During January it gets quite hot in South-Africa and doing anything in the afternoon is quite taxing in that heat. We had a heat wave for a couple of days in Pretoria and the temperature got up to the high 30’s. The first morning of this heat wave was the day I planned on doing some sightseeing in Pretoria.
My brother volunteered to be the designated driver for this excursion as he knows the city and is quite used to driving in the city traffic as well. His little car doesn’t have aircon so we had to drive with the windows open as it was extremely hot, almost 35 degrees, al though it was only 10am.
Our fist stop was at Church Square, which is almost in the middle of the city of Pretoria. As we got to the square there were guys running around showing us where to park. The space we got wasn’t even a parking space, it was on a corner and across a yellow line!! Here I was reminded, that it is South-Africa, you pay the car watch guy and he then makes sure you don’t get a ticket for this illegal parking!!
Church Square is the historic centre of the city of Pretoria and in the centre is a statue of the Boer leader and president of the South African Republic, Paul Kruger. This bronze statue was unveiled on Church Square in October 1954 by former prime minister DF Malan. I lived in Pretoria while studying but must admit that this was the first time I actually got out of the car to have a proper look at this landmark.
The first thing we did after getting to the square was to buy a cold drink!! After cooling down a bit in the shade my brother and I had a bit of fun exploring the statue and the square that surrounds it. There were a couple of families sitting under the beautiful Jacaranda trees and some were even feeding the pigeons on the lawn.
There are statues of four anonymous Boer citizen-soldiers on the corners of the huge memorial by whom we posed for a couple of photos!
The square is surrounded by numerous historical buildings, including the Palace of Justice where former president Nelson Mandela and several of his African National Congress comrades were charged and tried for treason during the infamous Rivonia Trial. Unfortunately I don’t know which buildings are which so can’t point them out on my photo.
The heat was getting to us a bit so we didn’t stay too long. Our next stop, which turned out to be the last stop of the day was at the Union buildings.
The Union Buildings form the official seat of the South African government and also house the offices of the president of South Africa. These Buildings are also the location of presidential inaugurations. The Union Buildings were built from light sandstone and are over 275 m long and boast a semi-circular shape, with the two wings at the sides. . The cornerstone was laid in November 1910. Requiring over 1,265 workers over 3 years to build, the structure was completed in 1913. They are built on a hill occupying the highest point of Pretoria and is surrounded by beautifully terraced gardens of indigenous plants.
The lawns and flower beds were beautifully kept and lots of people come and pick nick here on weekends. We walked down most of the steps to have a look at the garden. This was also the only way to get a full view of the buildings.
Walking down was nice but by the time we reached the top again I was all sweaty and not in the mood to walk around anymore.
I think that the Union Buildings and its spectacular gardens are a “must see” when visiting Pretoria, but choose a cooler day for this.