Sunday, October 14, 2007

Johannesburg - the city of gold

Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa, located in the province of Gauteng. It is located in a mountainous area, around 1700 mtrs / 5700 ft over sea level. Johannesburg embodies South Africa, as the contrasts here are unbelievable, from the most affluent neighborhoods of Sandton to the shacks of the township of Alexandra.

Johannesburg is a city where you must know where to go, as there are many areas where there are so much crime. My friend Jan has lived in South Africa, and knows the do's and don'ts fairly well. We also met another Norwegian, Arne, that has bought a flat in Johannesburg and stays there 6 months of the year. With those two, I felt at ease. Arne had even hired a local guide and he took us to see the other side of Johannesburg.

We visited five neighborhoods of this large city:


Melville is a charming area located in northern Johannesburg. It is located around shops, cafes, and galleries in 7th street. You can see how this street looks like in this little film clip:

Melville is a safer area than many other area of Johannesburg but the ever present walls, gates and fences reminds you of the reality in Johannesburg. In Melville we stayed three nights at Melville Guesthouse.

Alexandra township

Alexandra is located on the outskirts of Johannesburg bordering the most affluent suburbs of the city, Sandton. This is South Africa in a nutshell, wealth and poverty, side by side.

Alexandra is a very poor area, and definitely not the place you should go by yourself, as this township is one of the poorest in Johannesburg and the crime rate is high. We went there to attend a Lutheran service in a church regularly attended by our friend Arne.

We were also skilfully guided around in Alexandra by Sepive, an Alexandra resident training to become a certified guide. After the visit here, it dawned upon us the daunting task the South African government is faced with, providing houses and work for its huge number of its poor and underprivileged.


We had a rather short visit to Soweto, and we enjoyed a great lunch in this township. This is the largest and most important of the South African township. Much happens here, as this is the home of Desmond Tutu, Winnie Mandela and Nelson Mandela himself.


At the end of our trip we had a great lunch and a stroll around in Newtown in downtown Johannesburg.

In Newtown you find some very good restaurants, and we enjoyed our last lunch in South Africa at the Gramadoelas restaurant, and had a walk to a few monuments clearly showing us the cruelty suffered by the African population during the apartheid years.


The Riviera area is a middle-class suburban area. The Killarney Mall is located here, a moderately sized shopping mall, ideal for those of you who want to have some retail therapy.

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