Reasons to visit Stellenbosch in South Africa

Stellenbosch - South AfricaStellenbosch - South Africa
Stellenbosch - South AfricaStellenbosch - South Africa

 

Reasons to visit Stellenbosch in South Africa

This Historic Town was founded in 1679 by Simon van der Stel became the second governor of the Cape Colony, at this time the Cape Colony consisted of a fort and a few small farms clustered around the Table Bay region.

The colony had been established to provide a provisioning point for the eastward bound ships of the Dutch East India Company and Simon van der Stel felt that wine would make a welcome addition to the supplies he was charged to supply.

Expeditions were sent out to the mountain slopes and valleys inland and one night after camping in the bush along the Eerste River (First River) he announced that he would have a town built there. The town was duly established and named after his nights camp in the bush - Stellenbosch.

Every year on his birthday Simon van der Stel would preside over a fair held in his honour, in those days Stellenbosch was a rough frontier town where hunters traders and adventurers would mingle with the farmers and the celebrations included competitions of hunting and shooting, games, feasting, and no doubt a certain amount of imbibing of the local product.

The town that Simon van der Stell began is to be seen to advantage today, He had spacious streets laid out and oak trees planted along with them for shade (The trees are full-grown now - they had a longer view of town planning in those days).

As the years passed by, the frontier moved further inland and Stellenbosch lost the rough edges of a frontier town and the farmers became more prosperous and genteel, today central Stellenbosch contains streets of the finest examples of Cape Dutch architecture. The Stellenbosch Village Museum is a group of well-preserved buildings, each restored and furnished to give you a look at a different period in the history of this fascinating town.

Today Stellenbosch is at the heart of South Africa's wine-producing region.

Lest you think that Stellenbosch is a dusty old display cabinet, be aware that it is also home to one of South Africa's finest universities, so parts of town have a young trendy feel with nightclubs and cafes.

Historical Buildings and Landmarks:

The Kruithuis

Built by the mason Michael Rambusch in 1777, this old powder magazine and arsenal has survived from the days when the Cape was a possession of the Dutch East India Company.

It is now a museum that has a collection of military items from the history of the Stellenbosch, including a collection of 17th-century cannon.

Historical Buildings and Landmarks

Oom Samie se winkel

Oom Samie se winkel - (Uncle Sammies shop) has remained the same since it was first opened over 150 years ago. As you duck through the low doorways you step back in time to a period in the past.

The rooms of this frontier era general dealer are packed full of a wide variety of goods for sale, these range from tools and antiques to wine, clothing and food, a glimpse into the days when these shops had to provide all the requirements of their small communities.

Moederkerk

The original church was one of the foundations of the town of Stellenbosch, burnt down in 1710 a series of difficulties prevented the rebuilding until 1722. In 1814 the church was enlarged.

Finally, in 1863 the current church was completed. The community of Stellenbosch had been able to secure the services of the German architect Carl Otto Hagar who designed a neo-gothic masterpiece. The sheer beauty and history of this Stellenbosch landmark attract many visitors.

Village Museum

This group of four well preserved and carefully restored buildings represent examples of the housing and lives of the settlers of Stellenbosch.

The earliest of the houses dates back to the original pioneering time when Stellenbosch was a frontier town. The Last dates from the Victorian period when Stellenbosch was more established and sedate.

Architecture:

The Wine Industry The early houses in this area were built in the Cape Dutch style, this style is unique to the Cape and is unquestionably beautiful. The style has roots in mediaeval Holland, Germany, France and Indonesia.

The early houses were single-storied. They usually consisted of three rooms in a row with steep roofs supported by rafters. Houses were generally built of local materials, thick walls were made of clay or rubble cemented with a lime-mortar, restios were used for thatching the roofs.

In the 18th century, with increasing prosperity, houses began to grow larger and more ornate. They began to reflect the growing wealth and ostentation of their owners. It was then that the front gable made its appearance, the front gable is one of the most distinctive features of the mature Cape Dutch Style.

These houses were built to asymmetrical plan with a central door flanked by an even number of windows. Most houses had a central front room (voorkamer) into which the entrance led, from here doors led into the rooms on either side and sometimes to a back room (agterkamer)

Later wings were added to the wealthier homes giving rise to U-plan and H-plan designs.

Wonderful examples of these styles are to be found in and around Stellenbosch.

Irrespective of the period, all the Cape Dutch houses were painted with whitewash, which when combined with the grey of the thatched roofs and the green of the trees and vines which have been planted around many of them gives them all a particular charm and beauty.

Central Stellenbosch has many well-preserved houses of this style, the majority of them are still in use, and there is a series of four buildings that have been made into a museum where you can see the furnishings and styles of different periods.

If you have an eye for architecture and history, or if you just enjoy beautiful buildings and towns, then a walk through the heart of Stellenbosch is an experience that is sure to give you great pleasure.

Gerald Crawford was born in South Africa, studied electronics, telecommunication, eco-travel and African travel concepts. He taught responsible tourism in South Africa. If you have any questions or comments please e-mail me. E-mail Address: southafricantravelarticles@12234455.co.za Website Address: [http://www.12234455.co.za]

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Stellenbosch - South Africa