Things to Do in Pretoria
South Africa's national government is split between three cities, and in Pretoria, the government is housed in the Union Buildings, which were built in the early 1900s after Pretoria became the administrative capital of the newly united Union of South Africa. The two wings of the structure represent English and Afrikaans, with the court between the two representing the Union of South Africa.
The offices of the president of South Africa is still in the Union Buildings, and the country's flag flies over the left wing if the president is there. The amphitheatre was renamed in 2013 as the Nelson Mandela Amphitheatre, and a 29.5-foot-tall statue of Mandela stands in front of the Union Buildings now.
The granite Voortrekker Monument towers 200 feet (60 meters) above Pretoria. The monument was built to honor the Great Trek—a 19th-century exodus from the then British-ruled Cape Colony to central South Africa. The monument depicts the treacherous journey in the Hall of Heroes, and an empty tomb represents the lives lost on the trek.
For visitors from outside of South Africa, Stephanus Johannes Paulus “Paul” Kruger’s name may ring a bell – the country’s most popular National Park is named for him. South Africans and world history buffs also know Mr. Kruger as the popular one-time President of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR), an independent state that persisted for 50 years in the late 19th
and early 20th centuries, battling the British during the Anglo Boer Wars. It was Kruger who signed the Pretoria Convention treaty that ended the First Anglo Boer War in 1881. Three years later, he built his private home in downtown Pretoria – today the site is open to the public as a museum tribute to the politician. The reflective museum lies just a few blocks south of the National Zoological Gardens and west of Church Square in busy downtown Pretoria.
Three buildings – including the single-story white cement Paul Kruger House – and Kruger’s old private railway car, used on the campaign trail and for official visits, comprise the Kruger
Museum. The home, guarded by stone lions, has been refurbished to look as it did during Kruger’s occupancy and features carpeting, wall décor and furniture from the period. The other two buildings house exhibits on the various periods of his life, including the knife that he used to amputate his own thumb after a shooting accident went awry.
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