A brotherhood of goodwill

Philadelphia, West Coast
With love among brothers as its foundation, stamp-size Philadelphia harks back to a time of simple grace.

You’re bound to whistle a happy tune when visiting this tiny town, 20 km from Melkbosstrand, where traffic noise is the rustling of wheat or canola and congestion is more than two people in the teeny-weeny supply store, Helena se Hoekwinkel.

The tight-knit community lives at a slow pace and life is simple, quiet and complete – yet the town has many more places for people to gather than just its magnificent church. Known for a superb Sunday buffet is de Malle Meul – a former mill which is now a restaurant-cum-art gallery in honour of artist and former resident, the late Pieter van der Westhuizen. The Pepper Tree Art Stable and Coffee Shop is a vibey art gallery and restaurant, while the old Post Office is home to the Philadelphia Winkel where you can feast on milktart and homemade pies. Next stop is the crystal and semi-precious treasure trove that is Magic Minerals and then onto Odds Garden Bistro with its shabby-chic décor. Die Blikhuisie sells all sorts of vintage collectables and visiting Helena se Hoekwinkel to buy balls of bubblegum is like stepping back 50 years in time.

The town’s small size and slow pace draw artists, retirees and young families – a count of 570 souls. It evokes the best of West Coast culture: a helping hand is a given and neighbours gather on front porches to watch the sun dip below the horizon.

As has been the case with many little towns in South Africa, Philadelphia began as a farm. And because farmers had to travel by horse and cart all the way to Durbanville for Nagmaal, a local farmer donated a portion of his land to the local brethren to build a church in 1863. Hence its biblical name for brotherly love from Revelations 3:7-13.

Made up of gracious period homes interspersed with unpretentious cottages, the ‘old’ part of town is so fine-looking, Hollywood couldn’t design it better.