German couple Wolfgang and Cornelial wanted some Cape sunshine, and booked a two week trip to Cape Town spontaneously. Their travel agent booked them three destinations: Franschhoek, Sanbona, and the V& A Waterfront in Cape Town. They had visited Cape Town seven years ago.
The Travel Ban was instituted by most countries in Europe, the USA and UK on their last day, a Black Friday of 26 November. They received notification late that evening that their Qatar flight to Frankfurt had been cancelled for the following day. Instead of being upset about it, they saw the positive side of it, in enjoying a further week in our beautiful Cape and country.
I have been a Tourist Guide since 2019, guiding German- and English-speaking tourists through Cape Town. It was a freelance activity that I was lucky to get involved in after seeing a request for German-speaking guides on Facebook. The Canadian Tourist company Lokafy has guides like I in major cities all over the world. I loved it so much that I did my Tourist Guiding qualification at the beginning of 2020, attending lectures and completing my assignments at the Tourist Guide Institute just as we went into Lockdown in March 2020. In the Lockdown period, especially during 2020, Lokafy invited a number of us to join a committee of international tourist guides, Zoom-meeting once a month, discussing the situation in our countries. This kept us motivated and connected with ‘colleagues’ around the globe. We moved from a What’s App chat group to one on Discord, a new platform on which we could post news and photographs.
As we had barely any tourists in our city in 19 months, it was a fabulous surprise to be assigned the Henschels as clients to take on a three hour walking tour of Cape Town on 23 November. Yet I was nervous about what to show them in the city centre, as a number of city tourist spots had closed down, and the city had lost its buzz, with so many staff of city businesses still working from home. I also was worried about not remembering all my facts and figures, having learnt so many dates on our course.
The Henschels were friendly, and left the tour in my hands, not having any specific sightseeing requests. I fetched them at their Waterfront Hotel, and we walked through the Silo District, they had a glass of bubbly at Utopia and enjoyed the beautiful 15th floor view, we walked through Bo-Kaap, down Wale Street, looked at the Berlin Wall panel (which they found really odd, having lived in the former East Germany), popped in at the five star Labotessa Hotel, and concluded the tour with a visit to the City Hall with the statue of former President Nelson Mandela. We took a Bolt back to the Waterfront.
We parted ways there, and they thanked me. We were taught never to expect a tip, but when there was none, I felt a complete failure. I sent them some photographs of the tour, and thanked them for allowing me to show them my Cape Town. They only thanked me for the photographs. I was so devastated that I wrote to my Tourist Guiding classmates, sharing my experience. I was surprised and then delighted when they shared that tips have been non-existent or minimal during Lockdown, I felt much better.
A massive surprise was receiving an invitation to join them for dinner at Utopia a few days later, which I had booked for them on the day of the tour. I fetched them at the hotel, we had a lovely evening with an amazing thunder and lightning show thrown in, celebrating the end of their holiday, and dropped them off at the hotel. I wished them a good flight back to Germany the next day.
It was a shock to receive a message that their Qatar flight had been cancelled. I offered to help. At first they were in contact with their travel agent, who managed to find them a flight on Lufthansa a week later. They extended their hotel booking by a night, and booked the last two nights with the hotel too.
They requested guidance on what to do on the other four nights, so I went to meet them at the hotel, and they accepted my recommendation that they stay in Paternoster, and do day trips to the West Coast National Park, the Fossil Park, and other local attractions. I negotiated a deal for them at the Strandloper Hotel, with a seafacing room, arranging the payment with them, given that their English was not good, not a language they learnt at school, Russian having been the second language they learnt. Every day I sent them a restaurant recommendation. Every day they sent me photographs of the highlights of their day. They returned to Cape Town delighted with their West Coast trip and stay.
I had promised them a gift of a tour to the bottom end of the Cape Peninsula, including Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek, Boulder’s Beach in Simonstown to see the penguins, through Scarborough and Misty Cliffs, Kommetjie, and back via Chapman’s Peak, which Cornelia wanted to experience. We had a lovely dinner at Zest Restautant in Sea Point, and I dropped them off at their hotel after a long day together.
By now we had become firm friends, with an invitation to see them at their home between Berlin and Dresden when I next visit Germany. It was a happy ending for them and for me. Their Lufthansa flight got them back to Munich safely on Sunday, flying back into a cold and snowy Germany. Instead of a tip I received the gift of a fabulous new friendship.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whaletalesblog.com www.chrisvonulmenstein.com/blog Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide