Gauteng's two major cities are just 50km apart, but could hardly be more different. PRETORIA, or Pitoli as it is known in the townships, has throughout much of its history been the epitome of staid traditionalism, with its graceful government buildings, wide avenues of purple flowering jacarandas, and staunchly Boer farming origins. Yet, although South Africa's administrative capital was long regarded as a bastion of Afrikanerdom, with its notorious supreme court and massive prison, things are changing fast. Ever since the nation's re-acceptance into the international arena, Pretoria has become increasingly cosmopolitan, with a substantial diplomatic community living in Arcadia and Hatfield, east of the city centre. Furthermore, most Pretorians are not Afrikaner, but Sotho and Ndebele, and the change of government has brought many more well-educated and well-paid blacks into the ranks of civil servants living in the capital. The city's Afrikaner community is hardly monolithic, either: as well as the stereotypical khaki-shorted rednecks, there are thousands of students, an active art scene and a thriving Afrikaans gay and lesbian community.
Pretoria is close enough to Johannesburg's airport to provide a practical alternative base in Gauteng, though don't fall into the blithe assumption that Pretoria is crime-free. The main attractions are that it feels safer and less spread out than Johannesburg, there are more conventional sites, some of which are worth seeing, and the nightlife of Hatfield and Brooklyn is energetic and fun.
What to see:
This massive granite building was built as a national shrine to commemorate the heroes of the epic Great Trek of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The four walls of the Hall of Heroes, which is the main body of the building, are decorated with an Italian frieze depicting the history of the Great Trek in 1838, when Afrikaaners left Cape Town for the hinterland. One of the most interesting features of the monument is the 260-step stairway which leads to the dome, and the spectacular view it offers of the city.
Pretoria National Zoo
This is one of the most famous zoos in the world and the largest in South Africa. It is divided into several sections where animal lovers can gaze in awe at their favourites. The most interesting feature of the zoo is the newly renovated aquarium and reptile park. Visitors can also take a ride in the famous cable cars which provide marvellous views of the whole zoo and city. The latest fascinating animal to see is the koala bear from Australia, which is not found anywhere in Africa.
Designed by Sir Herbert Baker, these landmarks stand majestically on Meintjieskop, overlooking Pretoria. The buildings have a semi-circular amphitheater, and were completed in 1913, at a cost of 1,180,000 pounds. The East and West sides represent two languages, English and Afrikaans. On the grounds are the Delville Wood War Memorial, a tribute to South African troops who died during the First World War, statues of South African prime Ministers and a police memorial. Guests are not allowed inside the buildings, but they are welcome to enjoy the surrounding sites and the beautiful sprawling gardens.
Where to eat:
Tucked away underneath a sport tavern, this bar has never catered to trends but instead, has stuck to its roots. Done up in red, yellow and green, the place is literally a shrine to Bob Marley although some attention is paid to Peter Tosh, Eek-a-Mouse, Burning Spear and LKJ. The menu, printed on newspaper and known as The Ting Times, has not changed much and is based on pitas with fillings although stir-fry is also popular. Among the non-vegetarian fillings, carnivores can look forward to Mary Jane's lamb, the cumin beef, the pork-honey-mustard and the pepperoni chicken. Aside from the meals, this is a live music venue.
A charming father and son team offer a magic formula of romance and style, a huge wine cellar and a mesmerising night-time view of twinkling lights tucked away in Waterkloof Heights. Inspired regional Italian cuisine, not only from the family's Neapolitan origins, but all areas of Italy, are on offer. Local ingredients adapted to suit Italian passion are used, such as authentic al dente pasta, authoritative fillet of veal, with daily fresh seafood specials. There is a wine cellar with over 10,000 bottles to choose from.
An Afro Parisian bistro with a celebration of colour, relaxed, animated atmosphere and great food. You could be anywhere in Africa. It's whimsical, eccentric and a good expression of chef/patron Shave Sauvage's creative flair. It's a unique balance of clever and good food, wonderful music (great African jazz and O'fado from East Africa), wine (excellent wines from the smaller estates) and spirit (groups large and small seem to be genuinely having a good time). There are borrowed ideas, ingredients and flavours from all over Africa, with a touch of European influence.