About 55min from Durban, which was named after Sir Benjamin D’Urban, you come across Pietermaritzburg which was named after Piet Retief and Gert Maritz. It is situated approximately 86km from Durban and 496km (4hr 45min drive) from Johannesburg. In isiZulu Pietermaritzburg is called uMgungundlovu.
This city is one of the oldest cities in South Africa. It boasts some of the most beautiful Victorian buildings in the world; among them is the city hall which is majestically situated at the centre of the city with a tall clock tower at the top and the Collin Webber hall which is situated at the University of KwaZulu Natal Pietermaritzburg campus which happens to also have a clock tower at the top. These two are but only a few master pieces; beautiful heritage pieces of the city and they seem to have been designed by great architects and it must have taken very skilled and patient builders to bring them to life. They are among the most timeless structures in the world. Beautiful, elegant and built with perfect attention to detail.
The KwaZulu Natal museum
The city is also home to multiple art galleries and museums; among them is the KwaZulu Natal Museum. I chose to visit this particular museum because something inside me said that it would hold the best that the province has to offer in terms of history, culture and learning. Little did I know that my thoughts were right. The museum has a wonderful atmosphere and the temperature is just right as I had come in from a cold wind outside and the inside was warm and relaxing.
The museum has beautiful displays and is equipped with audio and visual learning aids, from storybooks for children to videos for all ages. I enjoyed the video of the leopard skin. I learnt that the leopard skin was a royal piece of clothing and that culturally it was associated with power and great leadership back in the olden days but as most parts of culture slowly became foreign to Africans, it became a symbol they could associate themselves with as their roots.
There is so much to see and learn at the museum. Like the train display that resembles the train that Gandhi was thrown from; on the inside of this train is a screen playing the movie Gandhi. I had seen it long before going to the museum so I didn’t sit and watch it but I can tell you that it is an excellent movie that captures the life of Gandhi at that time perfectly in my view. Gandhi was never forgotten in this city and will never be forgotten as there’s also a statue at the Gandhi square in town which tells a few details of his story.
One of the most amazing things at the museum is the skeleton of the last wild elephant of KwaZulu Natal. This elephant used to roam freely around the Umfolozi flats. It never came to know what it felt like to be restricted to a game reserve or to be caged at a zoo. After it had died its remains took a year to reach the museum by ox-cart and rail transportation; having its tusks and knee caps stolen in transit, the tusks were recovered but the knee caps were never recovered to this day.
During the time I visited the museum there was a display table of South African heritage. On this table was the food that I feel best describes us as South Africans. It had our favourite brands and foods ranging from boerewors, bunny chow and many other South African dishes.
Vogue, Vigor & Verve and the casino
There are many pubs, clubs and lounges in Pietermaritzburg. You can find a place to chill depending on what kind of vibe you like.
During the day I visited Vogue lounge which is at the corner of Peter Kerchoff Street and Hoosen Haffejee Street. Oh! The vibe, I loved it. It has a beautifully decorated interior, a superb bar, a great selection of meat and amazing service. The music selection of that day was lovely, lively and my kind of music. It truly is a wonderful place to kick your feet and have a great meal. I think it represents South African braai culture perfectly, if you ever want to understand what South African braai-vleis means give them a visit.
When the night came around I chose to go see what happens at the Golden Horse Casino. Lovely place I must say. It is filled with a selection of restaurants and games. I had my supper at Vigour and Verve; it has a classy wonderful interior and atmosphere. They have a great service and the place is neat and clean. I loved the fact that one can mix their milkshake flavours. The food is great and by all means necessary don’t walk out without having had a slice of their red velvet or carrot cake, they are worthy. The casino floor is another place to be but by all means possible have a budget and don’t be a careless gambler if you choose to gamble. All in all it was a fun night.
Not only does Pietermaritzburg have great places to see, it is also home to great people. It is the birth place of great people such as Alan Paton, Jabulile Ndlovu and many others who contributed positively to the development of this country. It is also the birth place of Kevin Pietersen, David Miller, Arthur Bartman, Bryce Moon and other sports personalities; and Pietermaritzburg also hosts multiple sporting events such as the great Comrades Marathon among others.
The city and landscapes
The landscape of the city and its surroundings are amazing, the city is situated in the hill country of Mzilikazi after all. It has amazing landscapes that are better glorified in lights as different areas of the city begin to come alight. It is marvellous scenery. Pietermaritzburg is a gem and one of the most beautiful places in KwaZulu Natal. It has a rich history of the country and that of the province embedded in it. With its beautiful buildings, great historical figures and wonderful places; it is perfect.