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Madeira – Portugal’s Garden of Eden, Madeira is known as the ‘Island of Eternal Spring’

Since the day I met my Portuguese husband Carlo Neto, he promised me that we will travel to Madeira Island, also known as “the Pearl of the Atlantic” to this island his parents and family originated from. Our adventure began during the July holidays of 2014 when our 2 daughters were old enough to enjoy and appreciate this amazing trip that we were about to experience. All we had to worry about were booking our flights and packing our bags before we could set off to chase the sun to this breathtaking paradise and as a bonus escape the winter here in South Africa.

Madeira

Carlo’s uncle Fritz Helena and his wife aunty Sue Helena were waiting for our arrival at Madeira’s own International Airport. We were so lucky to have these two special people as our very own personal tour guides during our entire stay. They live nearby Ponta do Sol in a simply enchanting town called Calheta, Calheta is blessed with rare natural beauty and 8 parishes.

Calheta was, in fact, the first town in Madeira to import sand from Morocco. Calheta Village has an artificial yellow sand beach that opened in 2004. We thoroughly enjoyed the days we had on Calheta beach and all it had to offer.

Madeira

The Ponta do Sol beach is hidden away in a small cove in the village of Ponta do Sol, between the slopes of the valley. One just can’t help but fall in love with this little gem, with its beautiful sunsets and excellent pebble beach. We’ve  spent many afternoons with our daughters sunbathing, swimming, relaxing and playing on this beautiful beach.

Madeira

Madeira is a Portuguese archipelago situated in the north Atlantic Ocean, south-west of Portugal and the main agriculture here is sugar cane, banana and wine production. Historically the sugar cane was worked by slaves owned by a Flemish lord João Esmeraldo, a close friend of Christopher Columbus. There are many religious nature traditions, strongly rooted in the Madeira culture, but also traditions linked to crafts, music, and even the evolution of the island’s economy. We were very blessed to visit a couple of these churches and busy, noisy, colourful covered markets stocked with fresh fish, tropical fruits, spices, beautiful flowers and local crafts.

The Aquaparque de Santa Cruz, close to the airport was definitely the highlight of our Madeira trip for both our daughters Carla, Simoné and me…

Madeira

It boasts 5 toboggan slides of varying heights and speeds and a fast and slow river. There are 2 leisure pools too as well as play parks for the younger guests.

We also treasured our visit to Machico town and Machico beach, this historic, peaceful town was the landing point of the discoverers and offers a number of good quality guesthouses and restaurants.

Madeira

Uncle Fritz took us to many little towns and beaches, but the Porto Moniz Natural swimming pools are the highlight of my stay. These natural salt water swimming pools are made up of volcanic rock, into which the sea flows naturally, we also visited the aquarium.

Another must see when visiting Madeira is the Traditional Santana houses close to the Santana Municipal Council. This is a preservation area, expanded by the municipality of Santana, in memory of local heritage.

Other memorable places we visited on the Island were the Ponta do Pargo Light House Viewpoint, the Marina of Funchal, CR7 Museum which tells the story of the Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo and houses all of his individual and team trophies won. Our daughter Carla was totally smitten. Our youngest daughter Simoné was very excited about our visits to the botanical gardens and all our different rides in the cable cars. Don’t let me even start talking about the gardens and flora, it is simply magnificent…….

Madeira

I really loved our visit to Ponta do Garajau where you’ll find the statue of Cristo Rei de Garajau, carved by Georges Serraz in 1927 and you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the amazing view over the ocean. I was brave enough to walk all the way down the path… It felt like I was entering the sea what a wonderful feeling.

We also enjoyed every minute of our time spend in Funchal, the biggest city in Madeira. It is modern but at the same time kept an authentic historic centre that will amaze you. We went on an unforgettable Yellow Bus trip around Funchal, very similar to the Red Bus trips in Cape Town….

