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Picturesque Stellenbosch feels like an entirely different country

Posted by Ayanda Khuzwayo on 13 September 2018 1:00 PM CAT
Ayanda Khuzwayo photo

With more than 200 wine and grape producers within its boundaries, and a historic town brimming with wine bars, restaurants and coffee shops in oak-lined streets, Stellenbosch requires a few days, at the very least, just to skim the surface of all it has to offer visitors.

You can go back again and again, of course, whether to your favourite places or discover something new.

Either way, it’s a win.

Less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town, Stellenbosch lies in a valley surrounded by the Papegaaiberg (Parrot Mountain, but it’s actually a hill), Stellenbosch Mountain, Jonkershoek, Draken- stein and Simonsberg mountains.

The vineyards and farmlands are ridiculously picturesque, and the charming town somehow always evokes in me a sense of being somewhere else entirely as in another country.

The streets feel safe, even after dark, and it’s relatively easy to get around without a car. As someone clever (comedian Steven Wright) once said: “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.”

Make your life even easier by staying in a hotel right in town.

Oude Werf Hotel in Church Street stands where Stellenbosch’s first church once was, before the fire which all but destroyed the town in 1710.

To be fair, although only two or three houses were spared, 12 succumbed to the flames. Not to take anything away from the devastation, an “entire town” is all about perspective.

The church was rebuilt in 1723 on the outskirts of town so as to avoid a repeat of the disaster.

It was enlarged several times and still stands today at the end of - appropriately enough - Church Street and is known as the “Moederkerk” (Mother Church).

In the meantime, the original churchyard (Oude Werf means “old churchyard”) stood vacant for several decades before being subdivided into lots and sold off, which was considered an act of “religious desecration”.

An inn was opened in 1802, there was another fire a year later, and yet another in the last years of that century.

Now a national heritage site, below the restaurant at Oude Werf you can view the remains of its various incarnations revealed during archaeological excavations in 1981, and the hotel staff will happily give you a guided tour peppered with historical anecdotes.

The rooms at Oude Werf reflect a combination of old and new with accommodation in the original building as well as modern wings overlooking the garden and pool, or the courtyard.

Decor styles are different too, being either traditionally furnished with period-style pieces, or vibrantly contemporary. Whichever you opt for, all the comforts you expect - wi-fi, Nespresso machine, TV and so on - are provided.

Original Article can be accessed at Independent Online

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