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Travel to South Africa in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL: At the bottom of Africa

Dieter Losskarn
Travel to South Africa in a Mercedes-Benz 300 SL
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E s is a unique spectacle. Evening after evening. And apparently countless Cape Town residents and tourists from all over the world don't want to miss it. Like a procession, they made the pilgrimage along a narrow street to just below the top of Signal Hill, a panoramic mountain directly above the metropolis in the extreme southwest of Africa. They are all waiting for the sun to sink into the sea like a ball of fire and for a moment to bathe Table Mountain, which watches over this city like an oversized anvil, in almost hallucinogenic pink light with its last strength.

You quickly get used to left-hand traffic

But the striking local mountain has had competition for some time: The new Greenpoint football stadium threatens to overtake it in terms of the most popular photo object. There must be thousands upon thousands of lamps that illuminate the curved structure, the roof and outer skin of which are made of a translucent membrane. With its luminosity, the 68,000-spectator arena almost outshines the lights of the city and the neighboring harbor - it looks like a strange spaceship just before take off. Obviously a signal to the rest of the world: South Africa is proud to host the 2010 World Cup.

Early the next morning. The first lap in the open SL, a 300 from 1986, through the city. I quickly come to terms with left-hand traffic, as well as with my orientation in the street network that is arranged at right angles. The waterfront, a cluster of restaurants and numerous shops in the historic part of the harbor, actually looks better than on the many postcards or pictures in travel guides. Then the Longstreet, Cape Town's secret main street with chic restaurants, bars and shops, and finally the junction to the Bo-Kaap quarter, the historic district of the Islamic community on the slopes of Signal Hill. Incredibly steep streets. And the most colorful houses you can imagine.

The Wijnland Auto Museum is South Africa's largest classic car collection

I can feel that this city is shaking on every corner. With excitement that the soccer World Cup was held on African soil for the first time. And from the countless construction work before. The fan walk runs right through the 'Mother City', as Cape Town residents like to call their homelandrelocated, an almost three kilometer long pedestrian zone that leads from the train station to the stadium. Hotels, pubs and restaurants are sprucing up, and many streets are being completely renovated. The city, which quite a few claim to be the most beautiful in the world, seized the opportunity and dressed up for the football world.

The way out of Cape Town is easy to find. 'You have a very nice car, mister.' Flying traders use the red light phases to sell magazines or flowers. Friendly faces, mostly native Zulu or Xhosa, who laugh even when no deal has been reached. Lukewarm wind flows into the open cockpit as soon as the car starts moving again. The end of March - the African autumn - is perhaps the best time to travel to this part of the world. Half an hour later.

Largest African car collection: more than 400 cars in the open air

Two US cars rammed into the ground up to the windscreen mark the entrance to the realm of Les Boshoff. The 75-year-old South African lives in Kraaifontain east of Cape Town and has been collecting old cars for over two decades. Strictly speaking, he hoards them - regardless of brands and in all conceivable states of decay - on an area about the size of two football fields. There he finally leaves her to her fate. What looks like an oversized junkyard even at second glance is called the 'Wijnland Auto Museum' and, with around 400 vehicles, is South Africa's largest classic car collection. As a work of art anyway.

The man with the steel-blue eyes and hands, who still have the power of a vice, doesn't care in the least that some of the exhibits would probably only be recognized by experts. He is just a collector. 'That's all.' In a huge hall, Les also stores emblems, lettering, trim, headlights, starters, doors and fenders. A generator is humming, behind it is a rare Skoda Felicia Cabriolet, which he borrowed last year as a prop for the filming of the film 'The Prisoner'. 'But I don‘t sell.' To date, says Les, he has not given away a screw from his collection. Or even dismantled a car. This man enjoys cult status in the domestic classic scene.

Dream road to the Cape

Past countless wineries to charming Franschhoek. Restaurants, sidewalk cafes, boutiques and galleries. The small place founded by emigrated Huguenots would be more likely to be in Provence than in the south of Africa. Immediately behind it, the 180 hp SL is allowed to get off the leash for the first time. The 701 meter high Franschhoek Pass is only a dwarf in terms of alpine conditions - but in the Cape region this route marks the highlight in terms of road construction. With curves and hairpin bends like a textbook. The surrounding area reminds you firstCanada, in the next moment in Upper Bavaria. When the sea comes into view again at Gordon's Bay, I even feel transported to the Italian Riviera for a moment.

I want to go down to the Cape of Good Hope, the way there leads along the seemingly endless beaches of the Along False Bay. Seagulls scream, and right next to the car white waves dance on a dark blue until the sky and water are indistinguishable in the distance. The comfortable SL glides over the posh asphalt and turns out to be the perfect box seat for this magnificent scenery. The Cape Peninsula is only gradually emerging from the haze. Then Muizenberg, St. James, Kalk Bay. Three bathing beaches with pretty wooden houses that were built a hundred years ago. Today they house surf shops, backpacker hotels or junk shops. Very cozy nests somewhere between picturesque and shabby, in which Cape Town's bohemian is obviously recovering from city life. From there it's just a stone's throw to the cape.

Chapman`s Peak Drive - the 'mother of all coastal roads' - is waiting

The route stretches over a dramatically beautiful plain, ruffled by storms - and ends in a completely unspectacular and a little way disappointing in front of a wooden sign that explains to me that I am on the southwestern tip of the African continent. Half the world is already there for a photo - it will probably always remain one of the big secrets of the tourism industry, why this place is so much more famous than Cape Agulhas 300 kilometers further to the southeast. Only then does the continent finally sink into the sea, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans mix.

Late afternoon. The time is good to set off for the grand finale in the best evening light. On the other side of the Cape Peninsula, there is Chapman's Peak Drive, one of those roads that many say you must have driven at least once in your life. After all, this is nothing less than the 'mother of all coastal roads.' The way there alone is great, leads - how could it be otherwise - along the water that surges against the land with full force. The spray, driven by the wind, which regularly blows here at up to 100 kilometers per hour, envelops the car in a fine mist.

The places Scarbourough and Sweetwater appear shortly afterwards in the dunes. Houses with large windows, all of which face the sea. But now! The drive. The narrow route picks up momentum, moves uphill until it really hangs boldly in the rock and only a small wall separates the lane towards the abyss. Not bad. But the really big kick falls short of the high expectations, this nine-kilometer route is simply too short. Or maybe it was just because the traffic was slow. I would have it atSight of the orange-hot rocks. Here sunset fans jam over the drive, always looking for the most beautiful view. If you want to drive, you should show up in the early morning when the route is in the shade.

Location of legendary commercials

Still, this place has something very special. And in view of the sharp-edged cliffs, it is hard to believe that the driver of a Mercedes survived the fall of 100 meters into the depths unharmed in 1989 - reason enough for the automobile manufacturer at the time to re-enact the scene at exactly that point for a commercial to target the to indicate the indestructible construction of its products.

The counterattack of the competition from Munich followed promptly: BMW sent one of its vehicles over the drive, which of course did not fall into the abyss and asked in the film whether one would rather drive a car right away, that stays on the road? This spot is still legendary among advertisers. The route calms down again in Hout Bay and winds calmly towards Cape Town. Past the numerous mansions of Camps Bay and Clifton. Absurdly beautiful residential areas between the sea and a steep, jagged ridge that goes by the name 'Twelve Apostles' - optically a mixture of the French Riviera and the West Coast of California. Might find it difficult for the teams competing for the World Cup in Cape Town to leave. I definitely feel that way.

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