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Struik Travel & Heritage

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History from a Different Angle: Nechama Brodie Commandeers a Red Bus to Launch The Cape Town Book

Cape Town City Hall

 
Nechama BrodieThe Cape Town BookWith The Cape Town Book, Nechama Brodie has written a deserving biography of the Mother City – telling the often forgotten stories and revealing magical hidden gems about the place where so much of South Africa’s history has taken place.

This book is much more than just a tourist handbook, and anything but a history lesson. It builds a bridge between old and new, contrasting contemporary settings with their origin stories. Brodie highlights the people that played a role in creating Cape Town, from the slaves and slave owners to modern-day celebrities and political figureheads, and paints a fresh picture of the city everybody loves so much.

The Cape Town Book aims to be an inclusive and comprehensive document of history, focusing on the individual, unique spaces of the city. This includes the entire peninsula, from the Cape Flats and Northern Suburbs to Simon’s Town and Kommetjie. Brodie also covers topics such as “What Came Before?” and “Who Came Before?” – the first two chapters in the book – and consults experts and archival material to tell the full story.

To launch her new book, the sister publication of the bestselling The Joburg Book, Brodie took a small group of avid bookworms on a special sightseeing trip on board one of the famous Cape Town City Sightseeing double-decker red buses. As we jolted through the city she shared facts about the things that could be seen from the top, sowing a thread from street to street and leaving no stone unturned.

“Everywhere we go history stalks us,” Brodie said as the group gathered in the Company’s Garden to start the day’s adventure. “With The Cape Town Book I want to help you notice where and when it happens.” Armed with coffee and pastries, we learned more about the living museums and preserved relics that bear testament to the very beginning of the colonisation of the Cape.

From the Company’s Garden Brodie commandeered the red bus, sending us travelling past UCT Hiddingh Campus towards parliament – where history-in-action could be witnessed as students gathered for the historic #NationalShutdown as part of the #FeesMustFall campaign – with the author acting as a bespoke tour guide.

From parliament the bus drove down Spin Street, which Brodie revealed to have been the location of South Africa’s failed silk industry, towards the Castle of Good Hope and Grand Parade. After a brief pause to take in the surroundings and all that it represents, we travelled up Buitenkant Street and onto De Waal Drive where strong winds, which have shaped Cape Town in their own remarkable way, could not deter Brodie’s captivating voice-over.

It’s fascinating to take into account that Table Mountain was at some point the bottom of what was once a much larger mountain, and that Robben Island used to be a hill on a coastal plain, the author mused as we looked towards the famous landmarks in the distance. People would have been able to walk across.

The next stop was Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, albeit briefly, before the bus hit the road again, following it to Hout Bay via Rhodes Drive and past Constantia. Travelling on Victoria Road back to the city a group of whales could be seen playing in the distance, emphasising the diversity of life in the Mother City.

All along the way Brodie shared a wealth of information on the city, from the story behind the bitter almond trees planted by Van Riebeeck to logic behind the well-known Cape Dutch architecture. If the tour and is anything to go by, The Cape Town Book is sure to be an indispensable read for anyone interested in the true story of the Mother City.

Cape Town

 

 
Helené Prinsloo (@helenayp) tweeted live from the launch, using the hashtag #TheCTBook:


 

 

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Scroll through the Facebook album for photos taken during The Cape Town Book red bus tour:

 

 

Book details

 

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