So many things surprised us on the Joburg Inner City Walking Tour we did with Gerald Garner from Joburg Places last week. The first was how Johannesburg, once a run down, gritty city, is going through this extraordinary re-growth, and is today magical, alive and vibrant. The second was that it was totally safe. And the biggest surprise, was how many delicious pastry shops we passed along the way!
One can never do a city walking tour without good shoes, a hat and sunscreen, but most importantly, without a cup of coffee. Starting off at The Post, in Braamfontein, was a brilliant idea. Apart from their excellent coffee, there are loads of fabulous clothes shops and galleries nearby, so it’s a good idea to arrive early and explore. Braamfontein is buzzing, and has become the new, hip suburb in which to ‘hang’.
Gerald has a beautiful voice, which is a good thing, because he talks a lot. As he points out the hip Kitcheners Bar (pub by day, dance party by night) the trendy Neighbourgoods Market (only place to be seen, on a Saturday) and Daleah’s Restaurant, he recounts the astonishing story of Jo’burg – it’s old glory days, the decline under Apartheid, and then, the current rebirth of the city.
We wandered over to Randlords, an exclusive rooftop bar and lounge, where one can swing (yes, swing!) on the 22nd floor, while looking over the whole city. Then, slowly and with eyes wide open, on to the brand new Orbit Jazz Club, a must for all jazz lovers, with an astonishing line-up of artists. This is Joburg urban regeneration at its best.
We didn’t get to see the The Beach, a rooftop pool, as it’s only open on the weekend, but at least I know where I’m going this Summer Saturday! Followed by pizza at 86 Public.
A short walk over the bridge, led us to the Park Station bus stop. This is the part of the tour when you hop on the Rea Vaya bus, for the short ride into town.
I could see some in our walking group rolling their eyes and clutching their bags just a little bit closer to their sides. Johannesburg does not have the best reputation, you know…
Except – that needs to change. Security everywhere. It was easy. Safe. And completely and utterly seamless.
Joburg’s inner city is not Bohemian like Braamfontein, but is rather a growing, bustling African city. We walked through the colorful market on Kerk Street, where anything and everything is for sale. Hair is a big market in Africa, and apart from the fresh fruit and vegetables, clothing and cosmetics, any shaped wig, in any colour, can be bought. One can even have a haircut, if inclined!
I lost my group for a few minutes as I was busy chatting to and photographing the street hawkers. I caught up with them in the Ernest Oppenheimer Park, where everyone sat, resting in the shade of the trees, admiring the sculptures, watching the cool kids playing basketball, and basically, shaking their heads in awe.
The city is amazing! The parks in the heart of the city are amazing! The kids playing basketball were amazing! All this – in our Jozi inner city.
We carried on to Ghandi Square, via magnificent Johannesburg Heritage Buildings then through the old Mining Area where the streets have stories to tell and where they tell them through incredible art and sculpture. We walked, through the historical centre, to Newtown, to the old Chancellor House and its outdoor museum, now time to learn more about Nelson Mandela. And Oliver Tambo. And Walter Sisulu.
And we eventually went home. Exhausted. But inspired.
So much in this city of ours. So much to learn. So much to see and to do.
Do it, while you’re in Johannesburg. With the astonishing Gerald Garner. At Joburg Places. It’s important. And so much fun!