Category Archives: Historic Attractions

USA 2019 – 06 The World War II Memorial in Washington DC (2019-10-25) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 DEC 2020

At the opposite end of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool, on the site where once stood the Rainbow Pool, now sits the World War II Memorial, a memorial of national significance that serves to honor Americans who served in the armed forces and who survived World War II. Opened by George W. Bush in 2004, this compact and open memorial sits in a relatively central space on the National Mall and offers yet another space for self-reflection and remembrance among all the surrounding tourist bustle.

The memorial consists of 56 granite pillars arranged in a semicircle around a plaza, with each pillar inscribed with the name of one of the 48 U.S. states of 1945, as well as the District of Columbia, the Alaska Territory and Territory of Hawaii, the Commonwealth of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. There are two large arches at either end of the plaza, the northern arch inscribed with “Atlantic” and the southern one with “Pacific”, with the plaza itself giving way to a fountain lined pool. The walls include many reliefs of war-related scenes, as well as numerous historical quotes taken from the period. (Interestingly, the memorial also includes two inconspicuously located “Kilroy was here” engravings, acknowledging their symbolic role played among American troops).

On the west side of the plaza is the Freedom Wall, a block of granite set with 4084 gold stars, each representing 100 Americans who died in the war, and with an inscription that reads “Here we mark the price of freedom”. Given its sunken level and central position, the memorial allows for views of both the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, whilst the ever moving water creates a space to sit down and quietly reflect on these terrible events that forever stained human history.

The World War II Memorial is by no means a grandiose memorial nor one that screams its ideals at you, but as with the nearby Vietnam Veterans Memorial it does the job of making you think about and to remember this period in the hopes that it never need be repeated.

USA 2019 – 05 The Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC (2019-10-25) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 01 DEC 2020

Like the nearby Washington Monument, or the Statue of Liberty, or the Golden Gate Bridge, or the Eiffel Tower, or even our beloved Table Mountain, the incredibly special Lincoln Memorial is one of those iconic landmark pieces that filmmakers are able to (and often do) use so that you immediately know just exactly where in the world this story is currently taking place. As such, the opportunity to experience such an incredibly important American landmark in person was enough to make me giddy with excitement!

Of course, the Lincoln Memorial is a lot more important to the fabric of American society than just a landmark. The memorial honors Abraham Lincoln, the 16th and perhaps greatest of US presidents, a statesman and lawyer that before his assassination in 1865 managed to lead the nation through the American Civil War, earmarked as one of the country’s greatest moral, constitutional, and political crises, and in doing so, succeeded in preserving the Union, abolishing slavery, bolstering the federal government, and modernizing the U.S. economy. In short, the memorial serves to symbolize his belief in the freedom and dignity of all people, and as such has featured prominently in almost all campaigns for equality (especially in terms of race relations) across the broad spectrum of people that call themselves American.

The architect commissioned for the job was Henry Bacon, who went on to draw inspiration from the great neoclassical temples, with the end result being this incredibly beautiful and stoic Greek Doric temple which contains an exquisite and large seated sculpture of Abraham Lincoln (designed by Daniel Chester French and carved by the Piccirilli Brothers) flanked by excerpts from both his second inaugural address and his Gettysburg address. Clad in Yule marble quarried from Colorado, the structure is surrounded by 36 fluted columns, above which are inscribed the names of the 36 states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death.

Shuffled off to the side is a TINY little gift shop, while below the structure is a small underground museum, which delivers some history about Lincoln as well as the memorial itself, expanding on in particular its role as a race relations center. Stretching out in front of the memorial, all the way through to the World War II memorial, is the Lincoln Reflecting Pool, a massive canal of still water that completes the design and turns the whole affair into this really special space of self-reflection that has a certain air of tranquility about it – despite the overwhelming hordes of tourists that make the pilgrimage to see this very important piece of American history!

A Fort of History at the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town (2020-02-15) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 15 JUL 2020

Back when the world was still mostly blue skies and smiles, with not a single Covid-19 mask in sight, I took the girls out for an exploratory jaunt around the Castle of Good Hope, otherwise known at the Cape Town Castle, a 17th century pentagonal shaped bastion fort standing in the heart Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest city.

Built by the Dutch East India Company around 1666, the stone fortress that is the Castle of Good Hope served to replace Jan van Riebeek’s older wood and clay fort (Fort de Goede Hoop), and is currently the oldest existing building in South Africa. Built primarily in response to rising tensions between Great Britain and the Netherlands, the fort was seen as a way of safeguarding the Dutch Cape settlement which was responsible for replenishing ship supplies on the lucrative but long trade route between the Netherlands and the Dutch East indies, now known as Indonesia.

