The Cape of Good Hope 好望角
KITTY猫 发表于 2009-6-23 15:15:00
| There is magic at the tip of Africa. |
Standing on top of the flat surface of Table Mountain on a clear day is one of those special moments that you tuck away for safekeeping in the recesses of your mind. In the company of rock rabbits, an icy fresh sea breeze and your own thoughts 1086 meters above an Atlantic Ocean that stretches into electric blue infinity below, you feel like you're standing on top of the world. As well as its unusual shape, the mountain is known as a place of deep spiritual significance, the brooding quartzite and granite cliffs casting a protective aura over the city it has cradled for more than three and a half centuries.
It is the presence of this iconic landmark at its rear and the ocean in front that has led Cape Town, nestled in a natural bowl between the two, to be internationally described as the most beautiful city in the world. Founded as a trading post in 1652, the settlement became an important stop-over for ships to repair and resupply on the Asan spice route. It was because of the relief felt by these weary ancient mariners when they discovered not only one of the most beautiful places on earth, but also one that had fresh food and water, that they called it the Cape of Good Hope. South Africa's oldest city, Cape Town is also known by locals as the Mother City
Table Mountain is Cape Town's top attraction for visitors. For those who are energetic it's a three-hour hike to the top, and as part of a nature reserve and a UNESCO Cape Floristic Region World Heritage Site there is an opportunity to enjoy the unique flora on the way up. More than 1400 species of plant life flourish in the area. Most people opt to go up by cable car, with its revolving floor, that zips you up in minutes. Without warning, and almost like magic, a tablecloth of clouds can float down and spill over the mountains' edge, turning your visit into a fairy tale and softening the nearby rock formations known as the Lion's Head, Signal Hill, Devil's Peak and the Twelve Apostles until they look near enough to touch. An ancient legend says the ethereal tablecloth is due to an old Afrikaner called Van Hunks who sits on Devil's Peak (adjacent to Table Mountain) having a smoking contest with the devil himself. The two keep puffing away, blowing clouds of smoke and neither ever wins.
Beaches, Oh Beaches
After the altitude of the mountain, get down to sea level and head for Cape Town's legendary beaches which have earned Europe's coveted blue flag status for outstanding beaches. Watersport junkies can surf, dive, kite-surf into salty nirvana. The trendy beaches of Camps Bay, Clifton and Llandudno along the Atlantic Seaboard are right up there with the best in the world. Tanned, gym-sculptured bodies, ivory colored sand and sunsets crying out for film are all part of the attraction. It's all too perfect. That is, of course, until you step into the water. The Atlantic tides that wash the Cape are teeth-chatteringly cold - dashing in and out to cool down is about all you'll want to do.
On the east coast of the Cape peninsula, you can catch a commuter train along the False Bay coastline, stopping at beaches and quaint villages. The water here is warmer than the Atlantic and draws swimmers and surfers in droves. Long Beach at Muizenberg, with its rainbow colored wooden change rooms; the antique shops, art galleries and cafes of Kalk Bay, where fishermen hawk the day's catch; and Fish Hoek, a family beach always packed with locals, are all worth exploring. The bay is also a great place for whale watching. The train line ends at the postcard village of Simon's Town, South Africa's naval base, with its main street lined with Victorian wrought iron lace facades.
A mile away, at Boulders Coastal Park, a colony of over 3,000 jackass penguins has nested nearby, gracefully sharing the crystal waters with human swimmers. It's a black and white living extravaganza. From Simon's Town, the road winds lazily along the craggy coastline to Cape Point and the Good Hope Nature Reserve. This is the end of the African continent, where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet and described by intrepid British mariner Sir Francis Drake in 1580, as "the fairest Cape in all the world".
Apart from Table Mountain and the swathe of pristine beaches, Cape Town is a city that's made for browsing. The most modern city in Africa, it's a vibrant, cosmopolitan place, and the eclectic mix of designer shops, street markets, cafes and street artists means there is something to linger over on almost every corner. Historically ancestors here were Indonesian, French, Dutch, British, German, and indigenous Bushman and Hottentot tribes, giving Cape Town its flavor. Capetonians are a breed apart, laid-back, ready to laugh at themselves and in no rush to break the stress barriers of the corporate world. This easy-going lifestyle is set amongst the historic buildings of old Cape Dutch and the English architecture of the Castle of Good Hope dating back to 1666, a fort of the first Dutch settlers and a fine example of living conditions in the city then. Across from the fort the colonial-style ochre yellow City Hall stands as beacon for photographers and history buffs alike. Few skyscrapers obscure the skyline as the city sits neatly against is majestic mountain backdrop.
Robben Island - Symbol of Freedom
One of the biggest attractions for visitors to Cape Town lies a short 30 minute boat ride from the city harbor across Table Bay. It's an island that has for almost four centuries been the place where lepers, convicts and anyone thought to be disruptive to society was banished. It is steeped in pain and suffering and went largely unknown by most South Africans for years. All that changed when the world's most famous political prisoner, Nelson Mandela, and other members of the African National Congress were imprisoned there for challenging the oppressive apartheid government of the day in the 1960s. In 1999 the island was declared a World Heritage Site. Now people flock to see the 5 square meter cell that was home to Mandela for 18 of his 27 years in prison and the "Island of Exiles" as described by author Lawrence Green, and its maximum security prison, opens a window on a past long kept hidden. Tour guides on the island are actual former political prisoners who share their stories with visitors in an insightful way, very refreshing from the usual monotone droning of guides found in other places of interest.
When night falls, Long Street and the Sea Point area come alive with every kind of entertainment, and whether you want to spend an evening mellowing to full flavored jazz, take part in a drumming circle or strut incandescently at some chic nightclub, Cape Town delivers. Meanwhile, lovers of roulette wheels, cards and slot machines can get their fix at the Grand West Casino, which provides gambling and entertainment on larger-than-life scale.
The city has more restaurants and bars than you would need in a lifetime. Atlantic Seaboard areas of Clifton and Camps Bay serve up fine dining, but if its wholesome earthy flavors you crave, point your shoes in the direction of Mama Africa in Long Street for real African dishes and specialties like ostrich, crocodile and several varieties of game, all served with traditional stiff corn meal porridge and washed down with the Cape's world famous wines. For seafood, something Cape Town is known for, the Waterfront provides everything from succulent pink crayfish to sea-fresh line fish, while further out on the False Bay coast make a stop at Carla's in Muizenberg for peri-peri prawns that are talked about worldwide.