Guy Arnold shares Johannesburg, South Africa’s top five spots for tourists who like a little history and culture with their travel.
During a stay in South Africa’s largest city, my destination Johannesburg, and thanks to Jozi’s stretching-for-the-sky tower blocks and sprawling green parks, I found myself somewhat overwhelmed. I’d never been to such a place and, because of the country’s world famous social history; I wanted to find out more. So, from one of the fabulous Johannesburg hotels, I ventured forth in search of some information in five of the best places to find it:
I suspected this place would be extremely popular because of its name. I was right. I queued in the stifling heat for about half an hour to get into a building which had been restored to look how it used to when Nelson himself lived there. It cost me only about £5 and, walking around the newly restored house, soaking up the heritage, the history of Mandela and his family with the help of informative staff and guidebook information, it was definitely money well spent.
Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum
Having learned about the background of this place, it was no wonder people were shuffling about, heads bows, in near silence. Hector Pieterson, a twelve year old, became the symbol for apartheid repression after a police bullet struck him dead in 1976. This memorial is near where he died, in Orlando West, Soweto, just round the corner from Mandela House. My entry fee was about £2 but, for the historical background this place commemorates, I’d have paid more. That said, it was still a highly interesting experience, and well worth the visit.
I opted for a guided tour round these old, rusted, peeling jail blocks. Mandela himself, as well as Mahatma Ghandi among others, were each imprisoned here for their activist behaviour. It was a strange feeling, standing outside the very cells in which these people were kept. The tour guide was friendly and informative, however. He lightened the mood for us all and, after only paying less than five pounds, I couldn’t have asked for more. There was the opportunity of a night tour, costing around £7, from 6:30pm on the last Thursday of every month. It gives people the chance to see the place after dark, creating, I imagine a more sinister experience.
Cradle of Humankind
It was hard to imagine this place in the middle of a city. The Sterkfontein cave complex and the museum itself all go towards a learning experience about the evolution of man. It’s a place where about 40% of all human remains have been excavated, so it’s definitely a must see for that aspect alone. As with the aforementioned locations, it didn’t cost much at all to get in and, situated in the Gauteng province, it’s easily accessible.
Being led through 22 different exhibit sections and with all the photos, pieces of text, panels and artefacts on display, I was presented with a clear-cut history of apartheid in South Africa. It was rather a moving experience, especially the live demonstrations which happen throughout the day. Another definite must see for any culture-hungry tourist.
Guy Arnold, from leafy Hertfordshire, England, who is currently studying for an MA in Creative Writing. Specialising in poetry, and travel writing being a new passion!