Although it seems out of place, originally the Castle of Good Hope actually sat on the coastline of Table Bay, but following extensive land reclamations that took place around the city, the fort, an historical monument (now a provincial heritage site) since 1936, now sits completely inland, with its five bastions (named after the main titles of William III: Leerdam, Buuren, Katzenellenbogen, Nassau, and Oranje) surround by the city it was once tasked with protecting.

In the past the Castle acted as local headquarters for the South African Army in the Western Cape, and today houses the Castle Military Museum and ceremonial facilities for the traditional Cape Regiments. The Castle is also the home of the Cape Town Highlanders Regiment, a mechanised infantry unit. Extensive restorations were completed in the 1980s, resulting in the Castle of Good Hope being one of the best preserved examples of a Dutch East India Company fort still left standing.

In its heyday the yellow painted fortress, that colour chosen because it lessened the effect of heat and the sun, housed a church, bakery, various workshops, living quarters, shops, and cells, among other military-themed facilities. A dividing wall was eventually added around 1695 to protect citizens in case of an attack, serving to split the courtyard and also to house the De Kat Balcony (now fronted by four legendary bronze South African warrior kings).

These days the Castle serves as a museum, with the public invited to stroll around the grounds, watch the ceremonial guards of the castle undertake the daily Key Ceremony, observe a signal canon being fired, browse around the top of the bastions, visit the military museum, take in the William Fehr art collection, peek into the torture rooms, or simply join one of the many guided tours to learn more about this bit of our shared City of Cape Town history.

A Shipwreck Museum in Bredasdorp (2019-03-23) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 23 OCT 2019

Bredasdorp is the main economic and service hub of the Overberg region. After a particularly nice coffee stop at Bredasdorp Square (i.e. a bribe), I next dragged Chantelle and the girls off to the most surprising of attractions in this small town – a shipwreck museum that happens to lie more than 23 km away from the sea!

The Bredasdorp Shipwreck Museum commemorates the 1815 wrecking of the Arniston (372 lives lost) as well as the other nearly 150 historic wrecks that occurred along the nearby Agulhas Reef. The museum is fairly unusual in that it is the only museum of its kind in the southern hemisphere!

The dimly lit main building is filled with artifacts from the Arniston and other wrecks, and you will be treated to all manner of mastheads, cannons, and interesting stories collected over the years. (Interesting fact, the seaside village of Waenhuiskrans has become so associated with the wreck that it is now primarily known as Arniston, and the wreck itself had a direct influence on the eventual decision to build the famous lighthouse at Cape Agulhas in 1847).

In addition to the shipwreck hall, the museum also opens up at the back onto a big lawn with a few more building converted into museum pieces. The house museum has a lot of interesting vintage decor and antiques on display, while the barn is home to a vintage firetruck, hearse and a couple of well looked after carriages.

And then there are all the anchors, neatly arranged around an old (equally as interesting) tree, giving a picture of how anchor technology has changed over the years. There is also a collection of glass bottles and old sewing machines of all things!

In short, an unexpectedly pleasant little tourist attraction that would appeal greatly to any history buff.

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The Whale Museum in Hermanus (2018-08-25) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 12 JUN 2019

The Whale Museum, or more accurately, the Whale House Museum can be located within the historic Fisherman’s Village section (right next to De Wet’s Huis Photographic Museum) of the Old Harbour Museum complex in Hermanus.

By the early 1990’s, whales had become the primary tourist attraction for this popular coastal town, and as such it was suggested that Hermanus establish a whale museum with the mission of informing and educating both local and international visitors alike. Built up over 3 distinct phases, the main hall (which was completed in 1998) is the museum’s centerpiece, now dominated by the suspended skeleton of a young female Southern Right whale that had washed ashore at nearby Onrus River in 2003.

With a strong focus on digital displays with audio/visual interactions, the Whale House Museum is a treasure trove of cetacean information and although not a large space by any means, it provides a good learning experience for any youngsters stepping through its doors.

There is a also a very interesting mini-sub lounging on its floor (a favourite with the girls) and naturally, there were plenty of photos taken on the day:

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Caravel and Post Office Tree at Bartolomeu Dias Museum in Mossel Bay (2018-06-26) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 01 JUN 2019

As one of the larger Western Cape museums in existence today, Mossel Bay’s Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex is a treasure trove of local cultural, Portuguese maritime, and natural history. In addition to the outside displays of the famous Post Office Tree, the Ethno-Botanical Garden, the Fountain, the Munrohoek Cottages, and the Malay Graves, the complex is also home to three distinct museums, The Granary, The Shell Museum (the largest shell museum in Africa), and the primary focal point of the complex as a whole, the Maritime Museum.

Although its history stretches back to that of about 1963, the museum complex in its current form was only really established in 1989, a direct outcome of the incredibly successful and well attended 1988 Dias Festival which celebrated the 500 year anniversary of the 1488 arrival of the first European explorer to set foot on South African soil, the highlight of the festival being the big spectacle landing of a seaworthy, life-size replica of Bartolomeu Dias’ famous caravel.

