The Portuguese explorers made many discoveries during the “age of discoveries” as it was called, and amongst them was the Cape of Storms or Cabo Tormentoso as Bartholomeu Dias named it, which was later changed to Cape Of Good Hope located in the Western Cape province in South Africa.
So if you are of Portuguese heritage and visiting Cape Town, here are 5 places of Portuguese history that are worth exploring:
Known for its beautiful scenery and baboons, the Cape of Good Hope/ Cape Point is also where we find the Portuguese beacons called ‘da Gama beacon and Dias beacon’.
The beacons resemble the Portuguese padrão, which was a monument erected by the Portuguese sailors as they discovered land in the era of discovery. The padrão shows the cross of Christ, the royal Portuguese coat of arms and an inscription stating when and by whom it was erected.
History tells us that it was King João the second, nephew of King Henry the navigator who started this practice as they testified to Portuguese sovereignty and Christianity.
Portuguese navigator Péro de Atoíde left a letter of warning in the area known today as Mossel Bay after many of his crew members perished in a dangerous storm.
In the letter, he warned the captain that would come after him through the area, that there was a disaster looming ahead, and came with a brilliant idea of leaving this letter in an old shoe which was suspended on a tree near the spring from which Bartholomeu Dias had drawn some water.
Amazingly the letter was found by the explorer to whom it was addressed – João da Nova– and so this tree acted as a post office for many years. João da Nova was so happy to find this letter that he decided to erect a shrine near the post office tree and although no evidence remains of it, it is considered the first place of worship in South Africa.
Antonio de Saldanha, a Portuguese explorer, and an Admiral was the first European to name the mountain “Taboa do Cabo” meaning literally Table of the Cape. There is a cross that he erected in 1503 after climbing the mountain which is traceable, in the mountain that is known today as Lion’s Head (Cabeça do Leão).
After that, the area fell out of regular contact with the Europeans and only the Khoi Khoi people who called it Hoerikwaggo meaning mountain in the sea, are believed to have been roaming the area until Jan Van Riebeeck and the other employees of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) came in 1652 to establish a halfway station so that ships coming from Europe going to Asia could be supplied with water, vegetables and meat.
Today Table Mountain is one of the world’s 7th wonders of nature and receives plus minus 8oo, 000 visitors every year. Definitely, a place that is a must visit for Portuguese tourists.
St Helena was the mother of Constantine the 1st and a very influential Christian woman after who this bay was named.
It’s not clear to why the name, but it is recorded that Vasco da Gama was the first European to set foot on it on November 7, 1497, naming it Baia Santa Helena.
The town is located in the West Coast district municipality in the Western Cape Province in South Africa, Nicknamed by locals as Agterbaai and it was the place where the first set of battles between the indigenous Khoi Khoi and the Europeans explorers took place. In fact, there is a monument at the actual site where Vasco Da Gama arrived where tourists looking to learn more about Portuguese heritage can pay a visit and engage in many other activities such as whale watching, sight-seeing as well as getting mesmerised by dancing Dolphins.
It was also Bartholomeu Dias who named this place Cabo Das Agulhas meaning Cape of Needles before the name fell under French influence making it L’agulhas.
Contrary to popular belief, this is actually the southernmost tip of the African continent and not Cape Point as many have believed. As the name suggests, this area saw many ships sailors being ushered to a watery grave before the oldest lighthouse was built in April 1847 because of its sharp and treacherous reef that lines the coast which caused many accidents giving birth to the name Cape Agulhas (needles).
Another interesting fact is that at this part of the world the sailors found that the needle of the compass does not vary between True North and Magnetic North giving more reason to call this place Agulhas and also emphasizing the idea that this place is, in fact, the southernmost tip of Africa.
Today Agulhas although having a very difficult history is one of the most sought after Tourist destinations in South Africa I certainly recommend to all Portuguese speaking Tourists.
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