Wednesday, July 19, 2017

"Lost" in an antique store

Getting lost somewhere doesn't always have to mean you don't know where you are.  Sometimes you are so in awe of where you are that you lose track of time and literally get lost in your own mind.  While exploring Ira's Antique Shop in Graaff-Reinet while looking for the oldest cake in South Africa, I spotted this guy down the passage looking totally lost in himself.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The oldest cake in South Africa

One of the first things Karoo Girl asked me when she heard I was going to visit her home town of Graaff-Reinet, was if I was going to go and see the oldest cake in the country.  Now I know most of Graaff-Reinet's attractions, but the cake was a first for me.  She directed me to aunty Ira's Antique Shop next to the Graaff-Reinet Tourism info office and that is where we headed on the Saturday morning of our visit before taking a walk around town.

Once there we took a slow walk through the antique store and marveled at all the beautiful pieces and nic nacs before I found the cake on the mantle piece in one of the front rooms.  Nothing spectacular till you look at the date 1902, making it 115 years old (this being 2017), making it only four years younger than the oldest cake in the world.

The cake was baked for the Golden Wedding Anniversary of Franz Te Water and Caroline Theodora Muller who got married on 5 April 1852 with the cake being baked in 1902.  The fancy decorations that was originally on the cake, as per the photo, is no more, but the cake is intact.  Apparently it was found in an attic in town.  Unfortunately Karoo Girl wasn't with me to tell the whole story, which she relates as part of her walking tour of the town.  

Frans te Water and Caroline Theodora Muller on their Golden Anniversary

The cake isn't something that is written about in guide books or tourism brochures, and the kids just had a quick look before heading outside, but I found it really interesting and definitely part of the town's rich heritage.  It just shows that there are often so much more to discover in a place than what is in the guide books.  Look around, explore and investigate.  It's always worth it.

I did a quick bit of research on Frans te Water and Caroline Muller and found the following:

Name Frans Karel te Water 
Born 13 August 1824 - Brussels, Belgium  

Died 18 December 1913 (89 years old) - Graaff-Reinet, Eastern Cape, South Africa 

His first wife was Jacomina Jacoba Jansen van Rensburg, born in Graaff-Reinet 3 December 1814, they got married on 7 December 1848, but she passed away aged 36 in 1851. 

He then married Carolina Theodora Muller on 5 April 1852.  She was born in March 1828 in Beaufort West and passed away 1 June 1904 in Graaff-Reinet aged 76.

They had 9 children:
  1. Hendrina Helena Adriana te Water, b.16 May 1853, Graaff-Reinet, d. 9 Sep 1938, Cape Town (Age 85 years)
  2. Willem Jacobus te Water, b. 1855, The Netherlands, d. 1855, The Netherlands (Aged 0 years)
  3. Thomas Nicholas German te Water, b. 6 Jun 1857, Graaff-Reinet, d. 23 Oct 1926, Cape Town, (Age 69 years)
  4. Adriana te Water, b. 15 Jan 1859
  5. Frans Karel te Water, b. 1 Sep 1860,  d. 22 Sep 1890  (Age 30 years)
  6. Willem Jacobus te Water, b. 17 May 1862
  7. Karel Theodorus te Water,  b. 24 Aug 1864
  8. Palmyra Hortense Felicite te Water, b. 20 Nov 1866
  9. Jacoba Muller te Water, b. 26 Jan 1869, d. 1965  (Age 95 years) 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Giant cacti at Obesa

I have always had a love for cacti and succulents.  Perhaps because there are so many different species, because they often surprise you with the most beautiful little flowers or because they don't need much looking after or water.  But nothing I knew about succulents could prepare me for what I encountered at the Obesa Cactus Nursery in Graaff-Reinet.  We were in town for a long weekend and had a couple of hours on our hands to explore, so when the receptionist at the guesthouse we were staying recommended Obesa I knew we were in for a prickly experience.    

Coming around the corner it's hard to miss Obesa.  The succulents are all over... the yard... the building... the fence... along the pavement...  It's really hard to miss.  So is the sign on the gate stating that American visitors aren't welcome.  Clearly the owner isn't a Donald Trump fan.  So if you're a Yank looking to stop by, just don't say much.  

Obesa was started in 1970 as a hobby garden, grew up and then went into overdrive.  Today it boasts over 7 000 species of plants, raises 35 000 odd plants every year, and stocks well over 2 million.  Definitely not quite just a hobby anymore.  Chatting to owner Johan he was telling me that most of their succulents are exported with the majority going to Europe.  Obesa is basically made up of two sections.  Firstly there is the garden and then the nursery.

It was in the garden where we kicked off our visit.  Johan pointed us in the general direction and from there we followed the paths and signs.  It's in this garden where cactii growing up to around 8 meters high will take your breath away.  Definitely not your typical succulent garden at home.  I didn't know where to point my camera.  Problem is showing the scale of these plants, some of which is up to 45 years old already.  I did try a couple of times to get Miggie to stand by them for scale but she was a bit careful for those big thorns reaching out at her.

The nursery itself is huge and if you're a succulent lover then you better come with you wallet well stocked otherwise don't even go there.  With us it was a case of "I want one of those, and one of those, one of those and definitely one of those..."  And anything you need to know, just ask Johan.  He does come across as very direct and not everybody likes that, but the man knows his succulents.  That is for sure.

Graaff-Reinet has so many treasures to discover ranging from the Valley of Desolation to the many museums in town, but do open up an hour or so in your itinerary and pop by Obesa.  It's perhaps not everybody's thing, but if you like to garden, it will be worth it.