Paarl, 50 km north-east of Cape Town, is one of the three oldest European settlements in South Africa. Here in 1687, on the banks of the Berg River, farmlands were given to Dutch settlers, just 30 years after Jan van Riebeeck’s landing at the Cape. The fertile ground and the Mediterranean climate provided perfect conditions for farming. The settlers planted orchards, vegetable gardens and above all, vineyards.
150 years later Paarl began flourishing. The town takes its name from a massive granite rock intrusion that appears to shine like a pearl when the sun strikes it at a certain angle.
The Paarl Museum (formerly Oude Pastorie) that lies on the Main Street is the place to get information on the history of Paarl and the area.
Paarl, with its 75.000 inhabitants, is today the biggest town in the Cape Winelands. It is, like most of the towns in the region, a prosperous community with many well maintained mansions, pretty Cape Dutch houses, beautiful gardens and old oak trees. There are many wine estates situated in the valleys, which are among the best in the country, foremost the famous Nederburg estate.
A unique attraction near Paarl is the futuristic “Afrikaanse Taalmonument” (“taal” meaning “language”). It symbolizes the development of Afrikaans into a language of its own. The Dutch teacher Arnoldus Pannevis played an important part in this process. He observed that most of the South Africans who came from Holland could not speak their original mother tongue anymore. In the course of its, then 200 year old history, the language of the immigrants from the Netherlands had thoroughly changed through the influence of other European immigrants as well as Hottentots and especially Malays. In 1875, Afrikaans was declared an autonomous language..
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