Somewhere between Stellenbosch and Paarl on the Simondium road you’ll find a garden of Eden on the farm called Babylonstoren. Pronounced [ba-be-lons-to-ren] or as me and my sister accidentally misread it as [baby-long-ster-ren].
It’s a garden or more like a maze of a wide variation of flowers, trees, fruits and vegetables with interesting Easter eggs hidden within. Like bird nests, the Puff Adder tunnel, a Clivia lane, mosaic floors, fish fountains, a cactus labyrinth and my favorite – the glass Greenhouse. The Greenhouse with its class doors, class windows and glass roof, mist dripping from above and rows of vegetables growing inside. It transports me into a fairy-tale.
The name of this amazing paradise was inspired by the tower of Babel in the Bible due to there being a hill at the foot of the garden that reminded the owners of Babylonstoren of this tower. There is a small trail leading to the hill that visitors can walk on.
Apart from the name, the inspiration of the garden itself was the Company Gardens of Cape Town which supplied passing ships to the Cape with food during the 1600’s. The story of this trading pit stop is visible in the mosaic floors covering the ground in the stone fruit orchard. Mosaic was something that was popular during that time. It also plays an important role for Babylonstoren as there were a lot of broken mosaic found in the soil of the garden when it first started out. These broken plates and pottery is showcased in the garden with the history written down on a plate.
Even though Babylonstoren strives to grow and produce plants, fruits and vegetables that are used in their two restaurants, Babel and The Greenhouse, they also play around with the idea of having a garden for the pure pleasure of it. The Easter eggs found all around the garden are signs of this, contributing to a place of wonder and creativity.
This reminds be of one of the seven Ancient wonders of the world, The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. A garden supposedly to have been 80km south of where modern Bagdad is today. This garden formed part of the Capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire and was built by King Nebuchadnezzar the 2nd for his wife, queen Annytis. It was built as an attempt to lessen her homesickness for her hilly and green homelands.
The purpose of this garden, apart from being for the queens emotional well being, was just to provide viewing pleasure for its visitors. Some of the most talked about features were the high stone terraces which imitated mountains and were planted with many types of large trees and flowers. Especially hanging vegetation, something that is also found in the garden at Babylonstoren in the Pumpkin Snail.
Another similarity between these two gardens is the reason for its existence. Like King Nebuchadnezzar the 2nd, Koos Bekker (Chairman of Naspers) bought the land for his wife, Karen Roos. She is the brains behind the designing of this beautiful garden of Eden. Both these acts by King Nebuchadnezzar and Koos Bekker shows us that a garden is a place where love grows and that it is something to share with others.
It is also an inspiration to us to not only enjoy nature for its practical use and viewing pleasure, but to take care of it. Nature is a gift. A garden given to us by God which we should both enjoy and treasure.
Some links for extra readings: