Scary stories from a lovely place
Most visitors to Johannesburg won’t make the most of what the city itself has to offer. They will go to Sandton, do a tour of Soweto, maybe go to Melville and then head north to the Pilanesburg or west to the Kruger National Park to see the animals. Very few will actually visit the city centre, though they may go to Newtown which is just next to the city. Granted, it is hard to do, though there are many tours, even a walking tour, that head into the city. I’ve driven around the city many times, both as a tourist and a local. Home Affairs is downtown and I even bought my Singer sewing machine in the Fashion Quarter in the eastern part of the CBD. It’s a beautiful city. There are so many different and interesting things to see and do.
One of my favourite things in downtown Jozi is the Carlton Centre. It’s the tallest building in Africa and was once the hub of activity and business. It is now a bustling mall and cinema and hosts many offices, including SARS, the South African tax guys. It also has a large hotel and ice-skating rink, but both aren’t used at the moment. Interestingly when Stephen was in his first week of varisty at Wits his res college went ice-skating there. Stephen, probably in an effort to impress the ladies, took it all too seriously and fell on his face, cutting his head open which required plastic surgery. That’s why he’s so handsome today.
The Carlton Centre also featured in the 2009 South African movie District 9 as the headquarters of the MNU.The building goes 10 stories underground and you really can feel it as you drive down into the car park. The car park itself starred in District 9 as the laboratory where they were doing all the evil tests on the aliens. It’s also the scene of the cool break in/break out that Wikus and Christopher Johnson engage in towards the end of the movie. I’ve mainly made the most of the viewing deck on the 50th floor and have been countless times with overseas visitors and friends. It’s an excellent way to take in the scope and breadth of the whole city as it stretches out in 360 degree motion towards the suburbs and other CBD’s in Rosebank, Randburg and Sandton. On a clear day you can easily make out the mountains of the Magaliesburg. At this time of year it’s also the best way to see the purple of the Jacaranda trees that are taking over every street. At any time the view proves Joburg’s reputation for being an urban forest as the green envelopes most of the hills. Peering down into the streets of the city is fascinating. The streets are crammed with taxis, the new BRT transport system and pedestrians. Most buildings have washing strung on the roof and some have shacks and more established rooms built on every piece of available space. The viewing deck is also the place to appreciate the crammed density of Hillbrow.
I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves….
Finally, on the way back down in the elevator, take a look down into the shaft between the floor and the lift itself. It is truly a very long way down – back to reality.