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A Modern-Day Village

 

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In the peaceful, stone-walled suburb of Irene, on the outskirts of Pretoria, residents stroll through oak-lined streets with their dogs on leashes and their children skipping along in tow. They visit the local dairy for imperial gallons of fresh farm milk, and spend Sunday afternoons playing cricket on the community Oval. There is much history in Irene, and much to see and do too.

Greenlea Eco-Friendly Guest House and conference accommodation is in Irene Centurion. Centurion's economic basis is modern and aimed at the future. Centurion is well known for the high quality of its residential and social infrastructure.

On All Hallows Eve, the streets crawl with ghouls, ghosts, goblins and sprites. Wicked cackling trails out of darkened windows, and echoes through the chilly air. Black cats dart from one dimly-lit corner to another and shadows play on the rooftops. In Irene, Halloween is taken very seriously. Gardens are lit with lanterns and carved pumpkins, driveways are lined with cauldrons and candles, and spider webs are draped over doorways. The whole village plays along, and the community vibe that emanates is unmistakable. It is a vibe that has been around for many years, and the sense of community is clearly evident in this petite parish.

What is now Irene was once part of a 5,136-hectare farm - Doornkloof - owned by Boer Voortrekker Daniël Elardus Erasmus. Erasmus left the Cape Colony in the 1830s to seek economic and political independence in the hinterland. Doornkloof came to be called the "kerkpklaas" of the district, and when Erasmus died in 1975 he left the farm to his three sons. Fourteen years later, Hungirian engineer and successful industrialist, Alois Hugo Nellmapius, acquired two thirds of Doornkloof and named it after his daughter, Irene.

When the farm s auctioned in 1896, three years after Nellmapius' death, two commercial firms bought it. Johannes Albertus (Bertie) van der Byl was appointed General Manager and was granted the right to buy half of the farm within a year - which he duly did in 1896. Bertie proclaimed Irene a township in 1902.

In 1908, needing a home for his family, General Jan Smuts bought a third of the original farm for £300. He transported a modest building that had served as the Officers' Mess of the British Forces in Middelburg during the Anglo-Boer War, to the site at Doornkloof. This humble wood and iron house, set among leafy wattles and towering pine trees, is now the Smuts House Museum. It is open to visitors wishing to unpack the personal and professional life of Jan Smuts.

Every second and last Saturday of the month, the Irene Village Market is held on the Smuts House Museum grounds. With its extensive range of goods available from some 300-odd stalls, selling anything from foodstuffs and soap to antiques and artworks, the Market is deserving of the many accolades it has received, including one from Getaway magazine. Weaving through contented crowds of shoppers, you will notice that only original arts & crafts are traded at the Market. Exhibitors and their wares undergo strict selection processes twice annually to ensure that the rustic, old-world feel of the Market is maintained and that its experience is kept a pleasant and unhurried one.

Perhaps one of resident' favorite and Irene's best-know places, the Irene Dairy Farm is still in the Van der Byl family. Nowadays it is run by fourth-generation Van der Byls, Adrian and his cousin Henry. Since establishing the farm over a century ago, the Van der Byl family has been responsible for building up a strong herd of dairy cows - beautiful black and white Frieslands. A visit to the farm makes for a superb Sunday morning adventure, as you and the kiddies can watch the cows being milked and the calves being fed, enjoy fluffy, warm scones and double thick dairy cream at the farm's Country Café, or browse the farmstore for scrumptious, gourmet foodstuffs.

Irene is built alongside a railway line on the site of an Anglo-Boer War British concentration camp. During the war (1899-1902), there were 31 concentration camps or Burgher refugee camps in South Africa. Interestingly, the Oval created within the tented camp for recreational use by its original residents still exists in Irene today, though its uses these days are quite different. Over 20,000 people died in camps across South Africa, from exposure to the elements, inadequate provisions and poor medical care. An estimated 1,041 children and 149 adults were buried in Irene Camp's Cemetery.

While it may still be suburbia, this is not to say that the village is lacking in fauna and flora, or ways and means to get back to nature. There are, in fact, several hiking trails that you can take, most notably the one up to Smuts Koppie, which offers a superb lookout point from which to survey the area. Irene Country Lodge has a pond teeming with birds, including the pied and giant kingfisher, spoonbills, darters and Hadeda ibis. About three kilometers outside of the village you will also find the Rietvlei Nature Reserve, home to various types of antelope, Burchell's zebra, hippos and white rhino.

On most days of the week in Irene you will find that at dusk, neighbors stand chatting over walls and stop midway through their evening strolls to exchange news with one other. While it is a whole heap of fun to visit Irene on Old Hallows Eve, any day of the year brings with it the chance to experience the village's inimitable sense of community.

Area Information

Fast facts about our remarkable Nation - South Africa

Tourism

1.      The number of tourists visiting South Africa has grown by 200% since 1994, from 3 million to over 9 million in 2007 (Dept of Environment and Tourism)

2.      The Singita game reserve was voted the best hotel in the world by the readers of a leading travel magazine (Conde Nast Traveller)

3.      The world's best land-based whale-watching spot is located in Hermanus in the Western Cape.

4.      In 2002, South Africa was the world's fastest growing tourist destination. In 2006, South Africa's tourism grew at three times the global average.

Sport

1.      In 2009, the Springboks become the first international team to be World Champions in both 15-a-side and Sevens Rugby

2.      South Africa hosts the largest timed cycle race in the world (the Cape Argus Cycle Tour), the world's oldest and largest ultra-marathon (the Comrades Marathon) and the world's largest open water swimming event (the Midmar Mile).

3.      South Africa will become the first African country to host the Soccer World Cup in 2010... and only the second country in the world to have hosted the Cricket, Rugby and Soccer World Cups.

