Old buildings hold their secrets close to their hearts, writes MIKE LILLYMAN
The main street of Paarl (11km long) displays every type of architecture from Cape Dutch to Georgian, Edwardian and Victorian with European and Art Deco on the side.
Churches reach out for the spiritual high ground, the architecture like a Polaroid of the times. The diminutive Slave Church with its borrowed pews, reclaimed pulpit and a bell outside (that arrived 50 years after the church was built) is a poignant reminder of cruel human trafficking 200 years ago.
With her warm smile, Hybré Van Niekerk, our tour guide, brings the town’s history to life with her enthusiasm and knowledge.
Overlooking the town the Afrikaans Taal Monument (opened in 1975) rises alongside Paarl Mountain, originally called “Tortoise Mountain’ by the Khoi people. The monument’s curves soaring into the heavens give the structure a sense of flight.
Some regard this work by architect Johan van Wijk, who also designed the University of Johannesburg, as symbolic. Others decry it as “obtuse” but regardless of personal preferences the Taal Monument demands attention. To be sure, it’s a monument to the Afrikaans language but also a tribute to the other languages and cultures that served as building blocks for Afrikaans.
The Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve surrounds the Monument and a stroll through the reserve with its indigenous fynbos, small mammals and birds, takes about two hours.
Events throughout the year at The Taal Monument range from musical concerts to full moon picnics and star gazing evenings. For more info contact the Taal Monument office on 021 872 3441 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For guided tours of the historical buildings of Paarl contact Hybré Van Niekerk on 021 872 0817 or email email@example.com
- A Natal university graduate, Mike Lillyman has written for Country Life and the Sunday Times travel section. He likes to focus on technical marine and shipping stories.