Now after dawdling through the grounds, touching everything in the garden, reading up on the historic mountain passes in The Granary, marveling at the beautiful mollusk homes in The Shell Museum, hiding under the Post Office Tree, and rolling down the sloped lawns (the kids, not me), we next traipsed over to the secret big reveal of our museum visit – the nondescript stone building marked as The Maritime Museum.

And yes, just like the surprise we ourselves as kids experienced when walking into the museum for the very first time, my girls got just as big a thrill when they entered down the stairs and walked into this:

And yes, of course we explored it.

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Fish and Shells at The Shell Museum in Mossel Bay (2018-06-26) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 15 MAY 2019

The Bartolomeu Dias Museum Complex in Mossel Bay consists of a number of different elements all clustered in one location. There are the outside attractions of the famous Post Office Tree, the Munro Cottages, the Ethno-Botanical Garden & Braille Trail, the Fountain and the Malay Graves, and then the main buildings namely the Granary, the Maritime Museum, and finally the Shell Museum.

The Shell Museum is an interesting little animal in that it is part aquarium, part shell museum, and part African mask museum. Housed in a building that was erected all the way back in 1902, this small museum is a wondrously colourful look into some interesting examples of aquatic life (complete with touch tank – an absolute delight for the little ones), and hosts a very nicely displayed collection of sea shells and masks – all well presented with copious amounts of interesting, informative (and quite often artistic) displays.

The museum itself is not a particularly big space (it does have two levels though), but as with any museum installation, the value that you get out of visiting is directly proportional to how long you stay and more importantly how much you read.

And if you are as curious a person as what I am, then those two usually end up being a lot longer than any of my kids like!

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World War Artifacts at the Warriors Gate M.O.T.H. Shrine in Durban (2018-02-07) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 APR 2019

Founded in Durban in 1927 by one Charles Evenden (a cartoonist on the staff of the Natal Mercury newspaper), the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (M.O.T.H.) is an international organisation of front line ex-servicemen and women organized around the three ideals of ‘True Comradeship’, ‘Mutual Help’, and ‘Sound Memory’. As such the ideal is to help comrades in need, either financially or physically; and to remember all servicemen who have answered the Sunset Call, both in war and peacetime.

The headquarters of the order are located at Warrior Gate, the foremost M.O.T.H. shrine situated on the grounds of The Old Fort and across the road from Kingspark Cricket stadium. In addition to its function as the group headquarters, Warriors Gate is also home to an incredibly interesting Museum of Militaria, displaying hundreds of artifacts from across the world spanning multiple armed conflicts in which South African forces were involved.

Primarily covering the early wars like the Boer War, 1st and 2nd World Wars and the Border Wars, the war museum is stocked with all manner of uniforms, regiment/unit badges, rifles, guns, medals, medical and hand tools.

It is an incredibly interesting collection of war memorabilia and perhaps of course particularly poignant for any visitor who perhaps partook in any of these armed conflicts.

The museum is open to the public and entrance is free – though donations towards the upkeep of the facilities are of course welcomed.

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Snakes and Dinosaurs in the Port Elizabeth Museum at Bayworld (2017-07-09) Historic Attractions | Photo Gallery 18 MAR 2019

Although the Bayworld complex doesn’t necessarily shine quite as brightly as what it used to in the past, it still remains a place well worth visiting, with it currently being home to the now reduced Oceanarium, a Snake Park, the Port Elizabeth Museum, and Number 7 Castle (an offsite extension).

Housed in a magnificent three-storey building within Bayworld’s grounds, the Port Elizabeth Museum is interestingly enough recognized as South Africa’s third oldest museum – with current exhibitions including the Dinosaur Hall, the Maritime History Hall, the Marine Hall, Curiosity Corner, the Xhosa Gallery, the First People of the Bay Exhibition, the Costume Hall, and the History of Algoa Bay Exhibition.

Having already spent some time among the marine life, we next ventured over to the museum and snake park part of the complex where we first played around a bit with a boa constrictor, before moving on to admire the impressive Africa’s Lost World dinosaur exhibition (their rubber dinosaurs are huge!), and then the actual museum itself.

In all honesty, I walked away from the Port Elizabeth Museum suitably impressed. The displays are well presented and very informative, the museum is laid out well with a fun use of colour that makes everything visually appealing.

Plus, we spent far longer browsing the halls that what I thought we would and as such can highly recommend the experience to anyone with even the slightest of interest in natural history or with kids that they want to expose to some of the more interesting aspects of the bay area’s past.

Oh, and they have the 15 meter long skeleton of the last Southern Right Whale harpooned in Nelson Mandela Bay hanging around. Naturally, many photos were taken.

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