We had so much fun at the Madeira Theme Park. The Park’s main attractions are the 4 multimedia pavilions; “ Discovery of the islands”, “Future of the Earth”, Fantastic Voyage in Madeira” and “A World of Islands”. A replica of the Monte train, traditional ox carts and nets, a traditional Santana house, a windmill, a maze and even a lake are some of the Park’s attractions.

Madeira

Uncle Fritz took us to the Cabo Girão Skywalk too. At 589 meters, the Cabo Girão Skywalk is the highest cliff skywalk in Europe and 2nd highest in the world. As I was looking all the way down from the glass deck to the ocean my legs went absolutely numb… what a thrilling experience.

Another very special memory is our visit from Funchal by cable car to the Church of Our Lady of the Monte in Funchal. We climbed to the bell tower terrace and oh my word we experienced the most spectacular view of Funchal.

Madeira

Monte Village was built in 1565 as a summer refuge for Funchal’s aristocracy. Constructed in 1741, the Church of Our Lady of the Monte is the resting place of Charles 1, the last ruler of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

We had an absolute blast and we just couldn’t get enough of this astonishing Island with its warm friendly people, it’s breath-taking nature, it’s incredible history and it’s wonderful opportunities to go for walks and find so much to see and do. Should you seek a place to stay, away from the hustle and bustle, then Hotel Jardim Atlântico (Jardim Atlantico) is just the place to be. This exquisite Hotel promise for a very memorable stay. Here we had the pleasure of meeting a very stunning lady working at the Hotel, named Rita Santos, we learned that she also stayed in South Africa many years ago…….Although she loved South Africa she loves Madeira more!

Madeira

Maybe one day if I am fortunate enough I could go and retire in Madeira this magnificent Island that I love to call paradise… But first I want to travel and see the world!

Content by Tanya Neto

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Spring Flowers in the Cape Region

We spoke to Piet van Zyl, former owner of Matzikama Tours and Accommodation in Cape Town, who specialized in spring flower tours in the Western Cape mainly. He gave us some guidelines for first-time visitors.

Timing is everything – This is probably the number one thing that visitors miscalculate. Being a hotter area than the rest of the Cape, spring starts earlier.  The flower season peaks between early August and late August and it is dependent on the winter rains.

As a general rule, the wild flowers begin flowering first in the Northern Cape in Namaqualand in late July/early August.

They then advance southwards through Nieuwoudtville and the Cederberg region and then begin in the West Coast at the end of August. Thus the West Coast offers the best chance of seeing spring flowers in early September.

However, there is a large element of luck involved as it all depends on the amount of rain. Some years are better than others! If there has been a steady flow of gentle cold fronts during the winter, then it is likely to be a good flower season. But one or two violent storms interspersed with dry weather are not so good.

Spring temperatures are also important. If it heats up too quickly then the early visitors have glorious sunshine but the flowers do not last very long.

The bottom line is that ideally, you need to go with an attitude of acceptance and ideally be prepared to explore other aspects of the area if the flowers are not so amazing. For example, the Cederberg has some stunning mountain passes to enjoy. View rock art, do a walking trail or visit Rooibos tea farms. The towns have attractive coffee shops to enjoy and arts & craft shops to explore.

Visitors might not feel they need any tips for flower viewing (how hard can looking at flowers be?). But there is quite a lot to consider if you would really like to get the most out of this experience.
Piet suggests you visit the Tourism Information Centres and talk to the locals, who are very hospitable and enjoys sharing their knowledge with visitors, to get the information you wouldn’t necessarily find in books or on the internet.

The best way to have a well-rounded trip would be to include the West Coast National Park for its Postberg flowers, wildlife and birding, some of the quaint West Coast Towns like Paternoster, Yzerfontein and Saldanha, for their laid back atmosphere and fresh seafood, the Cederberg for its rock art and mountain beauty, Wuppertal for its interesting history and Citrusdal for the beautiful orange orchards.
Darling is also well known as a cultural experience, with the Eva Perron theatre and culinary delights. The entire flower area has become well-known for its vineyards and boutique wine cellars, and the West Coast Wine Route will give you options, whichever route you take. If time allows, the flowers in the north, though further away, around Vanrhynsdorp and Springbok are glorious and well worth the trip.

