PRETORIA/CITY OF THSWANE:
The administrative capital of South Africa, Pretoria / Tshwane lies about 50 km north of Johannesburg. The population, just under a million, consists mainly of officials, and in Pretoria life goes at a much slower pace than in the hectic Johannesburg. It is quite easy for the visitor to find his or her way through the city, which is laid out like a chess board. Pretoria lies 1367 m above sea level, which makes it about 400 m lower than Johannesburg. It is surrounded by protecting mountains. The climate is subtropical with hot, wet summers and relatively mild, dry winters.
The nicest time for a visit is spring, when in October more than 70,000 Jacaranda trees are in full bloom. Then the whole town is one big purple-coloured and sweet-smelling sea of blossoms. The exotic trees were imported from South America some 100 years ago and gave the town its nickname: "Jacaranda City."
The area bordering Pretoria is as rich in attraction as the city centre itself. Guaranteed to delight most visitors is the lush vegetation of a series of nature reserves (most of them stocked with a variety of birds and small animals), as well as the buildings and sites reflecting the city’s history as the capital of the old South African Republic. Add to these a host of reminders of Pretoria’s more recent role as the administrative centre of the Republic (and formerly the Union) of South Africa, and you’ll end up with a full schedule.
WONDERBOOM NATURE RESERVE:
Some 10 km north of central Pretoria in Wonderboom South, this 450 ha reserve is dominated by a 1000 year old fig tree (appropriately named ‘wonder tree’), about 23 metres high and 5.5 metres in diameter. The 13 trunks of this ancient monarch spread over 1.5 hectares. Branches of this trunk first spread out radially but gradually drooped towards the ground, where they sent out roots from which sprang a circle of new trunks. In time, two of the offspring produced a third generation.
Today the Wonderboom has 13 distinct trunks that cover an area of 1,5 ha. The branches spread over an area of 50 m, and can provide enough shade for over 1 000 people. A typical example of the species Ficus salicifolia? Not so, say the experts. The wild fig is a hardy tree flourishing in open woodlands, on rocky hills and outcrops, and near streams and rivers. The bark of the young trees is smooth and a pale grey, while the bark of older trees is rougher and darker. The leaves are thick and leathery, and the tiny white fruits, only about 5 mm in diameter, become a yellowish-pink colour when they ripen between August and May. But while the Ficus salicifolia seldom grows higher than 9 m, the Wonderboom stands taller 23m. In addition to its great height, the way in which it has extended itself makes it an extremely rare natural phenomenon whose protection against the ravages of man is of great importance. The tree was probably the safest during the period when only local people knew of its existence. They were animisms, adherents to a primitive world view that attached spiritual significance to natural objects and phenomena.
The reserve is home for several small antelope species as well as monkeys, dassies and a large variety of birds. Besides small game and the Wonderboom itself, the reserve also protects several historical sites, some recent, some ancient.
Situated about 6 km south of Pretoria, this 61 metres high granite structure - Afrikanerdom’s most important memorial - was opened on 16 December 1949 as a tribute to Voortrekkers who left the Eastern Cape in order to escape British rule. Designed by Gerard Moerdijk, it contains a life size frieze depicting the 56 wagons which were used in the laager at the Battle of Blood river in Natal on 16 December 1838. Granite figures of trekker heroes Piet Retief, Andries Pretorius, Hendrik Potgieter and the Unknown Voortrekker guard the four corners. Inside is the Hall of Heroes, surrounded by a frieze. On 16 December each year, a shaft of sunlight from a hole in the upper dome shines onto the worlds “Ons vir jou, Zuid Afrika” (We for you, South Africa), inscribed on the cenotaph in the hall. The complex also has a museum housing Voortrekker relics and an observation terrace with panoramic views of Pretoria. It is open throughout the week.
