Every place you go to leaves nostalgic “holes” of different size in your heart. These “holes” are not empty – they are full of memories, feelings and emotions and are usually carefully stitched up with a thick thread called time. The more time you spend in a place or the more you experience there, the thicker thread is needed. But despite a seeming strength of threads, one blurt, or smell, or sound might be enough to crack one of those “holes” open again and let an uncontrollable flow of nostalgia out.
Last week my friend Kikki became my South African thread puller with her beautiful African energy during a short stopover in Berlin – one evening was enough to realize how many small and big things I miss about a country of pink sunsets. Coupled with the regular Africa bits from Meru on Africa Travel Blog Msanzi Girl, it made my travel itch unbearable and since then I’ve been struggling to keep myself away from checking flight rates to Johannesburg.
South Africa, there are so many things I miss about you.
I’ve never been a big animal lover. Whenever I saw wild animals, mostly in a zoo, they always smelled unpleasantly, lacked energy and didn’t seem to be happy with their surroundings. But my whole attitude towards animals changed once I saw a gorgeous lioness sleeping peacefully after her lunch, in her natural habitant, just a couple of meters away from me during a trip to Kruger Park. Moreover, there are so many smaller natural resorts around Johannesburg, that less than a day is needed for a trip if you want to watch a giraffe tasting tree leaves.
And if you think that it is all about savanna predators – you’ll be surprised to know that you can even find a small friendly penguin colony just a short drive away from Cape Town.
2. Chap-chap and Now-Now
There are always some words and expressions that only those who spent enough time in the country could understand. After returning to Berlin I kept saying “I’ll do it now-now” and all my attempts to explain what I REALLY meant failed.
3. Sun & Weather
I read once that Pretoria (where I used to stay) was once rated as a city with the most comfortable weather in the world, due to enormous number of sunny days and mild temperatures all year round. It was no wonder to me: dry, green and sunny all year round, with the temperatures rarely rising above 30 in summer and allowing to take dips in the pool 8 months a year, weather-wise this city is close to perfection.
4. Jacaranda Trees
South Africa might not have a real golden autumn – but it has a purple spring which is not to be seen anywhere else in the world. During the season, Jacaranda tress cover the whole city with a lilac lace of their blossoms, creating a view from a fairy tale.
5. Unbelievable Nature
I’m convinced that South Africa is the best tourist destination in the world, because you can literally find everything there: tropical forests, snowy mountains, canyons, waterfalls, deserts, cold and warm oceans, beaches, vineyards. South Africans are also very keen on outdoor activities and you will never be short of company to explore a new hiking trail.
A weekend market at Rosebank used to be one of my most favorite hangout places when I happened to be in Johannesburg. And it is not just about famous paintings and wooden crafts – it is astonishing what can be made of recyclable materials (literally: trash).
7. Road trips & Driving
It is very easy and common to take a car and just drive off at least for a couple of days, or sometimes weeks, as there are so many things to see and they are all accessible, just get a good company! I was lucky enough to stay in the Northern part of the country, which meant it needed just merely 5 hours to reach the borders of Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana or Namibia, and there was always a myriad of options for international road trips, too!
8. Parties starting at 2 pm
In Berlin, nights out start late, and if you plan it properly there is little hope to come home before 6 am, which means you can forget about managing anything the next day. For whatever reason parties in SA may start really early, so you get to enjoy the sun and you often find yourself in bed by 12 am, which helps you to feel fresh enough the next day and still enjoy the party to it’s fullest.
9. All fruit and veg are seasonable fruit and veg
Almost everything grows in South Africa all year round. Despite the country being famous for its meat, I believe it is a real paradise for vegetarians or simply healthy eating lovers.
One whole post could be dedicated to SA food, but Biltong (spiced or plain dried meat) would definitely take a central place in it. Forgive me, my vegetarian friends, but there is nothing like a piece of fresh Biltong melting in your mouth.
11. Great travel infrastructure
Very good roads (despite people complaining – the roads are really good, especially comparing to many other travel destinations with beautiful nature!), hostels and lodges for all budgets, buses for hitchhikers … once you know your way around a little, you’ll be surprised how easy the travel is made in the country, for any budget.
12. Cape Town
There are many places on Earth I’ve never been to. But till date I officially consider Cape Town to be the most beautiful city I’ve ever been to, and not for its urban design and architecture, but for an unbelievably gorgeous natural location between uniquely shaped mountains and two oceans.
13. Seafood (Cray fish for 2 euro – and yes, I know it is not legal!)
Yes, I have to agree that it is not South Africa, but Mozambique which has the best prawns in the world. But once I spent a week eating cray fish and watching ocean at the Wild Coast and since then thinking of SA I’m thinking of seafood. The name (Wild Coast) says everything about the place.
14. Fantastic music, Dance, African music festivals and weekend open airs
I think I’ve never met so many talented musicians in one country. It will always remain a mystery for me why so few South African musicians (unfortunately) became really big abroad and I wish the world knew more about it’s talents. Besides, South Africa hosts several famous music festivals where you can be enjoying good music and dancing non-stop for days. And if you are not in a travel mood, every other weekend there are open airs in the city where you can spend all day long with your picnic basket.
15. People and African Energy
Despite being the last on the list, it is without a doubt the first and the most important thing I miss about South Africa. In South Africa I met some of the most amazing people ever. People who will, I believe, stay in my life forever.