Cape Town to Richtersveld 850km: Johannesburg to Springbok 1160km:

Springbok to Richtersveld 297km. We did this trip in spring after good rains. It was one of our most memorable travel experiences!
Richtersveld, a world heritage site, has the most amazing scenery in a desert environment, with a remoteness that stills the soul. Set in a great loop of the Orange River, the deep canyons and jagged mountains, unusual rock colours, the rare kokerboom or quiver tree, the strange halfmens tree, unique succulents and isolation make for a lifetime experience.
In spring, the desert can bring forth a host of wild flowers. Miniature rock gardens, perfectly designed by nature, cling precariously to cliff faces.

Tiny succulents, mere pinpoints against a backdrop of surreal rock formations, revel in the moisture brought by the early morning fog rolling in from the cold Atlantic Ocean.

Only 4×4 vehicles are allowed in the park. For detailed park information, booking and how to get there visit the park’s website. There are no shops in the park, but fuel and cold drinks can be purchased at a small general store at Sendelingsdrift. The shop is open on weekdays only. Tel: 012 428 9111 for central booking or 027 831 1506 at the park itself.
The trip to Springbok is 568km from Cape Town and 1160km from Johannesburg.

Springbok is close to the famous Goegap Nature Reserve, also known for its birding.  Springbok is a great springboard from the north, with the top flower destinations of the Namaqua National Park, Kamieskroon (visit the Skilpad Flower Reserve – named for its tortoises), Garies and Bitterfontein, all en-route to Vanrhynsdorp and Clanwilliam.

To reach Vanrhynsdorp from Cape Town is a 308km trip and Springbok to Vanrhynsdorp is a 260km drive.
If you are camping, the Vanrhynsdorp private caravan park is close to town on the Main Gifburg Road. The Caravan Park has a quiet, well managed, farm like atmosphere and also offers guests the option of staying in self-catering units. Camping sites have power points and ablution with hot water. There’s a restaurant with a great a la carte menu. Tel: +27(0)27 219 1287: +27(0)76 293 2578.

Vanrhynsdorp itself has flowers on various farms and it is best to contact tourism for the best places to go, both in town and in other areas. T:027 219 1552: Van Riebeeck Street, Vanrhynsdorp.

Vanrhynsdorp is home to Kokerboom,  the biggest succulent nursery in the world (Tel: 027 219 1062: Cell: 082 811 5474)  and to the Latsky Radio Museum with its interesting displays:  Monday – Saturday 9 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 5 pm: Tel: +27-27-2191032: 4 Church Street.

From Vanrhynsdorp you can do the following breathtaking day trips:

Take the 182km circular route from Vanrhynsdorp to the coast and back. From Vanrhynsdorp take the N7 to Klawer, and visit the Klawer wine cellar. From Klawer, drive to Vredendal, famous for its flowers and wine. Continue to Lutzville with more wine cellars and then on to the flowers at Standfontein and Doringbaai, home of Fryers Cove wines on the coast. Not only do you go through the beautiful Olifants River Vallery, a rich wine, fruit and vegetable farming area, but get to enjoy the quiet beaches along the coast. See our article on the West Coast Wine Route. Or you can go to Nieuwoudtville.

Drive 52km over the awe-inspiring Van Rhyns Pass, to Nieuwoudtville, the bulb capital of the world and visit the flower reserves and farms for amazing floral carpets.

Drive 52km over the awe-inspiring Van Rhyns Pass, to Nieuwoudtville, the bulb capital of the world and visit the flower reserves and farms for amazing floral carpets. Visit the Hantam Botanical Gardens that boasts an incredible 1350 plant species, and is found on the Oorlogskloof Road and the Nieuwoudtville Flower Reserve, close to town.

