Wednesday, November 1, 2017

A Week in Joburg

We recently returned from a week-long trip to South Africa! No, we didn't go to Cape Town. I was there for work, so we ended up sticking around Johannesburg (Joburg) the whole time. Although Joburg isn't exactly the hottest tourist destination in South Africa, we had an amazing trip. (How gorgeous are those purple jacaranda trees pictured above? They were in full bloom during our visit!)

There were quite a few things there that reminded us of home that we didn't even realize we had missed in Kenya. The streets all had signs! The malls looked like the ones back home! I had a pumpkin spice creme frappuccino, for crying out loud!

Our first full day in Johannesburg, I got to visit the LDS Temple there. The only LDS Temples in Africa right now are in South Africa and Ghana, but one is on the way in Nairobi. (Unfortunately, it won't be finished until we're long gone!) Needless to say, I didn't think I'd be lucky enough to visit a Temple so soon into my tour, but I was very grateful.

Then, we took a "free" walking tour of the city. We usually try to take free walking tours whenever we travel - though the reason why I put "free" in quotes is because visitors are expected to tip. All the tour operators' money is made through tips, which is great because you can pay what you thought the tour was worth and it makes the tour accessible to those who can't afford traditional tours. (Most places I've been, they also seem to make decent salaries only doing a few tours a day.)

Although we covered a lot of interesting ground on our walking tour (see statue honoring women freedom fighters above and Nelson Mandela art below), we're not sure we'd recommend it for others in Johannesburg specifically. I think we could've gotten as much out of it content-wise by doing a self-guided tour. Our guide also spent less time focusing on history and culture than I would've liked and talked a lot about buildings (and squatters). It might've been better for a real urban planning enthusiast instead.

It is worth mentioning, though, that much of downtown Johannesburg isn't that safe. In that context, it was good to be with a local guide who knew the area (and told us when to hide our phones and other valuables) and to be in a group. By the end of our trip, we had spent more time in Sandton (a city on the outskirts of Joburg) than downtown. At least we enjoyed the view of this amazing, huge statue of Nelson Mandela in Nelson Mandela Square every day (while playing Pokemon Go).

I do wish we had had more time to explore the museums and historical sites of Johannesburg. My favorite parts of our walking tour were the historical stops. For example, a shop had kept its old segregation signs displayed above it as a reminder of how things used to be.

I should also mention the two of us went a little crazy with the food. We were very stereotypical Americans and made sure to devour American foods we can't get in Nairobi, like this Krispy Kreme right next to a Cinnabon:

Just look at that gooey iced cinnamon bun...

...and the perfectly seasonal selection of donuts:

In our defense, we also got a little adventurous and tried ostrich (which tasted more like red meat than poultry):

We also had koeksisters, which is a South African dessert of twisted fried dough in syrup:

Delicious! (Or as they would say in Kiswahili, "Tamu!") Anyway, this post is long enough as is, so I'll save our trip to the famous Lion & Safari Park for a separate post. (There may have been lion cub kisses...)

No comments:

Post a Comment