Cape Town 311.
(photo credit:masada siegel)
Cape Town is the second largest city in South Africa, and to sum it up in the
words of the locals, it is simply stunning. The tight-knit Jewish community in
South Africa dates back to the 15th century with the early explorers and
directors from the Dutch East India Company. However, the first congregation in
South Africa was founded in Cape Town in November 1841.
backdrop of Cape Town is Table Mountain; it has a perfect view of all the areas
of the city. If you face north from the top of the mountain, you will find the
city center, where the docks are filled with ships. On the west side there is a
magnificent mountain range known as the Twelve Apostles. It borders a beautiful
beach called Camps Bay, which is filled with bustling bars and
On the south side, the mountains are filled with historic
vineyards and the gorgeous, must-see Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Beyond the
gardens and the Constantia suburbs is False Bay, which curves toward Cape Point.
As you tour the mountain, over on the east side you can see Cape Town’s
Cape Town is a city filled with outdoor
activities. There are adventures waiting to be had, such as windsurfing around
Table Bay or jumping off Lion’s Head and paragliding close to Clifton. There are
a myriad paths for mountain biking and hiking all over the city, whether it be
Kirstenbosch, one of the most magnificent botanical gardens in the world, or
anywhere on the huge stretches of beach.
The Jewish community is
extremely welcoming, and the people I met had a wonderful sense of humor. Late
one Friday afternoon, I knocked on the door of a store in Camps Bay because I
wanted to buy the beach towel hanging in the window.
The shop owner, who
was just closing, smiled, unlocked the door and let me in. While I was paying,
he noticed my name, told me he had been to Masada, and with a wicked grin asked
me, “Shouldn’t you be going to synagogue?” I smiled and agreed with him. As we
got talking, I found out he was close friends with my father’s first cousin, who
had died more than 10 years ago. Talk about Jewish geography.
I stayed in
the Sea Point area of the city, and it felt like a mini-Israel. On Shabbat, lots
of families were walking back and forth from shul. There are a few kosher
restaurants to try, and even more synagogues.
While staying in Cape Town,
besides enjoying the city, there are a few day trips to areas that are
breathtaking. These can be taken with a tour, or you can drive yourself
if you feel confident driving on what for many visitors is the other
side of the
road. The first is South Africa’s world-famous Cape Wine Lands around
Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek.
The enormous mountains are filled
with valleys full of vines. There are dozens of wineries where you can go wine
tasting, have lunch or simply enjoy the beautiful scenery.
called Spier is lovely but extremely touristy. It has a beautiful outdoor garden
filled with couches where one can relax and have lunch. Women come around and,
if you want, they will paint your face with traditional African symbols. I had a
fallen star painted on me, symbolic of the word “lady.” Spier also has a gift
shop filled with interesting African items, as well as a cheetah sanctuary
where, for a nominal fee, you can pet the animals.
There are many
wineries to see. While I would recommend Spier, definitely continue because the
landscape changes and becomes more beautiful as you drive along toward all three
Another day trip is to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope,
where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic. The winding roads are filled with
glorious views of green mountains with steep drops into the blue ocean. This is
where sailors rounded Africa en route to India. It’s not the southernmost point,
which is at Cape Agulhas, but it is certainly worth a visit because of the
On the way you will pass Muizenberg, a beach town that
has long white sandy beaches and is where Agatha Christie went surfing 80 years
ago. On this side of the peninsula, known as False Bay, the sea is warmer and
some of the best whale-watching spots can be found.
This drive is dotted
with little markets on the sides of the roads, filled with beautiful carvings.
The vendors sell a variety of African goods, such as soapstone statues from
Zimbabwe, which are gorgeous, as well as jewelry and wood items.
my favorite stops on this day trip was Boulders Beach. It is past Fish Hoek and
south of Simon’s Town, historically an important naval base for the British and
now the principal South African navy base. The well-preserved 18th-century
streets are filled with shops and are architecturally pretty, but you can’t beat
the penguin colony just south of town at Boulders Beach.
has a nature reserve set aside for the penguins. For a small fee, you can get a
wonderful view of them marching out of the ocean and hanging out. Nearby is a
small beach, where the penguins were resting on the rocks and swimming alongside
people in the water. I sat with the penguins for a bit and was so close to them
I could touch them, truly a remarkable experience.
(From what I hear,
they are often there.) Cape Town is a must-see city. To help you plan a trip
there, here are a few helpful websites: www.uos.co.za/;
www.jewishweb.co.za/; www.paarlonline.com/; www.simonstown.com/;