A great day trip from Nieuwoudtville, is to take the R357 north out of town, and visit the Nieuwoudtville Falls, the Quiver Tree Forest at Gannabos, a private farm, where trees grow to 400 years old and produce vivid yellow flowers in May, June and July, as they have been doing for many thousands of years.

This forest is spectacular at sunset. Further on, Loeriesfontein has a rather interesting windmill museum.

An excellent flower experience can be enjoyed by driving south from Clanwilliam. It is only 228km from Cape Town and 80km from Vanrhynsdorp on the N7. You will pass the Klawer Cellars en-route from Vanrhynsdorp, so make a stop.

Clanwilliam offers the magnificent Ramskop Wildflower Reserve, next to the Clanwilliam Dam. A wonderful day trip from Clanwilliam is the 140km round trip to the Biedouw Valleyand Wuppertal. Not only are the flowers overwhelming, but Wuppertal is a village lost in time and an experience itself. You can enjoy something to eat at the little shop in Wuppertal.  To get there, take the R364 from Clanwilliam over the Pakhuis Pass and turn right onto the Biedouw Valley/Wuppertal road.

If you are interested in Bushman Rock Art, take a really professional guided tour with the Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project.

Citrusdal is situated on the Olifants River and is famous for its citrus orchards. It is 170km from Cape Town and 58km from Clanwilliam along the N7. However, there is a wonderful gravel route from Clanwilliam along the dam, towards Algeria.

After approximately 30km, you will access the N7 again. No traffic, pure bliss (this is the same road you took to visit the Ramskop Wildflower Reserve).

The Postberg area of the West Coast National Park that is only open in flower season is a brilliant spot and the park itself is also a sight to behold, where wildlife on the plains mingle with the flowers. There are also bird hides in the park. The towns of Yzerfontein and Darling are also good flower spots.

From Citrusdal, an interesting route can be taken over the Piekernierskloof Pass and onto the R399 to Velddrif, which is also well known for its birding and fishing. From Veldrif, experience the quaint West Coast Villages of St Helena Bay, Britannia Bay, Paternoster (very popular village with great seafood) and Tietiesbaai. Drive through Vredenburg en-route to the West Coast National Park and Postberg. In Postberg you can enjoy a picnic at the Uitkyk picnic spot. An interesting attraction, 13km from Vredenburg on the R45, is the Fossil Park. On the same road, 37km from Vredenburg is Hopefield.

The veld around Hopefield provides its own natural display of springtime flowers when the green winter wonderland is transformed to an overnight spectacle of bright indigenous daisies and fynbos. There are four botanical zones: renosterveld, sandveld, reed veld and vlei areas. At the Hopefield Show, these regions are displayed in the exhibition hall to reflect Fynbos in their natural habitat. This very popular show takes place at the Hopefield Sports grounds on the last weekend of August each year.

In Langebaan visit the Strandloper Seafood Restaurant for a fresh seafood indulgence.

From the WCNP drive to Yzerfontein and enjoy a meal at the Strandkombuis Seafood Restaurant on the beach or participate in an authentic Bushman cultural experience.

Drive to Darling on the R315 and visit the Tienie Versveld Wildflower Garden, the Renosterveld Reserve, Wayland Farm, Contreberg Farm on R307 Darling-Mamre road and Oudepost Farm. Wayland and Oudepost are only open for flowers during August and September. Here millions of these exotic flowers are cultivated for local and export markets. The Groote Post wine farm also offers long walks in its beautiful natural surroundings.

Piet also stressed the fact that you need to book early to avoid disappointment the ‘season’ is very short and people book way in advance.  His last private tour was in August 2017 when he took his mother-in-law and grand-mother-in-law to observe Mother Nature at her proudest: spring flowers spring as this was a lifelong dream of Grandma. Piet says that everybody should go there at least once in their lifetime.

