Long ago, perched slightly inland from the waters of the bay, sheltered by the towering structure of the flat-topped mountain, a small clay and timber construction sprang up. So began Cape Town. Principally built to house the work force of the Dutch East India Company’s ships that put into port on their long voyages along the Spice Trail, trading exotic spices such as nutmeg, cloves and saffron, along with black pepper, once known as “Black Gold”, it soon became clear that it could offer burgeoning Cape Town far more than a company hotel!
The mellow old gold colour of the fortress walls and five pointed star style structure meant that it could easily be defended against all-comers, whether from the sea or the land and with the backdrop of Table Mountain, commanded respect. The Castle of Good Hope took over three years to build, but has endowed us with elegant buildings housing 3 museums and it still remains an active part of life in Cape Town as the military headquarters for the Western Province command of the Defence Force. Changing of the Guard takes place every day at noon, when the mid-day gun is fired from Signal Hill.
The Military Museum tells the story of the early years of Dutch East India Company’s involvement in the Cape. The Secunde’s House, which was originally the home of the deputy governor, is furnished in the period of the 16th and 17th centuries. Check out the Governor’s Residence housing spectacular paintings, furniture, china and porcelain by William Fehr, but don’t get sidetracked and miss the Kat Balcony, with its beautiful sculpture by Anton Anreith.
Much of the original buildings remain – the Bell Tower, with the bell having been cast in 1697, still hangs from the original wooden beams. During renovations, the Dolphin Pool was uncovered and by great good fortune, when it was demolished to make way for a parade ground, the tiles and balustrades were thrown into the pool itself and covered over, thus allowing us the pleasure of accurate reconstruction. We are also fortunate to have the extensive drawings and descriptions left by Lady Anne Barnard, who acted as first lady to the then Governor of the Cape in the late 1700’s, whilst her husband was Secretary and these helped rebuild the Bakery and Dolphin Pool fairy accurately.
Today the Bakery and Dolphin Pool, along with other areas of the castle, are stunning backdrops for conferences, weddings and other functions. Can you imagine the splendor of an African themed wedding? Crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceilings, their sparkling lights catching the beautifully polished indigenous wood flooring, elegant table settings, with first class food and wine, invoke bygone eras of sophistication and charm – a venue for all.
Lady Anne Barnard is also remembered elsewhere in Cape Town at The Vineyard Hotel, a luxurious hotel encompassing the Barnard’s country home. It’s an indication of how Cape Town has grown over the years, that the attractive suburb of Newlands was once considered the country!
If you are looking to stay more in the heart of today’s Cape Town, why not consider the beautiful five star Fountain Penthouse? Stunning modern Cape Town apartments with a view that’s hard to better! All the convenience of city dwelling for travelers with the added bonus of fabulous views towards Table Mountain and Cape Town’s famous Waterfront – a Mecca of restaurants, shops and street life right on your doorstep.