My early start this morning was not too unwelcome considering an utterly relaxing stay in Franschhoek and Hermanus – and it’s always nice to catch the world before it wakes up fully. Before breakfast time, I was on my flight up to Johannesburg, where I was greeted by a guide who led me into the city center through the quirky graffiti-filled Maboneng district.
With such a rich recent history, Soweto was not a part of town that I wanted to miss. Formerly home to both Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, we passed various landmarks of South Africa’s internal struggle for equality, such as Mandela’s former prison (now a museum) and Vilakazi Steet, the site of the Soweto Uprising. After a day of exploring the city and its surroundings, I spent the evening in Nelson Mandela Square, with its vast array of hip restaurants, over-looked by a huge statue of the most famous South African watching over the passers-by.
My last full day in South Africa began with a stop at the Rosebank Art & Craft market, which is full of traditional African wood carvings and textiles. From there I was able to pay my respects to Mandela at his last home, leaving a painted stone in his garden, as is the custom. Eager to learn more about this national hero I followed the story of his life at the Apartheid Museum before a trip to Soccer City (the FNB Stadium) where he gave his first speech after his release from prison.
Mulling over Mandela’s legacy, on my last night, I came to the conclusion that South Africa is certainly no wallflower: unmatchable wildlife; breath-taking landscapes; and an impactful and important history. I was left spell-bound and satisfied to have seen it all first-hand.