Together with Cape Town and Pretoria, Bloemfontein is one of South Africa’s three capital cities. It also goes by its Sesotho name Mangaung, which means place of the Cheetahs. The name of their rugby team is also “The Cheetahs” so it really is an apt name for the city. Lastly it is also known as the “city of Roses” because there are a lot of roses and because it annually hosts a rose festival. Literally speaking, Bloemfontein means “fountain of flowers” so that is also an apt name but to be honest, I’m more exited by the fact that Lambertsbay has an annual crayfish festival and the fact that Stellenbosch has an annual wine festival. It is unclear from history books how the city originally got that name, as it’s unclear whether flowers would have grown there on their own choice in the first place.
Bloemfontein was founded in 1854 and was always the capital of the Orange Free State region in its various legal forms. Not much happened there until 3 January 1892 when JR Tolken, writer of Lord of the Rings was born there. His family left the country in 1896 when his father died but he remembered Bloemfontein in his later life as being a “hot place”.
The National Women’s Memorial in Bloemfontien pays homage to the more than 26,000 women and children who died in concentration camps at British hands during the Anglo-Boer war between 1899 and 1902. I think that this is one of the reasons why the local citizens enjoyed it so much when England suffered a 1-4 defeat to Germany during the 2010 Soccer World Cup game played in Bloemfontein.
The biggest single contribution that Bloemfontein makes to South African society is the consistent stream of Springbok rugby players that gets produced at Grey College: Morne du Plessis, Ruben Kruger, Os du Randt, Naka Drotske, Jannie & Bismark du Plessis, Ruan Pienaaar, Frans Steyn, CJ van der Linde and Heinrich Brussow to name a few. Bloemfontein is also noteable as the place where famous 80’s women’s middle and long distance athlete Zola Budd comes from. These days Zola Budd is the name for a taxi in South African townships due to the speed with which they travel around in the streets.
We thank Dries Van Der Walt at Grey College for organizing the braai with the Grey Bloem first team; Dave Nel at Dave’s Meat Market (firstname.lastname@example.org, 051 522 8103) for some good Kameelhout boerewors; and a big thank you to the staff at Waverley Manor who gave us great beds for the evening (www.waverleymanor.co.za, 051 436 2782).