Grahamstown, the home of the National Arts Festival , is a town filled with culture and diversity and I thought this will be a fitting place to kick off our journey.
After about an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth we entered the town on the South-West corner. You are immediately greeted by the Settlers Monument which is at the centre of the Arts Festival. The large Monument complex, which was completed in 1974 , was intended to be used as a conference centre to encourage free and open debate and discussion, and the theatre to encourage freedom of expression and creativity.
From there we headed down into the valley of the town. As you take the windy road you are mesmerized by the beauty of the Rhodes University and the Botanical Garden (Perhaps not a coincidence that it is situated across from the Botany Department of the Uni.). Rhodes, or RU, was named after Cecil John Rhodes as it was founded through a grant of the Rhodes Trust.
The campus is not overly huge but sufficient enough for the 8000 students it hosts. From the beautiful clock tower entrance and the gardens hosting over 100-year-old trees to the sculpture of bicycles you will be amazed by the history at this, the 5th oldest university in South Africa.
Possibly the most famous clock tower in G’Town is that of the Observatory Museum. It was one of the major renovations done by Henry Carter Galpin after he bought the house in 1859. Due to him being a clockmaker, the town’s people always set their watches according to the one on his tower. No pressure for Mr. Galpin to be punctual…
But the tower is also home to the only camera obscura in South Africa and for a long time was the only one in the Southern hemisphere. With a 360 degree observation of the town, do not miss this incredible view in spectacular full colour.
There was one spire that kept drawing my attention though in the middle of the town: The St. Michael and St. George Cathedral. No matter where you are in town,
this is the tower you see. And while you look at the cathedral it will come to no surprise to you why on of the nicknames of the town is ‘City of Saints’. Fitting for a town with over 40 religious buildings.
Local lore will however tell you a different reason for that nickname. In 1846 the Royal Engineers sent a message from Grahamstown to Cape Town for a vice to be forwarded from the Ordnance Stores. They replied back: ‘Buy vice locally,’ to which the response was: ‘No vice in Grahamstown’. With a town full of students, I think you and I both know that it can no longer be true.
But as the sun is starting to set I notice the striking sunset with the
Waainek Wind Farm in the foreground. With this site able to operate at full power for up to 40% of the time, it is one of the most viable sites for renewable energy. It is, however, the gorgeous glow on the dusk clouds that makes me warm and fuzzy. I could not ask for a more fitting end to an incredible trip with my best friend.
PS: If you ever want to send your child to a great school, Grahamstown has 3 of the 10 most expensive schools in South Africa. But with over 15 schools, it seems that the level of education in the town must be quite high