If you like the Victorian era, a visit at Lindfield House Museum in Johannesburg's Auckland Park neighborhood is a must. There you get to meet the legendary Katharine Love who not only owns the house but also lives in it and doubles as museum curator, tour guide, and cook. Let her take you back in time to another era, and then savor the present with heavenly scones during afternoon tea.
I've written about so many different things to do in and around Joburg that I decided I needed to bring these to my readers again, this time in a slightly more structured fashion. So I've decided to pick different themes and summarize my Top 5 recommendations for each. Today's theme: History in and around Johannesburg.
When we moved to Johannesburg, it soon became clear to us that everything revolved around Fourways. Shopping, restaurants, the fabled Montecasino, doctors' offices, a cinema - all of it was clustered around a large and busy intersection teeming with cars, minibus taxis, pedestrians, and street vendors. It was like a village of its own. But it wasn't always that way.
In Part One of this series I talked about Wilhelm Verwoerd and the legacy of his grandfather Hendrik. I left it off with Wilhelm leaving for Europe in the 1980s, where by virtue of being exposed to a more liberal worldview he became increasingly disillusioned with that legacy. Learn more about Verwoerd's life, his relationship to Nelson Mandela, and the atonement for his family's sins.
Hendrik Verwoerd: Any South African will immediately know his name, but as an expat you may not be as familiar with it. You may not know that Hendrik Verwoerd, more so than anyone else, was responsible for devising the series of laws that became known as Apartheid. I recently had the privilege of meeting his grandson, Wilhelm Verwoerd, who has an interesting story to tell.
Koeksisters (pronounced "cook sisters" or close to it) are one of the South African food staples. Right behind biltong, rusks, and all things off the braai. They are a very sweet and very sticky delicacy made from a donut-like dough shaped into mini-braids and finished off with sugar syrup. The word derives from the Dutch koekje, which means cookie.
My brother recently unearthed the ancient travel guide he had used when traveling as a student to South Africa in the 1980s. It is called South Africa: On R10 and R20 a day and is dated 1981-82. Of course, I immediately peeked into the Johannesburg section. Some parts sound just like today, but then there are those that do not, like the chapter titled "Accommodation for Non-Whites."
I've talked a little bit about Apartheid before. But what I haven't talked much about is what life during Apartheid times (from 1948 until 1990) was like. How difficult it was for non-whites. How the Group Areas Act forbid you to own property in most of the desirable areas of town. How almost every facet of your life was dictated by the color of your skin. This book tells those stories.
I've mentioned South Africa's racial diversity before. But it is South Africa's two white tribes that perhaps have the longest or at least most intense history of tension with one another. To this day, even the most superficial visitor of South Africa will immediately sense the rift between the Afrikaans-speaking part of the population and the English-speaking part.
Many many years ago, when I still had the stamina to read books of a thousand and more pages, and way before I'd ever shed any thought to living in South Africa one day, I read The Covenant by James A. Michener. I'd read many of his other books, but even then his story of South Africa had stood out as particularly gripping. Here is some background from this great book.