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Getting to Know Historical Grahamstown, South Africa

International students in front of the Drostdy Arch.

Grahamstown is situated in the heart of Frontier Country; with the arrival of the 1820 settlers it became an important military post for the English. Traces of this history can still be found today. La Trattoria, the Italian restaurant that is fully booked every Tuesday in anticipation of its weekly 2 for 1 pasta special, is located in one of the oldest buildings in town. The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. George, where a friend and I have attended Sunday services, is decorated with plaques celebrating the exploits of colonialists; racial and ethnic offensive language has been permanently covered by strips of marble. High Street was designed to be wide enough for horse-drawn wagons to turn around in.

High Street today.

Rhodes University is situated on the very same land as the original military compound. The Linguistics Department, where I had class, is housed in the soldiers’ barracks. The Drostdy Arch, the main entrance to campus, was first the entrance to the military base, and beside it stands an old water pump which once supplied water for the entire town. Legend has it that the student who walks under the middle of the arch rather than through the sides will never matriculate from Rhodes, as that is where hangings took place. The history of Grahamstown is often overlooked due to the overwhelming student culture that dominates the university and nightlife, but this town was a bustling city long before the arrival of so many young scholars
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