FORT KLAPPERKOP AND SKANSKOP:
These two forts south of the city were built by Boer forces during the South African War to protect Pretoria from the British. However, neither side fired a shot in anger - as the boer forces withdrew from the city without offering any resistance to British troops in 1900. Today the two forts house a series of exhibits on South Africa’s military history, pre-South African War relics at Fort Skanskop and more recent relics at Fort Klapperkop. These Forts are open for visitors.
AUSTIN ROBERTS BIRD SANCTUARY:
Named after the authority of South African birds (he also wrote ‘Roberts Birds of Southern Africa’), the sanctuary contains more than 170 species including waterbird, blue crane, sacred ibis, heron and rare black swans. The Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary was established in 1958 and offers visitors a good opportunity to see some of the more common birds up close. The sanctuary is situated in Muckleneuk, and is a great place for a Sunday afternoon family outing or a short tranquil walk. Around 170 species have been recorded and birders will see around 40 species in a short morning visit. The main attraction is the dam where an excellent hide is situated. There are also woodland patches and exotic trees in the sanctuary. The Blue Crane restaurant and adjacent trim and recreational park offers further attraction.
ANTON VAN WOUW HOUSE:
Sculptor Anton van Wouw, whose work includes the statue of Paul Kruger in Church Square and the Voortrekker mother with her children at the Voortrekker Monument, used to live at 299 Clark Street, Brooklyn. Van Wouw was noted for his work in bronze, his chief medium. His former home is now a museum.
PRETORIA NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDENS:
Indigenous plants from all over South Africa thrive in this 77 ha spread situated amid Pretoria’s eastern suburbs. The different species are grouped according to climatic region and are labelled. This 76 ha urban oasis is a pristine getaway a mere stone's throw away from the madding crowd. The Pretoria National Botanical Garden, founded in 1946, is home to the Head Office of South African National Biodiversity Institute. This Garden successfully bridges the divide between scientific research and the recreational environment. The Garden is open 365 days a year from 08:00 to 18:00. No entry after 17:00.
NATIONAL ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS:
The Pretoria Zoo was established in 1899 and is the only zoo in South Africa with National Status and is rated as one of the top zoos in the world, attracting hundreds and thousands of local and international visitors annually. A variety of animals from all over the world:
97 mammal species, 161 bird species, 279 fish species, 106 reptile species, 7 amphibian species. In total at least 4 340 creatures! A walk-through aviary with indigenous birds from four different habitats. An animal nursery where some animal babies are housed and cared for. A farmyard area where the animals roam around freely. Rare and endangered animals like sloths, maned wolves, babirusa and many more. A well-equipped veterinary hospital and research centre to meet the needs of all the animals. Each enclosure resembles the animal's natural habitat. Most areas and rest rooms are wheelchair accessible. The security staff are on duty 24 hours for convenience.
PIONEER OPEN AIR MUSEUM:
A visit to the Pioneer Museum in Pretoria Street, Silverton is like turning back the clock for over a century to a tougher, yet simpler, time when the first Voortrekkers settled on the Highveld. The lovingly restored farm, once the home of the Mundt family, consists of an original Voortrekker cottage and reconstructed farmyard, complete with animals and farming implements.
FAERIE GLEN NATURE RESERVE:
Part of the Moreleta Spruit Nature Trail, this 100 ha park is a bird sanctuary planted with a variety of indigenous Transvaal trees, including the kiepersol or “cabbage tree”. Faerie Glen, in the heart of residential Pretoria, has a great diversity of plant communities which attract insects, birds and populations of small mammals. There are several beautiful walks and a restaurant.
MORELETA SPRUIT NATURE TRAIL:
This nature trail starts in Menlyn Drive and winds through the eastern suburbs of the city, incorporating Faerie Glen and the Meyers Park Nature Reserve. Birdlife and some small mammals as well as indigenous trees and plants are the main attractions. Hikes or walks can be undertaken from various points, which are signposted.
