, and the roots of herbs. They are dressed in skins, and wear sheaths over their virile (now that’s an expression I’ve never heard before...) members. They are armed with poles of olive wood to which a horn, browned in the fire, is attached...'
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