Known for its incredible beauty and pristine natural surroundings, the small town of Stellenbosch is the type of setting most people will only ever experience on their HD TV via a Blu-ray player. This is to say that without doubt, Stellenbosch is one of the most scenic residential areas not only on the African continent, but in the world.
Stellenbosch is located at the foot of Africa fifty kilometres east of Cape Town, and along the banks of the Eerste River which was the first reliable inland water source the early settlers found. It is the second oldest European settlement in the province too, which is why some of the oldest oak trees in its streets are so very ancient. It incorporates the nearby towns of Franschhoek and Pniel.
What’s in a Name?
The Governor of the Cape Colony, Simon van der Stel named the settlement after himself – literally Stel’s Forest – in 1679, although he cannot claim credit for the bosch of oak trees because these were planted by his subjects later on. He was the son of a senior government official and a freed Indian woman slave, and many of the approximately one hundred and twenty thousand people living in his town these days could have had an affinity for him.
Geography and Climate
Stellenbosch is largely sheltered from Cape Town’s aggressive winds by distance, and lies in a fertile valley sheltered by the Pappagaaiberg to the west – or Parrot Mountain which is actually a hill. True mountains surrounding it to the east and south-east are Simonsberg, Jonkershoek and Groot Drakenstein. The soil is dark alluvial to clay. Summers are warm to hot and dry. Winters are cool and wet, and sometimes windy too. When the cold fronts sweep in from the cold Atlantic Ocean across the vineyards, snow may lie across the higher ground.
There are many opportunities to succeed in Stellenbosch, and excelling in sport is one of these. The Maties Rugby Club is one of the oldest and best supported in the land, and a series of excellent sports schools like Paul Roos Gymnasium continue to feed good stock. Women’s participation in sport is at an all-time high too, as the gentler-sex knock down the ivory towers.
Thirst Quenching Times
The mediterranean climate and fertile soils are harnessed by the hardy residents to produce over a thousand million litres of quality wine a year. This is more than enough to keep the students happy, so a great deal of it is exported all over the world. The University’s Viticulture Research Centre shares the credit for this, although some farmers still see no need to change.
The Academics Almost Have the Last Word
The local University traces its roots back to a theological seminary founded in 1859, and continues to exert a huge influence over Stellenbosch society. It has a veritable collage of ten faculties – including agri-sciences, arts and social sciences, business, education, engineering, health, law, science, and theology – that presumably keep its 24,000 students and 800 lecturing staff enthralled.
And Now the Final Word
Would you like to know more about the historic Town of Stellenbosch? You’ll have to come and see. And you might just end up looking at property for sale in Stellenbosch. There is more to life than the company of convivial, friendly people over a shared potjiekos and a glass of soft red wine. But, as the sun sets across the mountains, it seems a little clearer that these are the most important things of all, and that Stellenbosch has them in abundance too.