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Bloemfontein

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A rose by any other name.

Proclaimed the capital of the Republic of the Orange Free State in 1854, Bloem* was a Boer settlement until the Anglo-Boer war when the British penetrated and occupied the city, changing its course, and personality, forever. Still predominantly Afrikaans, the city is now an interesting melting pot of British and Boer cultures. Streets names, museums, monuments and more bear testimony to this fact. The city offers excellent entry to Lesotho and makes a good overnight stop if you’re heading to, or leaving, Jo’burg. Sports fans who are here over a weekend may be lucky enough to catch a rugby or cricket match.

Things to see in Bloem

  • President Brand Street, which is lined by magnificent sandstone architecture, is a national conservation area.
  • The Appeal Court is the highest court of appeal in the country. The main courtroom is a huge chamber lined with stinkwood panels (very imposing stuff). Bloemfontein Botanical Gardens.
  • Bloemfontein Orchid House, which has a comprehensive display of these valuable plants.
  • The National Women’s Memorial in Monument Rd. This 36,5m sandstone obelisk is dedicated to the 26 000 women and children who died in Anglo-Boer War concentration camps. The nearby War Museum houses articles and artefacts from that war. If you want to learn more about the Anglo-Boer war, this is the place to start.
  • The National Museum houses one of the country's most extensive natural and cultural collections. A turn-of-the-century Bloemfontein street scene is one of the highlights.
  • The Old Government Building in Maitland Street is a fine piece of old Cape Dutch architecture, housing the National Afrikaans Museum, a Research Centre and the National Acting & Drama Museum.
  • What’s in a name?
  • Bloemfontein was originally called Mangaung, or 'place of big cats' by its Basotho inhabitants.
  • Johannes Brits settled here in 1840. There was a natural spring (fontein) and it must have been his wife who planted the flowers (bloem). Add them together and that makes Bloemfontein.
  • It's also called City of roses for the 4000 rose bushes planted in King’s Park .

For those who live here it’s just plain Bloem, which is flower or blossom.

The story of the fountain

The only source of water for miles, Bloemfontein was visited by missionaries, hunters and Voortrekkers. It became an archetypal frontier town, a rest stop for wagons as they trekked in search of the Promised Land. When the English abandoned the war against the Basotho, they allowed a Boer republic to be founded in the Free State, with Bloemfontein as its capital. The Anglo-Boer war was the end of that independence. P.S. The fountain is still here, although it’s encased in concrete now.