SAMMY MARKS MUSEUM:
Just across the Pienaarsrivier to the east of Pretoria on the old tarred road to Bronkhorstspruit is Swartkoppies Hall, former home of entrepreneur and personal friend of Paul Kruger, Sammy Marks. Now a museum, Swartkoppies Hall contains much of the furniture and other household items belonging to the Marks family. The house is one of the few remaining examples of Victorian architecture in Pretoria.
WILLEM PRINSLOO AGRICULTURAL MUSEUM:
East of Pretoria near the N4 stands the Willem Prinsloo Agricultural Museum, a branch of the National Cultural History and Open Air Museum. It consists of the homestead, furnished with late Victorian furniture, as well as a working outside oven, blacksmith’s shop, dairy, a working water mill and a peach brandy still. Also on the site is a modern exhibition centre, cafeteria and lecture hall. The development of faring in South Africa is enhanced for visitors on selected guided tours by ‘living’ demonstrations, such as bread-baking in the oven, butter-making, sheep-shearing, and, of course, the distilling of potent peach brandy. Horse-riding and drives in a horse-drawn carriage are additional delights. Opened in 1980, the museum also has picnic facilities.
DOORNKLOOF (SMUTS HOUSE MUSEUM):
About 16 km southeast of Pretoria is the home of the former Prime Minister, Jan Smuts. The timber and corrugated iron home, once an officer’s mess at the military camp in Middelburg, contains furniture, relics and mementoes of Jan Smuts and his wife, Isie. The ashes of the former Prime Minister and his wife are scattered on the nearby Smuts Kop, part of the farm, which is a popular picnic spot.
Museum Park is a grouping of museums, heritage sites and buildings, all related to conservation and education and all within close walking distance of each other. It is the largest focus of cultural resources in Africa and includes Melrose House, Burgers park, the Transvaal Museum, the Geoscience Museum, th City Hall, the National Cultural History Museum (African window), the Inner City Enviro Centre, the Museum of Science and Technology, and the Museum Park Discovery Centre.
NATIONAL CULTURAL HISTORY MUSEUM:
The NCHM is an exhibition centre for the preservation and communication of the heritage and culture of all South Africans. Situated in the old State Mint, the museum has eight exhibition areas, five with permanent exhibitions and three for temporary art and craft exhibitions. Living culture and tradition are promoted by way of song, dance and music programmes, community involvement and educational activities. There is a coffee shop offering traditional meals and a craft shop. The museum provides guided tours and presents archaeology programmes.
AIR FORCE MUSEUM:
this museum depicts the history of the South African Air Force. It is situated at the Air Force Memorial at the Swartkops Air force base, Old Johannesburg Road, Valhalla, and houses a collection of old aircraft, uniforms, medals and paintings.
Church Square is the hub of Pretoria at the intersection of Paul Kruger and Church Streets. Anton van Wouw’s statue of Paul Kruger, President of the Transvaal Republic stands on a plinth at the centre of the square. The Square is a popular venue for social and cultural functions. Several impressive historical buildings flank the Square: the Palace of Justice, the Reserve Bank, the Old Mutual Building, the General Post Office, the Ou Nederlandsche Bank Building.
CORRECTIONAL SERVICE MUSEUM:
This museum features the history of South African prisons and displays objects made by prisoners, some illegally.
The Miriammen Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Pretoria and was built in 1905. The temple is dedicated to Miriammen, the goddess who controls smallpox and other infectious diseases. Visitors are requested to remove their shoes when entering the cellar or assembly hall.
PRETORIA ART MUSEUM:
Built by the former City council of Pretoria, this museum is the showplace for the finest in South African art, housing probably the most representative collection of South African Art in the country.
the Transvaal Museum was founded in 1892. It houses a large collection of birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and many other vertebrates and invertebrates, and a great variety of live animals such as spiders, scorpions, insects and snakes. A collection of fossils depicts the historical past of some of the animals on display.