Written by:  Ista van Zyl

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Get To Know Carolina

Carolina is a town situated on the Johannesburg to Swaziland route (R33 and R38) in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. The town lies in the grass and wetlands region of Mpumalanga at 1700 meters above sea level. It is a mixed farming and small-scale coal- and precious-stone-mining community.

Get To Know Carolina

In the late 19th Century there was an important wagon route from Johannesburg to the gold fields of the Kaap Valley in the East. Farmers in the area that was to become Carolina decided to establish a town as a stopover for wagon trains, and one of them, CJ Coetzee offered them a portion of his farm providing the town was named after his wife. Carolina was duly established in 1882 and named after her. The town was proclaimed in 1885. The village was totally destroyed during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War and was later rebuilt.

Situated in the vicinity of Carolina is the magnificent Komati Gorge and linked Komati River. This beautiful area allows for many a day picnicking, swimming, fishing, hiking, boating or just generally relaxing and soaking up the warm sun. Numerous exciting watersports can be enjoyed. In addition, this lovely area is home to an abundance of vibrant birds. The Komati area is any bird lovers delight! Situated just to the North West of Carolina is the picturesque Nooitgedacht Nature Reserve. This nature reserve is a very popular birding area and home to more than 200 species of spectacular birds. In addition to birding, there are also a few exciting horse and hiking trails that can be enjoyed in the Carolina area. Most of these lovely trails are day trails, but for the adventure seekers, there are several 2-day trails available where one can stay overnight in a trail hut.

Get To Know Carolina

Carolina not only boasts magnificent beauty but fine cultural and historical heritage. Besides the spectacular sandstone architecture, this area boasts a few fine examples of San rock art which can be seen and explored. To add to the historical heritage of the Carolina area, there are also a few interesting Battlefields which can be visited. Make sure you visit the Market Square, Burger Monument as well as other historical memorials.

Other exciting activities that can be enjoyed in the area are 4×4 adventures, quad biking and game viewing. Definitely, a town where you can keep yourself busy for a weekend.

Get To Know Carolina

Hanna’s Antiques and Coffee Shop

While I was in Carolina looking for interesting places to write about I came across a little gem called Hanna’s Antiques and Coffee Shop.

Get To Know Carolina

I was pleasantly surprised with the small town hospitality of the locals and the old house converted into a coffee shop filled with antiques strategically placed to create a homely ambience, and everything is for sale!

Get To Know Carolina

The owner, Hannetjie Van Aswegen is a Carolina resident since 1976, this former teacher always had a love for antiques and built up her collection throughout the years, this collection is now for sale in her shop.

Her clientele consists of many diverse people who drive through to Swaziland, residents from surrounding towns who heard about this gem from others.  Locals having coffee and catching up with friends, business people having meetings and they even do parties and functions at the coffee shop. Even clients from Gauteng drive all the way to this small town to buy antiques!

Get To Know Carolina

I also discovered a very nice coffee table book in the shop – Carolina’s Ancient Sites – Fiction, Facts and Mysteries by Prof Ton Sanders.

This book traces the history and disinters a treasure trove of archaeological sites in and around Carolina that produce fascinating stories of the town that have yet been left buried or untold. A “must have” for any historian and those interested in the rich history of Carolina and the Southern African region.

Get To Know Carolina

A: 47 Steyn Street Carolina 1185

T: 071 592 4936

W: www.carolinaguesthouse.co.za

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I Vote Casterbridge For Father’s Day

As I was looking for content for this edition, I decided to explore Casterbridge in White River Mpumalanga.

Was I surprised and impressed with everything they had to offer! Staying in the Lowveld for most of my life I couldn’t imagine why I didn’t do this years ago! Then I wondered, how many others are there like me? Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre is an exceptional lifestyle destination with serene gardens, unusual independent shops a boutique hotel and even fitness centre.

