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Germany, Poland, Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Israel, Jordan and Denmark

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Friday, February 3, 2017

12/3: Cape Town's V&A Waterfront & the Cape's Eastern Seaboard Beaches

Steven and I had a fairly early start to the day as we wanted to be at the V&A (Victoria and Albert) Waterfront well before 8:30, for a 9 am departure for a 3.5 hour long tour of Robben Island. The island was brought to the world’s attention when its most famous inhabitant, Nelson Mandela, was released in the early 90’s after serving 18 years of his 27 year sentence on the island for the 'crime' of speaking out against the ruthless apartheid government. 

We had a fun time wandering around part of the Waterfront before heading over to the Robben Island Museum to line up for our ferry.

We hadn't come across a pedestrian swing bridge before. We didn't have time to go across it then but promised ourselves we would later after our return from visiting Robben Island.

One of the most unexpected sculptures we've ever seen was definitely this one of the Incredible Hulk!

I know it was hokey to have Steven take my picture here but I couldn't resist!
The sign inside the entrance to the Robben Island Museum, which was opened in January, 1997, declared "While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument of out hardship and suffering. We would want  it to be a triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil, a triumph of wisdom and largeness of spirit against small minds and pettiness, a triumph of courage and determination over human frailty and weakness."
The Robben Island Museum logo represented the triumph of the human spirit.
We were supposed to leave on the first ferry of the day at 9 but that didn't happen so I wandered around the museum while Steven waited patiently in line, God love him!

Apartheid in South Africa: I have written much in this blog about apartheid in South Africa but I will recap some of the most salient points for those readers who may not have seen the earlier posts. Apartheid, which comes from the Afrikaans word for 'separateness', was an official government policy of racial segregation which involved political, legal and economic discrimination against black South Africans. Though apartheid in South Africa can be traced back to its colonial era, it was officially adopted as a policy after the 1948 general elections.
Black people weren't allowed to share food, accommodation, restaurants, beaches and toilets with white people. Apartheid laws determined where people could live and work, who they could attend school with, have as a neighbor or friend and even marry. White people ruled all of the economy, politics and education in South Africa. There were great differences in the quality of people's lives because wealth distribution was unequal and favored the white population.
The city of Durban bylaws stipulated their beach was reserved for the sole use of members of the ''white race group."
Benches in public parks were reserved for white people only. If blacks sat on the benches, they would be arrested.
The Sharpeville Massacre was a turning point in South African history. On March 21st, 1960, without warning, South African police at Sharpeville, an African township south of Johannesburg, fired into a crowd of about 5,000 unarmed anti-pass protesters, killing at least 69 people – many of them in the back – and wounding more than 200. The massacre, which lasted less than two minutes, created a crisis for the apartheid government, both inside the country and internationally. The government immediately declared a State of Emergency and banned political meetings. Within less than a month, it banned both the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC), which had organized the action in Sharpeville and the African National Congress (ANC). After lengthy internal discussions, the ANC and PAC turned to armed struggle and went underground.
It was so disturbing seeing even young children having to dodge bullets at the Sharpeville Police Station.
Massive lines formed to attend the funeral for victims of the Sharpeville Massacre.
In South Africa, pass laws were a form of internal passport system designed to segregate the population, manage urbanization and allocate migrant labor. The pass laws, also known as the natives' law, severely limited the movements of black African citizens by requiring them to carry pass books when outside their homelands or designated areas. Pass laws became one of the prominent features of the country's apartheid system, until it was effectively ended in 1986. Being black and found without a pass book led to arrest. Just a few days ago, we had learned that so many of the prisoners at Johannesburg's Number Four Jail had been incarcerated because of not carrying the required pass.
A photo of Nelson Mandela, often referred to as Mandiba, burning his pass book.
Many black South Africans burnt their passes to send a message to the apartheid government that they didn't want to be controlled by pass laws.
Sporting Isolation and International Solidarity: Apartheid of course forbade multi-racial sport, which meant that teams from other countries couldn't play in South Africa if they had members of diverse races. In 1959, the non-racial South African Sports Association (SASA) was created to secure the rights of all players on the global field. When SASA and other groups called for the expulsion of South Africa from the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the IOC barred the country from participating. However, it was only after protests from sports groups and African nations that the IOC finally agreed to not allow South Africa to send a team to the 1968 Olympics held in Mexico City.
In the 1960s, anti-apartheid movements began campaigning for cultural boycotts of apartheid South Africa. Artists were asked not to show or allow their works to be hosted in South Africa. In 1963, 45 British writers signed an affirmation approving the boycott. That was followed, in 1964, by Marlon Brando who called for a similar ban on films. Over 60 American artists signed a statement against apartheid and against professional links with the country. Though
sporting and cultural boycotts didn't have the same impact as economic sanctions, I read that "they did much to lift consciousness among normal South Africans on the global condemnation of apartheid."

