One of the most beautiful places I had the opportunity visit on my around the world adventure was Cape Town, South Africa. At the most southern tip of the African continent and discovered by the Portuguese and then the Dutch, the Cape is known for both its beauty and history. Flanked by towering mountains and sandy beaches, the city offers something for everyone.
The sights of Cape Town are among some of the most gorgeous and breathtaking I have ever experienced. Taking the rotating aerial cable way up 2,500 feet to the top of Table Mountain provides excellent views of the city - from the world cup soccer arena to its port and to the sea. Sitting downtown, you will jump out of your seat when the daily Noon Day Gun goes off signaling its colonial roots. Cape Town's natural beauty also extends to its beaches where visitors can sit quietly in coves surrounded by rocks and sand without the hustle and bustle of shops, cafes and restaurants. Just imagine lying on sandy beaches with steep mountains to one-side and the cool water of the Atlantic to the other.
Cape Town's pristine beauty is matched by a rich history that often causes controversy - even today. As one of South Africa's most famous sons, former President Nelson Mandela is engrained in the country's historical fabric. It's just a short 35-minute ferry ride to Robben Island, the site of his island home for decades, the former political prison. While on the island, visitors can take a tour of the facilities given by an ex-political prisoner who offers his own stories of imprisonment and those of its other renowned tenants, including Mandela. With the island being a constant reminder of the price of freedom, the eventual end to apartheid led to the celebration of crucial holidays throughout South Africa, including Human Rights Day and Mandela Day. But, the trip could not be complete without a visit to Langa, one of the Cape Town's oldest and largest townships. I was not only struck by the levels of inequality within the community itself, but also the uplifting spirits of the many children - who happily posed for pictures - that live and grow up there. However, the lack of education about HIV and AIDS prevention has resulted in a growing health crisis in the townships with increasing infection rates. My own experience taught me that access to accurate education about prevention is the only way to eradicate the disease.
It is the Cape where both beauty and history meet, much like the blending of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans at the Cape of Good Hope, the most south-western tip of the African continent. Driving through and around mountains surrounded by dropping cliffs, you will arrive at Cape Point, the spot where ships and the like could turn to head to Asia or Europe. The blue water for miles offers beauty like no other while the history of the battles for control between the Dutch and British are reminiscent everywhere around the Cape.
With Cape Town's beauty and history, there is also controversy. There is definitely a lingering struggle between the races, something the New York Times found during a recent investigation. The racist speculation in the article was something I questioned as well when visiting, but was also disputed by locals I asked. This struggle and the progression of South Africa as a leader since apartheid on the African continent continues to be questioned today. During a recent BBC World News interview, the country's last white president, F.W. de Klerk, asserted that the African National Congress (ANC) has put the country's advancement into jeopardy.
Whether you visit Cape Town for fun or business, you will not be disappointed in the stunning sights or rich history lesson you get during your visit. It's even affordable and will not put a hole in your budget. While it's the most southern place on earth I have been, its also certainly among the most gorgeous places on earth I have been. And, I can't wait to visit again!
For More of Kristofer's Around the World Trip Adventure, visit his blog, Crossing the Dateline.