They got a huge variety of shops, something for everyone from Coffee Shops and Restaurants to vintage cars, and everything in between.

Sabie Valley Coffee Shop and Roastery

Start your journey with COFFEE

Tim Buckland, owner of Sabie Valley Coffee, and his wife Kim are your hosts. This friendly couple’s passion for coffee is catching, one cannot help but listen to every word they say, their knowledge of these precious beans is astonishing and they are more than happy to share that knowledge and expertise with their clients.

As you enter the shop the welcoming aroma of freshly brewed coffee welcomes you. In the shop, they got a variety of coffee gadgets from years ago to the latest on the market. Add one of their mouth-watering homemade dishes to your experience and you will have something to talk about for years to come.

Valley Spices

Maybe you need the perfect spices to turn your next Biryani into a masterpiece

Valley Spice is a hidden gem of exotic, Indian and Middle Eastern spices. They stock a wide range of difficult to source food ingredients and hand mix spices to your taste.

ROTTCHER WINERIES AND DISTILLERY

Wine or Gin tasting anyone?

Rottcher Wineries and Distillery, which has been a landmark of the Lowveld for the past 50 years, is well worth a visit.

At this cellar, unique alcoholic orange beverages are fermented in the old fashioned way. Pop in and come and taste the “Pride of the Lowveld” – their version of dessert wines, Sherries and ports.

The Distillery produces several citrus based products

– Their very own version of Limoncello Liqueur.
– Rottcher Slowveld Mampoer
– The first citrus based gins in the world! – Slowveld Gins

SHAUTANY CHOCOLATES

“FOR THE LOVE OF CHOCOLATE”

Shautany Chocolatiers reminds one of the sweet shops you went into as a child where you pointed at the glass jars and said, “I’ll have that one please”. Glass display cabinets abound with locally handcrafted Belgian and Swiss chocolates, while shelves are laden with pure cocoa chocolate bars and exquisite gifts. The ultimate chocolate fantasy begins…

They encourage a new way to love chocolate that is as appealing as appreciating the traditions of fine wines and coffees. The seduction of chocolate on all human senses is irresistible. This ceremony of chocolate tasting is enhanced by a casual, easy, ambience of intimate excitement.

Shautany is the new chocolate culture: sexy, nostalgic, and forever an object of fantasy for children and grown up children.

ANTIQUES AND ARTIFACTS

If history and classic cars fancy your interest, this is the place for you

The charming owner, Angie Bunyard welcomes you with her friendly warm smile and when she is not around the equally charming Marilyn stands in for her.   Their love and knowledge of History and Antiques are remarkable.

In this unique ‘destination‘, nestled in the Vintage Car Museum, a treasure trove of artistic fusion of funk & functional, past & present pieces creatively combined into bespoke genres by Angie.

The collection comprises of a superb assortment of antiques, fabulous ‘jewellery’ items for décor processes and personal homes, general collectables, historical memorabilia, books, artworks, porcelain, mirrors, carvings, imported French wares combined with traditional African artefacts, stone works, carvings and more. An exciting mixture of traditionalism and innovation, indeed something for everyone.

The delightful owner, Angie Bunyard with her boundless energy has the exceptional ability to point one in the exact direction to find ‘what you never knew you were looking for’.

Creative Union

An eclectic mix of function and design – from repair and restoration of vintage/antique clocks and lighters, custom lighting to furniture design and manufacture.

Vintage Car Museum

The White River History & Motor Museum is home to a large collection of perfectly restored vintage motor cars, tractors and bikes.

Here automobile enthusiasts can see a wide variety of vintage vehicles, including the Willys-Overland, the Swift and the celebrated Model T Ford, the 1929 Austin Seven, various MGs and the 1936 Jaguar SS100, amongst others

A must see for petrol heads visiting Casterbridge.

If these are not enough to keep you busy for a day, they also got an Art Gallery, a Second-Hand Bookshop, a Spa, a Cinema and many more interesting shops.

