Bloemfontein is the capital of the province of Vrystaat (Freestate) and is located in the middle of South Africa. You may have seen the Freestate Stadium in this city during the Football World Cup. The city is sometimes called ‘city of the roses’ since many roses grow in the spring despite the otherwise rather dry land. The Voortrekkers (originally Dutch settlers) settled in this area when they traveled from the Cape to the north-east. However, it was the British who officially founded Bloemfontein in 1846. In Sesotho (the language of the black population in this area), the city of Mangaung is called which means ‘place of the cheetahs’.
The British regime met with resistance from the Afrikaners, Bloemfontein was no exception. In 1899 the city was the scene for the Bloemfontein Conference where the United Kingdom and the South African Republic (represented by Paul Kruger) met. Unfortunately, no solution was found and this marked the start of the Second Freedom War (Second Anglo-Boer War). Today you can still find the National Women’s Monument on the outskirts of the city that reminds of the many women and children of Afrikaner and Dutch descent who died in concentration camps of the English and also in Bloemfontein.
For those who want to know more about this history, a visit to the Anglo Boer War museum is recommended, the staff can inform you about battlefields in the area. One of the most striking buildings in Bloemfontein is the ‘Raadsaal’ built in 1893 in Renaissance style.
The area where now Bloemfontein is located, used to be the habitat of, among other things, cheetahs. Today you can see these beautiful animals up close at the Cheetah Experience on the Emoya Estate. This project is mainly aimed at maintaining the cheetah, but other young animals are also regularly born. This way you not only have the opportunity to touch a cheetah, but with a bit of luck also young lions, tigers, jaguars, leopards or wolves. You will find the Cheetah Experience in the suburb of Bainsvlei.
Free State National Botanical Gardens
Lovers of trees and plants can visit the Free State National Botanical Gardens where more than 400 plant species from the Free State, Northern Cape and Lesotho can be admired.
Oliewenhout Art Museum
Art lovers can best visit the Oliewenhout Art Museum. The first floor is only reserved for South African artists and here you will find works by the first African artists such as Thomas Baines, Jan Ernst Volschenk, Pieter Wenning and Jacob Hendrik Pierneef.
What many do not know is that the well-known English writer J.R.R. Tolkien was born here and spent the first few years of his life before moving to England with his parents.
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