A huge crowd gathered to celebrate Nelson Mandela's 70th birthday on June 11th, 1988, and to show their support at a concert at Wembley Stadium in London
Free Elections: When general elections were held in South Africa on April 27th, 1994, it was the first time that all the country's citizens were permitted to participate. Millions lined up over a three-day period to take advantage of their right to vote. Mandela was elected as President in the new National Assembly. April 27th is celebrated every year as Freedom Day, a public holiday, in South Africa.
We finally left around 9:30 for our tour of Robben Island where we had a riveting time learning first hand about life on the island from a former political prisoner who had returned to share his story about being jailed under the brutal apartheid regime. Our time on the island was the subject of my previous post.

It was so adorable seeing this seal immediately after returning to the mainland in the early afternoon as Robben was the Dutch word for seals.
Luckily we only had to wait for a few minutes for the Waterfront Swing Bridge to open up for pedestrians to walk across to the other side of the large waterfront development.

As I mentioned in the preceding post, the harbor was built between 1860 and 1920. I was flabbergasted to learn that the V&A Waterfront with its many restaurants, cafes and shops was Cape Town's number one attraction!
The elephant sculpture was entirely made out of beads! I couldn't begin to fathom the number of hours that was put into creating this work of art - just mind boggling. 
I couldn't help but think what an ingenious and beautiful way to recycle pop cans and bottle tops this was.
I think the last time we'd seen a huge chess board like this was in September back in Belgrade, Serbia, near the beginning of our four month trip. 
Oh, great - another picture frame to sit in! What a pretty backdrop with Table Mountain behind me.
Our wanderings around the V&A Waterfront led us across four bronzed men, sculpted by Claudette Schreuders, "standing pensively in a row" in Nobel Square. The square was dedicated to South Africa’s four Nobel Peace Prize laureates: Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela. Each of these great men played a part in helping South Africa to democracy after decades of apartheid.

Albert Luthuli, (first one the left below) president of the ANC in 1952, was the first African, and the first person from outside Europe and the Americas, to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He received his award in 1961 after being allowed briefly out of South Africa to attend the Nobel ceremony in Oslo. Throughout much of his political life, Luthuli was arrested, charged and banned from public participation.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, is a South African social rights activist and retired Anglican bishop who rose to worldwide fame during the 1980s as an opponent of apartheid. He still speaks for the oppressed and the poor.
While F.W. de Klerk, (second from the right above) was the country's last president during apartheid from 1989 to 1994, he worked with Nelson Mandela to successfully end the country's apartheid system of racial segregation. In 1991, de Klerk passed legislation that repealed discriminatory laws in the country. He worked with Mandela and others to establish the country’s new Constitution. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 for their anti-apartheid activism.

After 27 years of imprisonment, Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first democratically elected president. He, with F.W. de Klerk, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. The following year, following the historic elections of April 27th, he took over the reins of government and led the fledgling democracy with pride and grace.