The Geoscience Museum is housed at the Transvaal Museum and is the showcase for the Council of Geoscience. The museum has comprehensive exhibits of minerals and precious and semi-precious stones.
For many South Africans the Union Building is the most beautiful government residence in the world. Sir Herbert Baker was the architect of this 275 m long building and had it built in the English monumental style from light sandstone. It does indeed look majestic and lends a solemn environment to the official acts of the respective President. The Union Building has a half-round shape. The two wings at the sides represent the Boerish and the English part of the population.
The building's name comes from the time of the South African Union, which was only changed in 1961 to the current name, the Republic of South Africa.
Since the first free and common elections in South Africa in 1994 the Union Building has been the residence of the presidency and his government. Parliament spends the winter months in Pretoria, during the summer months it changes to Cape Town.
The State Theatre covers the eastern portion of the block housing five theatres and a square on the corner of Church and Prinsloo Streets. When it was built in 1981, it was the largest centre of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
CLAUDE MALAN MUSEUM
This collector’s showroom/museum is a haven for historian and collectors alike. Displays range from military collectibles to gold and silver, china and antique jewellery. To ageless timepieces and books and toys of yesteryear.
COERT STEYNBERG MUSEUM:
This museum in Pretoria North consists of a house, on the slopes of the Magaliesberg, in which the sculptor Coert Steynberg (1905 - 1985) lived. His atmospheric studio is filled with pieces of sculpture, and the extensive garden is filled with more sculptures.
TSWAING METEORITE CRATER:
This crater, known as the Pretoria Saltpan (or Zoutpan), is situated 40 km to the north-west of the City of Tshwane. It is one of the best-preserved meteorite impact craters anywhere in the world. The name Tswaing means Place of Salt in Setswana. Major attractions, besides the crater, are an extensive wetland system and the large variety of plant species. At Tswaing a few stone artefacts from the Late Stone Age have been found, brought there by the ancestors of the San (Bushman) people, who lived from 30 000 to 2000 years ago. This National Heritage Site offers a guided trail walk, mountain biking, facilities for meetings, promotions, conferences, weddings and other special events, and overnight accommodation.
Marabastad is situated in a few kilometres to the north-west of Church Square, and was originally established to house black, mixed-race and Indian communities. Through co-operation and resilience, these people managed to build thriving communities in the area. Their cultural diversity is reflected in their religions - the mosque stands next to the fresh produce market, the Miriammen Hindu Temple is a colourful landmark, and Christians are represented in mainstream denominations and independent black churches. Marabastad provided the seminal urban cultural mix that was expressed in a type of dance music called marabi.
The township of Atteridgeville was established in 1939 south-west of the Pretoria CBD. Today it is a multi-cultural community with a population of about 200 000. There are several heritage sites in the area, including the Ga Mothaga Resort, the Mendi memorial, a Second World War Plaque and the Ou Stadshuis (house).
Eersterust was laid out in 1962 on the farm Vlakfontein, some 15 km east of Pretoria. Originally intended as a settlement for mixed-race south Africans, it is now a close-knit, growing community of some 40 000 residents with a high standard of living. The main language is Afrikaans, but many other languages are spoken, including English,Sotho and Zulu.
Ladium, situated to the west of Pretoria was originally proclaimed an Indian area. It is still today a predominantly Indian residential area with many luxury homes. Religion is very important in the community of Laudium, with six well known mosques, an Islamic library and an Islamic radio station. There is a Hindu temple and another temple for Tamil members of the community, as well as a Christian Church.
The township of Mamelodi lies about 20 km from the centre of Pretoria and was established during the 1950s. Today it officially has a population of over 500 000 people. Some of the historical places of interest in Mamelodi are the Industrial school (now known as Vlakfontein Technical High School), Mamelodi High School, Dr F Rebeir House, Stanza Bopape Memorial and Solomon Mahlangu Square.