When gazing up into the night skies and wondering what the world has to offer, perhaps a visit to Graaff Reinet should be at the top of the agenda for those fascinated by the outer galaxies. Considered to be one of South Africa’s “golden oldies”, Graaff Reinet is the fourth oldest recorded town in the country and is often referred to as the “gem of the Karoo”. With its crisp, clear Karoo air, the atmosphere is conducive to soaking up some of cosmological wonders of the Southern Hemisphere. Star gazers flock to the town to view the Milky Way, which is said to be visible to the naked eye.Graaff Reinet has, at one stage or another, been home to a number of the struggle heroes of the Apartheid era. Well known for his contributions to the plight of the African Nation, Dr Beyers Naude matriculated from the Afrikaanse Hoer School in the town in 1931, having moved to the area with his family from Roodepoort. Naude went on to be a prominent anti-apartheid activist and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 as well as being nominated as one of the top 100 Great South Africans in a poll conducted in 2004.Graaff Reinet was also home to the founder of the Pan African Congress, Robert Sobukwe, who was born therein December 1952.He started life from humble beginnings and was educated at a local school. An eloquent speaker and known for his powers of persuasion, Sobukwe’s political activism gained momentum and his efforts were instrumental in raising awareness of the struggle abroad. Sobukwe became a major threat to the Apartheid Government and having lead demonstrations against the policies of the day, he was eventually imprisoned on Robben Island for a period of three years in the early 1960s. Sobukwe eventually passed away in 1978 after a long battle with lung cancer and was buried in his home town. As a tribute to the fallen hero, township tours have been arranged and have become increasingly popular with tourists who want to witness for themselves some ‘good old’ African hospitality. Whether you enjoy a coffee served with roosterbrood at “Auntie Emily’s” home, or lunch at Aunt Claras whose perfect soufflé omelettes take the top prize in the town’s annual omelette-making competition.There is literally something for every palette in the numerous restaurants that grace the town.The centre piece in any of the older towns around South Africa is undoubtedly a church. Graff Reinet is no exception and the Dutch Reformed Church built in 1866 that stands proudly in the centre of the town is a majestic display of one of the finest examples of Cape Dutch architecture in the country. The entire town has been declared a national heritage site and 200 buildings in the hamlet have been declared National Monuments, the largest number in any town in South Africa.Owning an historical property in Graaff Reinet comes at a premium. Searches on the Internet reveal that investors could pay around the R3.5m mark for a well-maintained Karoo-style property. Anyone wishing to invest in one of the establish guest houses could expect to pay far more. Although sales aren’t brisk, the town is certainly holding its own as more and more people discover this little piece of historical heaven.
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