Heart of Cape Town

If you’re tired of  the regular African safari, consider visiting the jewel of Southern Africa – Cape Town.

Cape Town is South Africa’s most famous city, and for good reason: not only is the city set in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, the people that inhabit the area are friendly, fun-loving, and laid back. Moreover, Cape Town is geared towards tourism and therefore has as many places of interest and historic value as one could hope for in a city of this stature. Cape Town is also a great place to invest in property: if you’re in the market, you might want to browse the repossessed homes page at PrivateProperty to see the bargains on offer.

Given the age and history of Cape Town, many of the sites of cultural value include those built by Dutch settlers during the 17th and 18th centuries. These include the famed VOC fortress and prison most often referred to as “The Castle”, the Company Gardens in the centre of Cape Town, the many beautiful Cape-Dutch buildings and the world renowned wine farms established by Dutch settlers. Although the indigenous people who inhabited the Western Cape region before the arrival of European settlers were marginalised during the colonial period and during Apartheid, several extant and new museums (since the end of Apartheid) now aim to pay homage to the Khoisan peoples and their ecologically sensitive way of life.

Two highly prominent buildings to be found in Cape Town, situated relatively close to one another, are the Groote Schuur Hospital and the University of Cape Town campus. As pointed out elsewhere on this site, Groote Schuur is famed as the hospital in which Dr Christiaan Barnard performed the world’s first successful heart transplant. After the hospital built new wings in years following the ground-breaking operation, the theatres in which the operation took place were preserved for posterity in the form of a museum.

December 3, 1967, marks the date of the historic surgery that took place in the Charles Saint Theatre of Groote Schuur hospital in the suburb of Observatory; today, this momentous event is honoured by the Heart of Cape Town Museum. The museum offers guided tours and attempts to recreate, by means of lifelike static tableaux, the various scenes that occurred on the feted summer day.

Tourists have the entire process (leading up to and including the operation itself) explained to them and notable highlights of the museum tour include: the room which recreates the tragic accident that took the life of the heart donor, Denise Darvall; the first surgical theatre (tourists are taken into is the self-same theatre in which Ms Darvall’s heart was harvested as soon as was possible after the accident which took her life); and the second theatre in which Mr Washkansky received the donor heart in a nine hour long operation that employed the skills of over 30 medical personnel (all of this occurring before the age of the Internet and being able to find an Audi A4 for sale online).

The Heart of Cape Town Museum is designed to meet the needs of its patrons and therefore offers a shuttle service for tourists staying in hotels in the Cape Town area. The cost of the tour is R100-00 for South African citizens, R200-00 for foreign tourists, and only R50-00 for students. Shows are presented on an almost daily basis at 09h00, 11h00, 13h00 and 15h00. The full itinerary can be seen to include a tour of the introductory room, the so-called “accident room”, the animal laboratory (where Dr Barnard gave 50 animals heart transplants), the transplant theatres, an outline of the timeline of events that led up to the operation, and an exhibit to mark the two central heroes of the tale, Denise Darvall and Dr Barnard.

Although the museum doesn’t, like any other museum really, have things like laptops for sale, there are various curios for sale. Take a look out for the enterprising artists and craftsmen that have created interesting transplant-oriented objects using nothing more than their own ingenuity.