Bellville is a fast growing centre in Cape Town north, about 20 km from downtown Cape Town, on the N1 towards Stellenbosch and Paarl. Bellville offers easy access to Cape Town’s beaches and the city’s attractions. It is also ideally situated for quick access to the winelands. Keen golfers can warm up on the local golf courses of Bellville, Parow and Durbanville before venturing out to a number of world renowned courses within an hour’s drive. Bellville is central in another respect. It is situated close to the Cape Town international airport.
The Karl Bremer Hospital, a stone’s throw from NiederHeim B&B, was named after the brother of Esther Nieder-Heitmann’s grandmother, Esther Pauw (néé Bremer). This hospital used to function as the academic hospital for the medical school of the University of Stellenbosch before Tygerberg Hospital, the biggest hospital in the southern hemisphere, took over this function. No less than five first class private hospitals are within five to fifteen minutes drive from NiederHeim Bed and Breakfast. One of Bellville’s most respected physicians, Dr Otto Frielingsdorf, runs his practice just across the road from NiederHeim Bed and Breakfast.
The University of the Western Cape is also situated in Bellville. It was started as a separate university for “coloured” people by the then Apartheid state. This university became one of the fiercest cetres of resistance against Apartheid and now houses the Mayibuye Centre where a collection of formally banned material from South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle is on exhibit. Then there is the Sanlam Art Gallery, which offers one of the largest corporate collections of South African art and is worth a visit.
Situated in Bellville, the Tyger Valley and Willow Bridge shopping centres are sprawling malls with a huge variety of shops, boutiques and recreational facilities. The High Street shopping complex is situated just off Durban Road. Adjacent to Durban Road lies Edward Street, filled with popular nightclubs, bars and restaurants that cater generally for nightlife entertainment. In May 2007, Meg Ryan and William H. Macy completed the last day of principal photography for their movie, The Deal, at the Bellville Civic Centre. Earlier this year Clint Eastwood shot some of his film on the life of Nelson Mandela next to D.F. Malan High School in Bellville. This school is named after the first Apartheid prime minister of South Africa. Ironically this prestige Afrikaans school spawned the first of Bellville’s rock bands, named Fokofpolisiekar (F..k off Police Car -a clear insinuation of a new generation of Afrikaners that dissociate them from their Apartheid heritage with its racial repression. Other popular Bellville Afrikaans rock bands that followed in their wake were Foto na Dans (Photo after a dance), Die Heuwels Fantasties (The Hills Fantastic), aKING and Van Coke Kartel.
During early Dutch colonial days the first colonists to be given grazing rights east of the Tygerberg (Luipaertsberg as it was called then) were Jan Mostert and Pieter Visagie in 1679 during the time of the Van der Stel brothers’ governance. Adam Tas, critic of the Cape government, left a map in his diary of 1705/6 showing the later Bellville to be the place where three routes towards Cape Town converged. During this time the first farms were allocated to free burghers (colonists). With time a signal cannon was fired from Tygerberg when a ship entered Table Bay. Distant farmers who could hear the signal would also fire their cannons so that those far away could hear the message. Farmers then rushed to Cape Town with their fresh produce.
Bellville was established at the foot of Tygerberg, at the 12th milestone from Cape Town city centre – hence it became known as “12 Mile Stone” (Afr: “12-Myl-Pos”). This was during the days of horse and ox-drawn wagons. It was an important outspan post since it had the first hard spot after a day’s travel through the soft sands of the Cape Flats. Therefore the outspan was named Hardekraaltjie (meaning Hard Fold or Pen). Today the Hardekraaltjie Caravan Park is situated on that very spot. Once the building of railroad from Cape Town had been completed in 1862, Bellville became an important junction for the railroad to the north and the one to Stellenbosch and the Strand. A year before this Bellville officially received its name. A railway station was built in 1882, called Durban Road. The town was renamed to Bellville in 1940, after the surveyor general Charles Bell. (This bit of information has excited Johann, the youngest of the Nieder-Heitmann children of Niederheim B&B, since he is midway with his studies in Geomatics at the University of Cape Town, which will hopefully qualify him as a land surveyor.) The growth of this town has been so rapid that it acquired city status in 1979. Bellville now forms part of the greater Cape Town metropolitan area. It still retains it strategic position as it is in the centre of the City of Cape Town, making it so convenient for visitors to Cape Town and the wine lands to stay.
The Loevenstein and Welgemoed suburbs of Bellville, where Niederheim is situated, lie on the foothills of the Tygerberg, which is home to the 278 ha Tygerberg Nature Reserve. Here you can do a 7.5 km hike and, on a clear day, have incredible views from the top of the hill of the Table Mountain and Boland Mountain ranges, Table Bay and False Bay, the entire Peninsula and the Cape flats, while looking down on the estates of the Durbanville Wine Route, of which at least nine are renowned for making top-quality wines.