1. Cape town’s nickname is The Mother City
Legend has it that in the 1930s a local Cape Town newspaper claimed that Cape Town was the only city in South Africa that could justly call itself a metropolis. The public took to this description and because the word metropolis is taken from the Greek derivative of meter or metros meaning mother and polis meaning city, the nickname of “Mother City” was born.
2. Cape of Storms
Large waves and storms caused the explorer Bartholomeu Dias to name the peninsula ‘Cape of Storms’ in 1488. Later the Portuguese king changed the name to ‘Cape of Good Hope’ since they deemed it close to the sea route to India.
The Cape of Good Hope remained a cape of storms, especially since 1858 when 30 ships were blown ashore and wrecked during a vicious storm. Insurance company Lloyd’s of London, then refused all further insurance on ships in Table Bay during winter, resulting in the British Colonial Government starting construction on the first breakwater, today forming part of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a favourite destination during Cape Town tours.
3. No lions at Lion’s Head
Lion’s head was not called Lion’s Head because lions used to walk around there.
Contrary to popular belief, the popular spot was also not given that name because it resembles a lion. Folklore suggests that 17th century Dutch settlers named Signal Hill as Leeuwen Staart (Lion’s Tail). Together with the current Lion’s Head, the space between the two peaks resembled a crouching lion and the top became Leeuwen Kop.
4. Cape Town has a ‘Second New Year’
Every year on the 2nd of January thousands of minstrels in bright colours and carrying colourful umbrellas, take to the streets singing or playing an array of musical instruments. They are self-organized into klopse (“clubs” in Kaaps Afrikaans) and known as The Kaapse Klopse.
5. A wooden street
According to recorded history, the city’s main street, Adderley Street, was originally made entirely from wooden blocks because (by the early 1900s), when the street had become so busy, city planners paved it with wood in an attempt to drown out the noise from wagons, carts and horse hooves.
6. Robben Island wasn’t just for prisoners
Today, the Robben Island is most famous for its political prisoners, but during the 1840s, the island was used as a place to house leprosy patients, and mentally and chronically ill people.
Robben Island was also used as a training and defence station by the British during World War 2. Today it houses a museum, often visited on Cape Town tours.
7. The world’s first heart transplant took place in Cape Town.
In 1967 the South African doctor Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first heart transplantation in the world in Cape Town. Although the patient died of pneumonia 18 days after the ‘successful’ transplant, it was a ground-breaking event on a global scale.
8. Cape Town is highly esteemed by Europe and the USA
Cape Town received Blue Flag status, an international award bestowed by the Foundation for Environmental Education in Europe, due to its high-quality water, fantastic facilities, safety and cleanliness of its beaches.
In 2014, the prestigious New York times voted Cape Town as the Best Place to Go for that year, beating 51 other countries from around the world including Perth, Taiwan and Dubai.
9. A Castle with a sea view
The Castle of Good Hope, the oldest colonial building in South Africa that first functioned as a fort and welcoming port for sailors traveling around the Cape, once sat at the water’s edge with waves crashing at its door. The surrounding landscape has however transformed over the years, as land reclamation to create Foreshore and the current harbour caused the coastline to move to the west.
10.Table Mountain was ‘born’ from the sea
Roughly 300 million years ago, during the Karoo Ice Age, Table Mountain was at sea level and not a mountain at all. Beneath it was layers of sandstone atop a granite base and pressure from the underlying magma worked with the ice to harden the top layer, creating the iconic flat slab we see today.
As the continents tore apart and collided, the famous landmark was gradually forced to rise until it became 1,860 meters high overlooking the bay.
11.Gunshots at noon
One of the oldest traditions in Cape Town startles visitors every day at precisely midday when the old cannon at the top of Signal Hill is fired off with a resounding boom. It was first done to announce approaching ships.
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