End the perfect day out with a scrumptious lunch at one of the restaurants in Casterbridge.

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A visit to Prague

Author:  Sonja Vermaak

A born traveller, I like to call myself. Whenever I get the opportunity to travel, I grab it with both hands. I have had the privilege to visit the Czech Republic, and specifically its capital city Prague, on three occasions now. Praha, as the locals call it, is such a wonderful destination, with all the charm of Europe, but a distinct Eastern Europe atmosphere.

What makes Prague the ideal city to visit for a South African, is the fact that it does resort under Euro countries. They still use their own currency, the Czech Koruna, and our South African Rand can still buy quite a lot of Korunas. If you compare prices in Prague to that of South African it is more or less on par, especially if you avoid tourist traps, and are willing to stay on the outskirts of the city.

Prague is a city of contrasts. The old town representing medieval times, Staré Město, was laid out in the ninth century already, but more modern buildings such as the Dancing Lady are icons of modern architecture in Prague.

The famous Charles Bridge is a historic stone bridge over the Vltava River. It connects the Old Town and Lesser Town and from there the road leads up to the Prague castle. Its construction was commissioned by Czech King and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV in 1357. In charge of the construction was architect Petr Parléř whose other works include the St Vitus Cathedral at the Prague Castle. It is said that egg yolks were mixed into the mortar to strengthen the bridge.

One cannot miss the castle when you visit Prague, some parts are still in use as government buildings, other parts house tourist shops and then there are sections that are open to the public. Inside the castle walls is the St. Vitus Cathedral.  Walking through this cathedral is worth the wait in the queue for a ticket or to enter.

Another very famous part of Prague is the Jewish quarter. One might leave in a morbid state when you visited this part of town, but regardless it is still pleasant visit, regardless. There are also various famous little Jewish shops in the area.

A visit to Prague has to include a music show of some sort. We attended a classical music performance in the Rudolfinum. But it is not only classical music senses that will be touched. Rock-, jazz- and pop shows are staged nightly all over this vibrant city. We’ve also paid a visit to the famous graffiti wall known as the Lennon Wall,  around the corner from the Lennon bar.

The Czech Republic is also known for its beer as large quantities of this beverage is consumed in this city daily. Pilsner Urquell must be the most famous brand, but I prefer the Kozel beer. Over Easter weekend green beer is served in all the local pubs. Secret ingredients produce a grassy green beer which tastes very good, though it might look a bit weird. It is only available on Easter Saturday. Make sure to visit one of the famous underground pubs for some fine Czech beer and real Czech comfort food such as dumplings and beef stew.

A visit to Prague will never be complete if you did not stand at the famous Astronomical clock at least twice on the hour to watch the Apostles and other moving sculptures – most notably a figure of Death, represented by a skeleton striking the time.

The clock is mounted on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square. Its mechanism has three main components: the astronomical dial, representing the position of the sun and moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; “The Walk of the Apostles”,  an hourly clockwork show of figures; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months. It is the third oldest astronomy clock in the world and the oldest one that is still working. It is believed that,  when the rooster crows, you have to make a wish to return to Prague one day… It has worked for me twice!

Prague’s views are breathtaking 365 days a year. The Czech capital is nicknamed “the city of a hundred towers” because it is decorated by nearly a thousand towers and pointy roofs. One can enjoy unforgettable views from the Petřín lookout tower, the castle gardens and the modern  Žižkov Television Tower – decorated with sculptures by Czech artist David Černý of babies crawling up and down the tower.

Three days in Prague are enough to see most of the attractions, but it is far better to spend at least a week there. This will give you enough time to enjoy day visits out of the city and to taste all the good food and beer. Public transport is very efficient and affordable but you can walk to most of the locations and, along the way, explore all the little narrow streets and hundreds of tourist shops.

