Travel shorts: Johannesburg, city of bold
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: