Southern Surroundings, Johannesburg
Cities and nature reserves are found south of Johannesburg.
Heidelberg, South Africa
Heidelberg, 50km/31mi southeast of Johannesburg at the foot of the Suicurbosrand ("Sugar Hill"; 1,903m/6,244ft), was founded in 1862 by a German businessman, H. J. Öckermann, who named it after his home town in Germany. After the finding of gold on the Witwatersrand the town enjoyed a period of modest prosperity. It now has a population of 13,000.Unlike most of the other centers round Johannesburg, Heidelberg is an attractive little town with a number of features of interest and a large nature reserve just outside the town. The Klipkerk (1890) in H. F. Verwoerd Street is a national monument; the vaulted undercroft contains valuable liturgical utensils.
Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve
On the northwestern outskirts of Heidelberg is the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, area 13,000 ha/32,000ac; home to many kinds of game, including zebras, black wildebeests and several species of antelope, as well as more than 200 species of birds. The old Diepkloof farmhouse (1850) has been restored and now houses a visitor center and museum. This is the starting-point of a number of hiking trails, including the short Cheetah Trail (4km/2.5mi). There is also a tarred track over the highveld with its wide expanses of grassland.
Heidelberg Transit Museum
The old railroad station, a handsome sandstone building of 1895, was restored in 1969 and now houses a Transport Museum, with old steam engines, veteran cars and old bicycles.
Vereeniging, South Africa
Vereeniging (pop. 170,000) lies on the Vaal River 60km/37mi south of Johannesburg. Founded in 1892, it gained a place in history when the treaty ending the Boer War was signed in the town. It subsequently developed into one of the most important centers of heavy industry (coal and steel) and the processing industries (engineering) in South Africa. This development was boosted by the construction of a large electric power station in 1909 and the Union Steel Corporation's steel-processing plant in 1913. The deposits of high-quality coal still remaining to be worked are estimated at 4000 million tons, so that coal-mining is likely to remain the foundation of the town's economy for many years to come.
Vaal Dam Nature Reserve
In 1938 a dam almost 700m/2,300ft long was built on the Vaal River to the southeast of Vereeniging, creating a huge reservoir up to 50m/165ft deep, the Vaal Dam, which supplies Johannesburg with water. This is now a popular recreation area, with facilities for swimming and various water sports. On the grassland round the shores of the reservoir there are picnic areas and barbecue sites.
Vereeniging Municipal Museum
The Municipal Museum has a varied collection, including archaeological material, costumes, weapons and glassware.
Vanderbijlpark, South Africa
Vanderbijlpark (pop. 65,000) is an industrial town on the banks of the Vaal. It is a regularly planned town with extensive open spaces and leisure facilities, established in 1952 to house the employees of a new iron and steel works.
Parys, South Africa
130km/81mi southwest of Johannesburg on the banks of the Vaal is Parys (pop. 46,000), which was founded in 1876. It was given its name by a German who had taken part in the siege of Paris in 1870. It is now a popular holiday resort.The Vaal at this point is up to 1km/.6mi wide, with numerous little wooded islands, providing ideal conditions for fishing and boating. In addition to tourism the town's economy depends on the maize, groundnuts and grain grown in the surrounding area.
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