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Travel shorts: Johannesburg, city of bold

January 25, 2011

At last, a post on South Africa’s biggest city.

Cape Town is awash with GP number plates during December. So after Christmas, to escape the Vaalies, I took a trip to Johannesburg, where I welcomed 2011. I stayed with a friend in Auckland Park (or Brixton, depending on who I asked). Leafy suburbs like Melville, Greenside and Emmarentia were intriguing and fun, but unsurprisingly it was the massive, almost dystopian, city centre that fascinated me most. The CBD and Hillbrow are crumbling monuments to the gold rush, their buildings standing tall despite a period of unprecedented decay. Johannesburg seems proudly dodgy. I respect that. It’s not all doom and gloom though. Bold infrastructure projects, like Gautrain, are signs of a resurgence.

Hillbrow is a notorious neighbourhood of inner city Jo’burg. Its residential tower blocks are pretty unique on the South African landscape.

Graffiti in Newtown:

Johannesburg is a young metropolis. Unlike the laidback Mother City, which seems set – nay, comfortable – in her ways, Jo’burg feels like a city where change happens at very short notice. Its rapid development during the 20th century is a testament to this. Today, with the gold-mining industry apparently in decline, its glory days may well be over, but the city continues to surprise and amaze. It is certainly at the vanguard of public infrastructure development in South Africa.

For contrast; behold, Gautrain:

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From → Johannesburg

One Comment
  1. Karen permalink

    hi Brent,
    Great to see that you enjoyed your visit to J’burg. I must say you have alot of guts. I would have been way to scared to visit some of the CBD areas you did. You say that you really love walking around in a city, getting to know the city’s personality and viewing the pubs and shops. We went to Graskop in Mpumalanga in December and that area are really for tourists. Places like Sabie, Graskop and especially Hazyview intruged me. The only bad side of this was all the African art that was to been seen in nearly every second shop or on every second corner. I mean what African culture has a place like Pelgrimsrus? It is a little town that is dating back to the goldrush (Rooinek en boere kultuur!). Give me then rather shops that display and sell stuff originating out of the real culture of the place. That African stalls really put me off at the end. But this is really a nice place to visit and it really looks like God went extra creative when he created this part of South Africa. This place is beautiful. Valleys, trees, waterfalls, hikingroutes, mountains, etc. Just beautiful! I hope you will one day also be able to come and visit this part of our land.

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