 

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Roads Less Traveled

In the small town of Barberton in Mpumalanga history and architecture have been coexisting for many, many years. This little town in Mpumalanga is often overlooked, so is the road between Barberton and Kaapmuiden.

The town had two stock exchanges, countless saloons and a hotel, as well as the richest gold field in the surrounding Makhonjwa Mountains. It has been home to quite a few colourful and notorious characters. Famous ones include Cockney Liz, Percy Fitzpatric and the Barber cousins who discovered profitable gold in the De Kaap Valley. The life and adventures of Percy Fitzpatric and his dog, Jock, has been immortalised by a statue of this terrier in front of the town hall.

The town, which was proclaimed in 1884, survived and thrived throughout the Gold Rush era.  The discovery of asbestos at the nearby towns of Bulembu and Msauli, also known as Diepgeset close to the border of Swaziland in the late 1960s, attracted new prospectors. The two mines and the town of Barberton were linked by a cablecar system to transport the ore, supplies and even passengers.

Many of these characters are well documented and honoured by plaques or statues and framed photographs in several private collections. One such location where numerous interesting items are found under one roof is the Barberton History and Mining Museum in De Villiers Street.  The old building has been renovated in recent years and now serves as the offices of Wynand Engelbrecht and Pieter Visser of Dusty Tracks. They use the building as the base for their tour operation.

Originally the structure housed the Transvaal Hotel that later became the Impala Hotel.  After moving in they found the building had ample space and decided to display several items they have stumbled upon while guiding tourists and 4×4 enthusiasts through the area. Since they opened the museum in 2016, the collection of items has grown through generous donations from residents and patrons wanting to preserve a small part of the town’s history. The collection ranges from geological finds of rare green stone to fine porcelain, old photographs, old bottles, mining tools, a replica of a penny-farthing bicycle, and, what could most likely be the last 1958 Zündapp combinette motorcycle ever made.

Among all these rare and precious collected items is the artwork of the wandering German artist, Conrad Frederick Genal, dating back to the 1930s. Unfortunately, not much is known about him and a Google search doesn’t turn up much more than references to those murals found in the Barberton building and the Diggers Retreat. It is rumoured that he would offer to decorate the walls in exchange for a place to stay for a few days.  The paintings vary in colour. Some are in full colour and others in monotones of sepia and/or black and blue ink. Over time Genal’s art was painted over and some parts of the walls it will require time and effort to uncover the originals behind the black paint that covers them. Looking at the older buildings in Barberton, one might speculate that there are more of his work hidden behind the high ceilings and covered with new bland layers of white PVA.

How much of these scenes that Genal painted as record of his travels are not known.   At Diggers Retreat on the road between Barberton and Kaapmuiden his work has been well preserved though. The hotel in the vicinity of the old Sheba Mine, the renowned Eureka City and the Golden Quarry have several rooms decorated with his works. In the dining room of the hotel, the works of Genal show the old Zeederberg coach, transport riders with their ox-wagons and the Guya Falls in northern Rhodesia. Some say they also depict the life of Jock of the Bushveld.

The Zeederberg Coach Service was established by four Swedish brothers in the 1800s. They transported mail and passengers and started the first mail coach service between Johannesburg and Kimberley in 1887. They expanded their services to the north and eastern towns of Leydsdorp and Pietersburg in 1890. The mail coach service from the CH Zeederberg Ltd. company operated in 1910, and by 1930 the Zeederberg family decided to close the coach services in favour of a car-hire service.

It is interesting to see the different scenes painted in shades of sepia, a brownish antique colouring.  The scene of the Gonye Falls in “N.Rhod” proves that nature and man have changed over time. The waterfall is situated on the Zambezi River in western Zambia and is known today as the Ngonye Falls or Sioma Falls and situated few hundred kilometres upstream from the Victoria Falls.

Definitely, a road trip to add to your bucket list if you haven’t been there yet…

WRITTEN BY:  Nicolene Olckers