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The Paarl, Western Cape Province, South Africa
Afrikaans language rule: When a town or region has the same name as a gross physical feature or landform, we refer to it as 'the'.
Example: We live in the Paarl (the name of the mountain). We live in the Marico (the name of the river), We live in the Cape Province (referring to a specific cape in the sea.)
However, when the landform is named after a person or described with a colour, number, etc., we don’t use the article 'the'.
Example: We live in Stellenbosch. We live in Bloemfontein. We live in Mossel Bay.
Paarl is the Dutch word for pearl. Having an Afrikaans-speaking population of 87%, the residents of the Paarl use the Afrikaans word for 'pearl', which is 'pêrel', pronounced 'pa' (as in Pamela) 'rirl' (as in the 'irl' of girl, but instead of the 'g' in girl, the 'r' in 'pêrel' will be clearly heard - a sound that has to be accomplished in childhood.) The English pronunciation of Paarl is 'paa' (as in the nickname Pa for father) - 'l' (as in the 'rl' of girl).
The Paarl was named after a landform in the region - a granite mountain with three pearl-like rocks at its top. Intruded into the crust of the earth between ± 548 and 488 million years ago, it is the second largest granite outcrop in the world. The original inhabitants, the Khoikhoi and San people, named it the Tortoise Mountain, but for the Dutch the granite rocks looked more like pearls and diamonds. Read more about the Paarl Mountain HERE.
The Paarl is the third oldest European settlement in South Africa, founded by the Dutch governor Simon van der Stel in 1687 - thirty-five years after the first settlement (Cape Town) was founded, and eight years after the second settlement (Stellenbosch).
Today The Main Street of Paarl is considered to be the richest in different architectural styles of any street in South Africa. (I captured most of the buildings in the video below.)
Read more about the history of The Paarl HERE.
Tourist attractions in Paarl
There are many tourist attractions in Paarl and its immediate region. Find a list of them here:
- More about Drakenstein
Only 56km from Cape Town, Paarl offers historical charm, culture, architectural heritage, wine and fruit farms, breathtaking scenery and many cycling and nature trails.
Hippopotamus indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa,
Climbing the Paarl Mountain - the second largest granite outcrop in the world
Well aware of Paarl's history, and of current anti-European movements aiming to de-colonize and de-Westernise the country, we decided to climb the Paarl Mountain, or rather only the rock on top of the mountain, from where we will get a proper view on the fertile valley between the Paarl- and Du Toitskloof mountains. Envisioning the region as it was before Westernisation, without orchards, vegetable gardens, vineyards and structures of brick and steel - is quite a challenge.
The Paarl Mountain, including surrounding areas, is a nature reserve since 1977. From the Paarl Rock one looks down on the Berg River (Mountain River), and its man-made dams – the Nantes and Bethel dams. Once upon a time the Berg River was inhabited by thousands of Hippopotamus - a large, mostly herbivorous mammal in sub-Saharan Africa. They were extinguished for their meat and hides to such an extent that by the mid-1700's governor Tulbagh introduced a fine of 1000 guilders for anyone caught killing a hippo. After attacking and killing one of his employees, the last known hippo in this region was shot by Martin Melck in 1869. Nowadays hippos are only to be seen in game reserves and in zoos.
The Afrikaans Language Monument
Video: Afrikaans Language Monument
The Oude Woning (The Old Home)
The Paarl offers many attractions for the tourist, but having only one day to our disposal, and only half of it left, we headed to one of the oldest buildings in the town - the Oude Woning (The Old House). The original house was built in 1784 by Stephanus Petrus Jordaan in the traditional Cape Dutch architecture of the Afrikaner of those days. After accommodating many families since 1784, including some of my own relatives, it is today a Provincial Heritage Site hosting the Drakenstein Heemkring Archive.
De Oude Woning, 214 MainStreet, Paarl
Website of Drakenstein Heemkring Archive
The Drakenstein Heemkring Archive
The Drakenstein Heemkring Archive, with all its valuable manuscripts, photographs, books, genealogical records, church registers and research on original Huguenot farms, is a researcher's paradise.
Visit their website HERE.
Drakenstein Heemkring ArchiveClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Gribble photo collection
One of the rooms in the Oude Woning hosts a precious collection of photos and antique/vintage cameras. Most of the pictures were taken by James (Jimmy) Gribble.
James Gribble (Sr) arrived in Cape Town from Cornwall in 1860. In 1869 he opened a photographic shop at 54 Hanover Street, Cape Town. Twenty years later - in 1888 - his son, James (Jr/Jimmy), set up an "Art Studio" in Market Square, Paarl. Jimmy's son, Harold, followed in his father's footsteps, and thereafter also Harold's daughter, Yvonne. In 1987 Yvonne rented the business out to a non-relative, R Zocher.
The quality of the photos in the Gribble-collection is amazingly 'modern', as if the only shortcoming of those antique cameras was their size.
Read more about early photographers in South Africa HERE.
Cameras used by James (Jimmy) GribbleClick thumbnail to view full-size
PM Cross Building, 215 Main Road, Paarl
Strooidakkerk - the church with the thatched roof)
On our way back to Cape Town we lingered in the partly-restored cemetery of the third oldest Dutch Reformed congregation in SA. The first of the 7500 souls buried in this cemetery was laid to rest in 1720.
The cemetery is located on the same premises as the Strooidakkerk (the Afrikaans word for a church with a thatched-roof.) The French Hugenots established the congregation in 1691, but the permanent building, the Strooidakkerk, was only completed in 1805.
For some reason we always enjoy strolling in a graveyard. Confronted by the mortality of not only humans, but of everything on this planet, including the planet, we appreciate life and the present even more.
This is a video of our quick trip to the Paarl Mountain, Afrikaans Language Monument, Paarl Midtown, Oude Woning, the Strooidakkerk, and back to Cape Town. (Mus
Drakenstein Correctional Centre
The Drakenstein Correctional Centre, formerly Victor Verster Prison, is a low-security prison situated between Paarl and Franschhoek. After he had spent most of his 27 years in prison in the maximum security prison on Robben Island, and 6 years in the Pollsmoor Prison, Nelson Mandela was moved to the Victor Verster Prison on 9 December 1988, where he lived in a private house inside the prison compound. On the day of his release - 11 February 1990 - reporters from all over the world surrounded the prison, giving him worldwide publicity.
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