Joburg Books: Secret Johannesburg by C.L Bell and Lisa Johnston

09 Nov 2018
created 04 Sep 2018
Part of a global series by Jonglez Publishing that includes major world cities like New York, Paris, Rio and Istanbul, Secret Johannesburg, written by locals CL Bell and Lisa Johnston, is an indispensable guide to finding the weird and wonderful secret corners of this incredible city. 

Neatly divided by area, the book covers the city's oldest central neighbourhoods, the historic suburbs of Sophiatown, The Parks and Houghton as well as areas of Greater Johannesburg including Soweto, Alexandra and the sprawling northern suburbs beyond Sandton. No stone is left unturned in the search for lesser-known landmarks and quirky historical treasures with one hundred different sights highlighted ranging from beautiful mosaics and murals to secret gardens, hidden waterfalls, forgotten memorials and bizarre artefacts, such as a typewriter that once belonged to Hitler. 

Each secret sight is entertainingly detailed and the book is liberally sprinkled with amusing anecdotes and in-depth insights into the complexities of local history, tradition, folklore and culture, making for a fun read and a marvellous starting point for seeking out new adventures in the city.

Among some of our favourite facts and unusual tales picked up from the book include the story of a springbok that accompanied a Joburg regiment on their travels to Egypt and the trenches of France and Belgium during World War I, the two immense paintings by JH Pierneef that hang unnoticed in a prominent civic building and a mini lighthouse that looks out over the city from the top of a historic downtown building.

What makes reading this book especially enjoyable are the myriad eccentric local personalities, both living and dead, that crop up throughout the pages. Joburg's complex urban fabric and turbulent history has been richly coloured by its multi-cultural mix of dreamers and hustlers, artists and activists, heroes and villains. Browsing through the pages of Secret Johannesburg one can't help but smile at the wild and fantastic mix of personalities that have helped make Joburg such an intriguing city. 
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