Sunday, June 10, 2007

the journey continues

Hi, welcome back to Graaff Reinet. If you wonder what I am smoking, you need to scroll down and read the previous post first, then come back to this one!

The Graaff-Reinet colony was established in 1786 and is the oldest town in the Eastern Cape Province, named after Cornelis Jacob van de Graaf, former Dutch governor and his wife Cornelia Reynet. From the mid 1800's the town became known as a bustling trade center and it became a certain stopover for travellers to the interior. It has retained much of the character of a 19th century rural town,with its painstakingly restored buildings and monuments. Graaff Reinet is virtually a living museum,and is home to more national monuments than any other town in South Africa.

So today we will visit two museums.

The first is set in a magnificent old building, in classic Cape Dutch style, called Reinet House. It was originally built by the Dutch Reformed Church as the residence for the Reverend Andrew Murray and his family, who arrived there in 1822.

He planted a grapevine which became famous as the largest in the world, click to read more.

I guess even the old minister had a taste for hooligan juice!

What I love about these places is the insight into a lifestyle long gone. Excuse me while I wax lyrical about this, but I find the loving care and attention to detail and craftmanship of those bygone days so fabulous, compared to the soul-less mass produced buildings that are chuned out today. These 300 mm wide hand hewn yellowwood floor planks are the dining room floor, as seen in the basement.

BTW you are not allowed to take photos in there, but I just couldn't resist a quick snap of this for the benefit of those of you who are into your quilting and sewing.....

And the same love and care even comes through in the hobbies and pasttimes.

Look at this amazing house made of porcupine quills!

And this handmade doll's house furniture.

Even these shapes for artists to practice shading are a work of art in themselves!

But life can't have been easy, we take so many of our modern comforts for granted these days...

today we winge if the aircon in our cars is not working.... but these guys used to go all the way to Capetown for a Chuch meeting crammed into this!
And if you were sick, this is how you went to hospital!
The broad streets of Graaff-Reinet are due to the fact that ox wagons needed enough space to turn
I mean just imagine blogging back then when all you had to write on was this...
and you had to cart this around to take your photos.
This leads us to the next museum round the corner, where there is mostly war memorabilia from the Anglo-Boer War, and some fascinating old photos, taken on the huge camera above by William Roe, who lived in Graaff Reinet and travelled around documenting the surrounding areas. In 1869 he took a wonderful series of photos showing the diamond diggings at Kimberley.

These are really worth clicking on, it is incredible how they lived while mining for diamonds.
There was lots more to see but at that point I discovered that they had a whole room full of second hand books which they were selling for next to nothing... so needless to say I went in there to browse, and the rest, as they say, is history!

If, after this small taste of the place, you are interested to know more, try these links:
Click here for a brief history of Graaff-Reinet in chronological order.
For more interesting tidbits on Graaff-Reinet, click here.

We will stick around this area and next time I post, we will see the spectacular Valley of Desolation.


Shirley Goodwin said...

The one thing that leapt out at me from your post was your comment about the wide streets. The same thing applies in the town where I now live - the main road is 4 lanes wide plus has a wide area in the middle planted with trees and where cars can park. This was because of the space needed for bullock trains to turn araound too.

RUTH said...

I would so enjoy this...the house made of porcupine quills...such workmanship! You've really made history come alive in this post.

CJ said...

Many years ago, when we were just married, we spent a couple of weeks exploring the area around GR and Neu Bethesda - goodness my spelling is rusty ;)! We were even going to buy a farm there - love, love the purity of the light and the air - but then life happened and we never did! Have you been to the Owl House? Awesome and more than a little disturbing if you know the history. Congrats on the gallery...Looks wonderful!

Sheila said...

I really enjoy visiting these places with you. The history is amazing. I admire the quality of the building as well. In fact the white chimney is very similar to those found in Portugal..!

Suzi-k said...

Shirley, I wonder if that is common to old British colonies, because in Zim the main towns were the same?
Ruth and Sheila...Ah, the good old days!!
CJ, I have a whole bunch of Nieu Bethesda and owl hose pix, good idea, i'll do a post about that soon! Such a fascinating place in the middle of nowhere!