4.      Since the 1940s, South African golfers have won more golf majors than any other nation, apart from the United States.

Environmental

1.      The Kruger National Park supports the greatest variety of wildlife species on the African continent

2.      The Cango Caves near Oudsthoorn is the world's longest underground cave sequence

3.      South Africa is the only country to house an entire floral kingdom (fynbos), one of only 6 on the planet

4.      In 1991, South Africa became the first country in the world to protect the Great White shark.

5.      South Africa has the oldest meteor scar in the world, at the Vredefort Dome near Parys. The scar is 2 billion years old.

6.      South Africa has the 3rd highest level of biodiversity (SA Tourism)

7.      The Cape Hyrax's (dassie) closest relative is the African elephant

8.      South Africa has embraced the concept of trans-frontier 'peace parks', linking ecological reserves across national borders

9.      21 South African beaches were awarded Blue Flags, an international indicator of high environmental standards for recreational beaches in 2007.

General

1.      South Africa is the cradle of mankind

2.      Afrikaans is the youngest official language in the world

3.      The Western Deep Levels is the world's deepest mine at 3777 meters

4.      South Africa has the world's largest deposits of gold, chromium, platinum and manganese

5.      The only street in the world to house two Nobel Peace Prize winners is in Soweto. Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu both have houses in Vilakazi Street, Orlando West.

6.      South Africa has the world's second oldest air force, established 1920.

7.      South African Breweries (SABMiller) ranks as the second largest brewing company in the world. It supplies up to 50% of China's beer.

8.      South Africa has the second oldest film industry in the world

9.      Cape Town has the fifth-best blue sky in the world, according to the UK's National Physical Laboratory

10.  In 2009, Time magazine named two South Africans in their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world

11.  Johannesburg has been ranked as the eighth cheapest city in the world for expatriates

 

Pretoria

Pretoria - rainbow microcosm of cultures and window on Africa offers you a glittering treasure trove of breathtaking adventures, unique experiences and unforgettable memories. Built on the foundations of a colourful yet controversial past and evolving into a dynamic future, the Jacaranda City (affectionately named after its famous trees), could easily be described as a country in one city.

The city was developed at a more sedate pace than Johannesburg, and the town planners had the foresight to include an abundance of open spaces. Pretoria has more than 100 parks, including bird sanctuaries and nature reserves. Progress has brought to Pretoria high-tech shopping centres, museums, art galleries and multi-culinary restaurants. The city has four universities and a number of scientific institutes, including the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute, both internationally renowned.

Nestled among a series of picturesque ridges, lush fertile valleys and natural fountains, Pretoria's cosmopolitan, harmonious and vibrant atmosphere comes from a unique blend of traditions, cultures, languages and architecture. It is a capital city, a cultural hub, a centre of research and learning, but much more than this it is a friendly city with open streets, open spaces and open-hearted people.

Pretoria's city centre is a compact grid of wide, busy streets, easily and comparatively safely explored on foot. Its central hub is Church Square, where you can see some fascinating architecture, and there are other historic buildings and museums close by around the Museum Mall. To the north lie the vast Zoological Gardens, while the Arcadia district is the site of the city's famous Union Buildings. Away from the centre, Hatfield, close to Pretoria University, is where students and yuppies throng the latest bars and restaurants, as well as being the home of Pretoria's diplomats, who live in the swankiest houses in town. You need to travel 15km east out of town to find the sprawling township of Mamelodi; Pretoria's other major township, Atteridgeville, is equally far out of town to the west.

Gauteng

Gauteng, the economic heart of southern Africa, offers a vibrant business environment and many tourist attractions, including a rainbow of ecological and cultural diversity. Key attractions include:

  • The Vaal Dam covers some 300 square km and is a popular venue for water sport. Numerous resorts line the shore. The Dam is popular with birders and anglers.

  • The Sterkfontein Caves near Krugersdorp are the site of the discovery of the skull of the famous Mrs Ples (now believed to be Mr Ples), an estimated 2,5 million-year-old hominid fossil; and Little Foot, an almost complete hominid skeleton more than 3,3 million years old.

  • The Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden boasts a 70-m high waterfall and stunning displays of indigenous plants.

  • Forty kilometres north of Pretoria lies a ring of hills a kilometre in diameter and 100 m high. These hills are the walls of an impact crater, the Tswaing Meteorite Crater, left by an asteroid 200 000 years ago.

  • The National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria, which is considered to be one of the 10 best in the world.

  • The new Constitutional Hill Precinct which is set to become one of South Africa's most popular land marks.

  • The old mining town of Cullinan is the place where the world's biggest diamond, the 3 106-carat Cullinan Diamond, was found.

  • A guided tour of Soweto makes a lasting impression of this vast community's life and struggle against Apartheid.

  • The Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg tells the story of the legacy of Apartheid through photographs, film and artefacts.

Shopping

There are various shopping malls in the immediate and wider surrounds of Irene. Each has its own charm and offers high street shopping in one building and varies from chain stores to upmarket clothing and other speciality goods shops. These malls also have excellent restaurants with local and international cooking to chose from.

Shopping malls within easy reach of Greenlea Guest House Guest House are:

  • Irene Village Mall

  • Centurion Mall

  • Menlyn Shopping Centre

  • Sandton Shopping Centre

Restaurants

There are various options to chose from when it comes to fine dining or a quick dinner out in the area in and around Greenlea Guest House. Within walking distance from Greenlea Guest House, there is a working dairy farm with a coffee shop and a restaurant offering a good selection of reasonably priced food in a beautiful outdoor setting.

Also, close by is a traditional Italian restaurant and a pizza take-away that does free delivery.

Restaurants within a 10 minute driving distance includes seafood, steak, continental, Portuguese, traditional South African and Turkish.