Hugenots,Wine and the Long Walk to Freedom

Paarl Travel Blog

 › entry 13 of 16 › view all entries

Paarl is the third oldest European Settlement in South Africa. Today it is home to a very culturally diverse community, the product of its unique history.

The people of Paarl are descendants of the Khoisan, African-, and Eastern slaves, Dutch, French Huguenots, Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Italian Prisoners of War, and Xhosa migrant labourers.

In 1657,The Dutcman Abraham Gabbema led an expedition from Cape Town to find more Khoi groups to barter from and to search for the legendary treasures of Monomotapa. On the day that they arrived in the Berg River Valley, the granite boulders, towards the west side of the town, glistened in the sun after some showers. This inspired Gabbema to promptly name this mountain “the Diamond and Pearl Mountain” from which the name Paarl was later derived.

In 1688, the French Huguenots arrived in the Cape and some of them were given property in the Drakenstein area.One of their most important influences was of course their knowledge of the wine industry. Today the headquarters of the South African wine industry, the KWV, is to be found in Paarl. It is situated on one of the earliest farms (La Concorde, as it is known today) to be granted by Governor Simon van der Stel.

Confucius said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and to get an inkling of where Mandela’s long walk to freedom began a visit to Robben Island is a must. It is however Groot Drakenstein Prison,then known as Victor Verster Prisonon that Mandela was released from on 11th February 1990. On 27 August 2008, a huge bronze statue of a triumphant Nelson Mandela with his fist in the air was unveiled at the entrance to the Groot Drakenstein Prison and it stands on the very spot where Mandela took his first steps as a free man.

We also visit the Hugenot Memorial in Franschhoek. Innaugarated on April 17th 1948. A simple and elegant monument with a French character.The female figure has a bible in her right hand and a broken chain in her left,symbolising religious freedom.

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Hugenot Memorial
Hugenot Memorial
photo by: Stigen