Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Hello Heidelberg.

I have been planning a trip down to Heidelberg for quite some time. For starters there is an ABW and Concentration Camp Cemetery to see, as well as the long closed Transport Museum that I dealt with in a previous blog entry. And while there are CWGC graves in Heidelberg, they have already been photographed so I didn't really have anything specific in mind to find gravewise. My plan was to visit 4 cemeteries (Kloof, Camp, Rensburg and Schuins Street), although that was all time and weather dependant.  Naturally the day I went to Heidelberg there was an accident at the Crown Interchange, causing me to have to make a detour, and anybody knows that in JHB that means delays and yet more delays.

I hit Heidelberg just after 10am. My first destination being the Camp Cemetery (aka Kampplaas). It is situated just outside Heidelberg and close to the N3 offramp. To be honest, the cemetery and concentration camp graves didn't really leave much of an impression with me.  

  
There are more concentration camp victims buried in the Kloof cemetery, but that was last on my list. My next cemetery of call was the Schuins Street Cemetery, which I navigated to using my untrusty GPS. Amazingly I did not end up being sent via Bloemspruit. The cemetery is on a dirt road; on one side is the Muslim Cemetery, and on the other an old African cemetery. Both have CWGC graves in them which means they date from the 1940's, although I suspect the African cem is much older.

African Cemetery in Schuins Street
The African cem is in a poor condition, it is very overgrown and many headstones have been lost or destroyed over the years. It is fenced, but I believe there are even more graves close by in the veld. Again I was faced with the question: what to photograph? there is just so much, but so little is actually legible, so a few panos were taken and I headed off to my next destination: Rensburg Cemetery.

I believe that Rensburg was named after a farmer called Van Rensburg, who, during the Boer War,  failed to get out of bed to report an incident on the railway lines, so the British authorities burnt his farm and confiscated his livestock, all because he slept late! The cemetery is on the edge of town and isn't very big, but has a very interesting mix of older graves, but for some strange reason, half of it was cleared of vegetation, while the rest was a madhouse of blackjacks.


Rensburg completed, I headed off to Kloof Cemetery, and of all the cems I visited in Heidelberg, this was the grand old lady. It is a magnificent cemetery, the oldest grave I found being dated 1849, and there is a mix of everything in it, from ABW right through to "modern" graves.


The cemetery has an Imperial soldiers plot, as well as a Burghers plot, and there are also camp graves in it; I believe that these are deaths were caused by a measles epidemic and even today the mounds are still visible over 100 years since the deaths occurred.

Imperial war grave plot
Heidelberg Burgher Memorial

I took a lot of photographs in this cemetery, and have added them to the relevant pages on the website, but it is worthwhile making a return visit there one day, because hindsight often reminds one of the images that you should have taken but neglected to take.

It was almost time to leave, and on my way out of the town I paused to grab a pic of the magnificent NG Kerk that was built in 1890.


As well as the beautiful old town hall with its elaborate globe fountain out front.


And a last look down the street, and it was time to go home.



Mission accomplished. Heidelberg is a pretty town steeped in history, it is also one of those places that is passed en route to elsewhere, which is really a pity because with a lot of research I am sure there is a lot more to see. The big drawcard is the Transport Museum, if they can get that working again then I am sure rail enthusiasts would be there like a shot.  I had an enjoyable day, and took over 560 photographs, so it was all worthwhile in the end.

I returned to Heidelberg in May 2012 and revisited the old cemetery and a number of other places in the town. Read about that visit here

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