Introducing JOBURG FOR INTROVERTS, a guide for those of us who hate crowds, and who just want to find a quiet spot and be left alone (if you’re looking for a ‘vaaibe’, you won’t find it here). This is a guide dedicated to My People, the introverts of Joburg. Next to feature is rooftop venue Ferguson’s Fifth Floor in Illovo… introverts, enjoy!
It’s an unbearably hot November afternoon and I’m completely out of my comfort zone. A sign at the entrance of the pool reads: NO DRUGS NO WEAPONS NO HOOKAHS NO DOGS. The brick building has faded yellow paint, with graffiti-tag accents. In the parking lot, a group of men laugh and shout next to tow truck, empty quarts of Black Label are knocked about by their bare feet.
Like the first spot to feature in the JOBURG FOR INTROVERTS series, Vargas Cafe is fairly unknown. It used to be located in a corner at the Military Museum in Saxonwold, but it moved to Bolton Road in Parkwood about 18 months ago. It’s a bit of an ethically problematic place, though – it has a shop attached to it that specialises in war and military memorabilia, called The War Store – and I’ll need to give a disclaimer right upfront: if you decide to go into The War Store, you’re going to come across things like original Nazi insignia and old South African flags, which are both highly offensive things to see. Admittedly, I was a little morbidly fascinated by the Nazi ‘memorabilia’ (I feel like that’s completely the wrong word for it?), as I’d never seen Nazi regalia in real life, BUT, I did feel a bit ill looking at some of it – especially an SS officer’s hat. Complete with totenkopf skull and crossbones insignia; the thought that this artefact of pain was actually worn by an actual SS guard, who most likely, inflicted untold horror on all sorts of people.
So yes, it’s ethically questionable, but I’ve decided to still feature Vargas Cafe – and the attached War Store – as it really is introvert friendly; despite it being a place that focuses on death and destruction it really is very peaceful. And if you like history, it’ll blow your mind. But venture into The War Store with caution, is all I’m saying (it’s also possible to just visit the outdoor section of the cafe and not set foot in the store).
Not many people know about Issy’s, and that’s one of the reasons why I like it. Its location is also pretty unusual: it’s on the ground floor of the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre in Forest Town. I love how peaceful it is – the coffee shop looks out onto a little courtyard: it’s a place where you can take a deep breath, have some (very strong) Rwandan coffee, and just be…
Ice pelts metal in an elemental rage. The noise is deafening inside the indoor Linden swimming pool, but it’s a good thing we came here – it’s not exactly poolside weather. Pockets of Speedoed swimmers with towelled shoulders stand clumped together, dripping onto the concrete, their breath misting up the glass windows. The sky cracks with electricity. I see the rest of the #20laps team and head over to them. “We’ve been told to get out the water because of the lightening,” says Alex. All I hear is “out” and “water” and “lightening”. Gail gestures to me so I stand next to her; she leans in close and shouts something about the superintendent not wanting to talk to anyone or have his photo taken.
A couple of months ago, I decided to try a little experiment: what would happen if I undertook a self-imposed, one-week social media detox? It wasn’t the first time I’d toyed with the idea as I have a complicated relationship with social networking – I’d much rather live without it, but at the same time, I feel like if I went offline forever I’d be short-changing myself…
It looks like the whole of Joburg has come to Zoo Lake. It’s an uncharacteristically sweltering spring day; there’s boating and braaiing, and the Boules Club is throbbing. I’m not quite sure where the Zoo Lake swimming pool is, so I stop to ask a very busy car guard. “It’s on the other side, mfethu,” he responds. Fair enough, I look like a small boy with my camo cap and sunglasses. Cars snake, engines groan, people hoot. I finally manage to find a spot. It’s a glorious day, and the entrance to the pool is glorious in equal measure: it’s grand and colonial and quondam. I pay my nine ront and enter.