Yes, just like you, we were warned about Joburg. She is wild & wicked; keep a look out always; people will smile but be careful and hence, we planned just over a day in Johannesburg. As a traveler, I promised myself that NEVER AGAIN will I make this mistake of not giving a city or a town the benefit of doubt. In Johannesburg, my days felt incomplete but I found some of the most helpful people there (who returned my lost laptop to me!).
My family who lives in this city said, ‘ This is a best kept secret from the rest of the world’. Because this was said over South Africa’s favorite ‘Braai’ and wine, I believed them and oh true, they were!
Neighborhood’s Goods Market:
On all Saturdays, a human wave will meet at the crossroads to be a part of this market. We walked in cautiously and decided not to take our cameras out but looking at the bunch of happy people with their beers and young parents moving their head to the light jazz music being played, we decided to let ourselves go as well.
Not being used to navigate through a human wave in Africa, we were warned a couple of times to keep our phones deep inside our pockets or bags.
Our euphoria started setting in as we took in the sight of a bunch of people dressed as movie characters entertaining others and the plethora of amazing food which was being made in front of us. After heading straight to the counter for some wine and beer, we pushed through to get something to fill our stomachs. With our hands full, we went a level up to enjoy some local handicraft shopping and to tap our feet to some contemporary music.
Constitution hill & Old Fort:
The map said Constitution Hill is just a couple of minutes away from the Neighborhood Market. Probably it is but we will never agree. After numerous rights and lefts and peering into the map for some hidden routes, we finally had to call our cab to drop us to the gates of the fort which was just 2 minutes behind us.
These museums are a must visit and even without a guide, the place is very well-marked with information to understand the history. We made it right on time for the final tour of the day at Old Fort where the guide showed us the prison complex and explained in detail the various on goings in there a few decades ago.
This is when I realized that Gandhiji is revered in South Africa as much as he is respected in India! We have all learnt about the apartheid history of Africa through books but to see it up close and experience it with the stories is a huge learning curve for anybody!
Lesidi Cultural Village:
They say life started in Africa and these guys showed it to us. Throughout this two-hour visit, they showed to us the typical lives of the various tribes, the difference in their culture, homes, how they cook and talk.
By the end of it, all of us joined in for the high energy electrifying dance followed by dinner.
In between we ran out a couple of times, to shop a little at the African handicrafts center. After all, our souvenir shopping starts from day one.
Johannesburg has a pop culture and it is the cultural heart of Africa. There is a fresh new set of immigrants and locals who give Joburg a very artsy and vibrant vibe. The streets and the Rosebank mall are lined with art galleries and boutiques stalls by youngsters who are fearless and who thinks this city is full of possibilities. They are creative and adventurous and believes Joburg has what it takes to make them succeed.
Sure, the ‘image’ of Johannesburg will never be as that of ‘CapeTown’ which is seen to be very European but Joburg will be Joburg. Though, people might still feel unsafe, there is a new angle of global culture coming up in these streets. The development this city has seen in the last decade has been immense and people are encouraged to bring in more.
We stayed at this hotel called ‘The Winston‘ right at the heart of Rosebank and it had so much ‘art’ in it that I could feel the spirit of Johannesburg in here. The library and the pool made for such great views from the hotel rooms.