guest post by Amy Baker
Mention Johannesburg and often people will dismiss it as being a place famous for the danger you are sure to face should you choose to go there. The reality is very different. Johannesburg is a city rich in fascinating history and culture and as the major gateway to Kruger National Park, not to mention the rest of South Africa, Johannesburg is well worthy of some exploration.
A population of 3.2 million citizens makes Johannesburg the largest city in the country. Interestingly it is the largest city in the world not to be situated on a lake, river or coastline and is a result of the gold mining industry which earned it the nickname ‘Egoli’ or ‘Place of Gold’. Gold mining is still the major trade in the city and you will see reminders of this dotted all around.
Due to such a mix of cultures, a wander around the city can reward you with sights of brand-new skyscrapers nestled next to impressive 19th century buildings. One minute you might be exploring an Indian bazaar and the next you could find yourself haggling over produce in an African multi-shop. In addition to this Johannesburg hotels and restaurants are some of the best you will experience in South Africa.
As a tourist, it is important to gain an understanding of the culture and history of a country and to get a true grasp on Apartheid, a visit to the Soweto Township comes highly recommended. You can tour around the area on foot, by car or by bike. Soweto is the all-black area most famous for the Soweto Uprising of 1976 which saw close to 200 people killed as they protested against Afrikaans becoming the major language spoken in black schools. There is an insightful and thought-provoking museum, along with a moving memorial (photo) named after one of the child casualties, Hector Pieterson.
Nelson Mandela was a resident of Soweto and visitors have the opportunity to visit his modest, old house (photo) which has since been made into a museum. Another museum worth a visit is the Apartheid museum which offers another way to learn more about the country that you are holidaying in before you venture further afield. The Old Fort Prison was once home to Mahatma Gandhi and Mandela and you can walk in their shoes on one of the tours held daily.
To gain a sense of Johannesburg’s sprawling CBD and the suburbs and shanty towns beyond, take a ride to the top of the Carlton Centre, the tallest building in Africa. The observation deck sits at 731ft high and provides an excellent perspective of the city.
The drive from Johannesburg to Kruger is an adventure in itself and during the three hour journey you will pass through the dense city, through the urban sprawl and out into the well tended farmland and vast landscape that will accompany you all the way to the National Park and, hopefully, your unforgettable encounters with The Big Five and their friends. For more information, head to My Destination Johannesburg.
Photo Credits: city view, elephant, gold mine, Pieterson memorial, Mandela house, Carlton Center view