One of the most interesting shopping developments we'd come across in a long time was the Water Shed, where small artisans with a permanent booth showed their wares in a cool, industrial setting.
In addition to the local designers, there were handmade crafts from elsewhere in South Africa and further afield in Africa. Many of you know from either reading this blog or having been to our home, how we love to buy crafts on our travels, so we were definitely in hog heaven at the Water Shed!
Since coming to Africa a few weeks ago, we had seen similar Telephone Wire Art bowls. I loved their vibrant and fun colors but Steven was not as fond of them, to put it mildly! Knowing this was likely my last opportunity to buy one, I did, hoping Steven would grow to at least tolerate it over time. My difficulty was deciding just which one piece to buy as I loved them all!
I learned that electrical plastic-coated wire (originally sourced from telephone cabling) was used by urban crafters applying traditional weaving techniques to produce functional and decorative items. A mold is used by the weaver who starts from the outside to weave toward the center.

Leaving the V&A Waterfront around 3, we drove on Beach Road along the city's waterfront before heading south out of the city to the nearby gorgeous beaches on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Cape. The first one we spotted was Saunders Rock Tidal Pool where a number of people had gathered to sit on the rocks.
Next up was the ritzy development of Clifton Beach, a Blue Flag certified beach with four distinct coves. The designation meant that it had received a certificate for meeting stringent environmental standards. Surrounding the small town were multi-million rand (South Africa's currency) beach cottages as well as large condos and hotels for the mega-rich. Clifton Beach is known as a 'favorite spot for people wanting to be seen in the right places' - not an area clearly for us!

Another trendy beach on the eastern seaboard was Camps Bay Beach, a long sandy beach accessed directly from the road IF you could get a parking spot, that is! The road behind the beach was lined with restaurants, cafes and small shops that looked very inviting but there was no place to park so on we drove. Clearly this area was THE place to be on a gorgeous summer weekend.
It felt like we should be in merry old England when we saw cricket players enjoying themselves on the town's cricket pitch.
The group of small mountains that run along the coast from Cape Town and its southern environs were the 12 Apostles. 
The combination of spectacular mountains and white sand beaches all along the seaboard was just phenomenal. If only we could have found a place to stop and park, it would have been ideal!
Oudekraal was a beautiful bay, enclosed by boulders with its very own seal colony. It was set against the backdrop of the Twelve Apostles and had a number of sheltered coves and small sandy beaches between the massive granite boulders. The scenic area comprised part of Table Mountain National Park.  
A lovely view of Lion's Head in Cape Town, another place we looked forward to exploring another day.

Further south was Llandudno Beach, another striking beach of white sand and huge granite boulders surround by mountains, and without any shops or commercial activities. Again though, we were unable to find parking so headed north back to Cape Town, hoping against hope, we would be lucky enough to find one on our way back.

Hallelujah - we were thrilled when we finally lucked out and found a parking spot on the highway at Camps Bay which we had driven through earlier. A few minutes' walk led us to the white sandy beach. I noticed there were very few people brave enough to swim in the chilly waters.

After spending the day at the Robben Island Museum, then on the island touring the prison, and shopping at the V&A Waterfront, it was sublime being lazy louts and relaxing on the beach for a couple of hours. We had almost given up hope driving up and down the coast looking for parking.
I watched while this enterprising man walked up and down the beach selling pop and ice cream.
The woman wore a traditional indigo skirt common in South Africa for the last 100 plus years. 
A lifeguard, suitably clad against the elements:
We left the beach about 6:30 as we were getting hungry and still had a drive ahead of us before we got back to the Altona Lodge.
More photos of the amazing Lion's Head near sundown:

I mentioned in my first post about Cape Town how we were falling in love with the city. Today, touring the Robben Island Museum and prison and driving along the scenic coast, just reinforced those initial feelings, certainly for me, and I would think for Steven as well. 

Posted on February 3rd, 2017 from Littleton, Colorado.

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