Welcome to the Castle of Good Hope, South Africa’s oldest surviving building still in use today…
Every morning when I arrive at work, I have to remind myself what a huge privilege and honor it is to open the doors of the oldest, operating office in the country.
There is not a single day that is the same as the one before. Sometimes my early morning catching up on emails session is interrupted with the wild exciting laughter of hundreds of school kids running past my open window. On other days the inquisitive questions in heavy foreign accents and on others just deafening silence – as if the Castle is an island far away from the hustle and bustle the City of Cape Town. On other days, it is the sounds from the resident Egyptian geese competing with those of the not-so-resident starlings creating a cacophony of life and an ambience nowhere to be found.
Whether you come here for to appreciate the architectural a kindergarten parties, military parades, memorial services, Ministerial functions, weddings, Khoi full-moon ceremonies, Hollywood feature film-shoots, Christmas parties, birthday celebrations, corporate dinners/lunches/breakfasts, films festivals, conferences, Nama language classes, workshops for abused women and children, skills exchange programmes, entrepreneurial initiatives, community building workshops, traditional indigenous seminars, award evenings, dance lessons, cooking competitions, markets, birthday parties, Voortrekker conventions, youth camps, commercial and non-commercial TV-shoots, art classes and the likes all find themselves merrily happening between the castle’s five bastion walls!
Built between 1666 and 1679, the Castle is the oldest surviving building in South Africa and has been the center of civilian, political and military life at the Cape from approximately 1679.
Simplistically put the Castle fulfilled two historical roles – to keep the VOC’s officials safe inside but also to keep the indigenous people out. That is fast changing. Under the motto “bringing the castle to the people and taking the castle to the people” every South African and world citizen are welcomed to appreciate and celebrate in their own unique way what is offered by this 350 year old time-capsule.
I often scan through what the tourist reviews say about the Castle: some glorify the magnificent combination of Dutch an English architecture that has defied almost 350 year of Cape weather; others are attracted by the macabre sites of torture, horror and incarnation. In addition, yes, there are the ones attracted by ghosts!
However, for me it is the link the Castle provides with the past the present and the future – making it a true simple of and Good Hope.
Welcome and take your time even if your tour guide is trying to spur you on to your next appointment.
Castle Control Board