South Africa

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The city of Pretoria, in South Africa, was named after Andries Pretorius, the leader of the Boers in the war against the Zulu, is situated in the north east of the Gauteng province, and is South Africa's administrative capital. Although only 50km north of the country's business centre Johannesburg, Pretoria has a quieter and much more refined atmosphere.

The city's streets are lined with an estimated 70,000 jacaranda trees, that with the arrival of spring, burst spectacularly into flower. The jacaranda was originally introduced from South America and is now so prevalent that rules were introduced restricting the planting of new trees.

South Africans would claim that the Union Building is one of the most beautiful government residences in the world. Constructed in sandstone from a design by Sir Herbert Baker, with the most striking feature being its semi circular shape which is around 275 metres in length. There are two wings, one representing the Boer community and the other the English. The building was named after the South African Union, the previous name for the Republic of South Africa. Since the coming of free elections in 1994, the Union Building has become the official residence of the president. The South African Parliament only spends the winter months in Pretoria, when the summer comes they all pack their bags and move to Cape Town.

Outside the Union Building stands a monument to Louis Botha the African soldier and statesman. Botha was a very successful commander of Boer troops in the South African War, during which he besieged the British at Ladysmith and defeated them at Colenso. In 1900 he became the commander of the Transvaal army, After the war he became premier of the Transvaal and as the leader of the Unionist or the United South African party, he became the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa and remained so until his death in 1919.

Pretoria 4What was once the Pretoria residence of Paul Kruger, who in the late 1800’s was the President of the former South African Republic, is now a museum which attempts to recreate the period in which Kruger lived. Pretoria boasts a number of other fascinating museums, the Transvaal Museum has a good natural history display and is the home of Mrs Ples, the australopithecine fossil found at Sterkfontein. Also worth a visit is the Cultural History Museum, and the Smuts Museum, which is located just outside the city.

Melrose House is situated in Jacob Mare Street, close to Burger's Park. The house, now a museum, was built by businessman George Jesse Heys in 1886, and named after Melrose Abbey in Scotland. A mix of Victorian to Edwardian styles, the house contains many architectural features such as ornate ceilings, fireplaces and attractive stained glass windows. On display is a collection of paintings by a number of English artists. The house was requisitioned by British forces in 1900, and became their headquarters. On 31st May 1902 the Peace Treaty of Vereeniging was signed here, which marked the end of the Anglo-Boer War.

The Voortrekker Monument. situated on Monument Hill, was built to honour The founders of the former South African Republic. The Voortrekkers played an important role in Pretoria's history and development. The monument was created to act as a reminder of the courage and determination of the Voortrekkers. Few would proclaim it to be the most attractive of monuments, but it stands as an icon to Afrikaans and acts as a focus point when they gather here on December 16th to celebrate what they consider to be the most important event in their history, the battle at the Blood River. Included as part of the monument is the Shrine of Honour in the Heroes Hall, which bears the inscription: "Ons vir jou, Zuid Afrika"  which translates to "We for you, South Africa". Situated on the four corners are statues of Piet Retief, Andries Pretorius, Hendrik Potgieter and the unknown Voortrekker hero.

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