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travel

Martin and Ania of Impressed

#Gauteng52, Week 40: imPRESSed Craft Bindery and Letterpress

Welcome to Week 40 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit imPRESSed Craft Bindery and Letterpress in Birdhaven. Strangely, this will be the second #Gauteng52 post I’ve written about a letterpress printing studio in Joburg. But with the exception that both places use very old printers, imPRESSed in Birdhaven couldn’t be more different from Print-A-Line in Malvern. Martin and Ania Ciolcosz, owners of imPRESSed. I’ve been struggling to write this post because I don’t know how to coherently explain the wide variety of interesting activities that go on at imPRESSed. Martin and Ania are Polish-born South Africans who quit their day jobs to become printers, book-binders, and collectors. They built a special brick studio on their property where they collect antique letterpress printers and printing/bookbinding tools. They print cards and invitations and stationery, restore and collect old books, craft handmade journals and notebooks, and conduct courses and demonstrations on letterpress printing. I think the pictures explain things better than I can. Inside the imPRESSed studio. Martin and Ania have collected some extremely old printers — the machine on the far right was made […]

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Man walking through Killarney during Johannesburg Heritage Foundation tour

The Heritage of Johannesburg’s Middle-Class Suburbs

The weekend after Heritage Day, the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation has an annual tradition of offering a whole programme of tours at very affordable prices. There are about a dozen tours to choose from over the course of two days and you can do three tours for R150, or about $11. (Read about last year’s Heritage Weekend.) This year I intentionally chose two walking tours through neighboring Joburg suburbs — one in Forest Town and one in Killarney — because I thought they’d be fun to blog about together. Walking through Forest Town. For those of you who don’t live in South Africa, I should explain that the term suburb has a different meaning in South Africa than it does in the U.S. or other places. The city of Joburg is made up of dozens of suburbs, which are more like neighborhoods in American cities. Each suburb has its own identity and often engenders fierce loyalty among its residents. (My love for Melville is a good example.) Forest Town and Killarney, despite being almost adjacent, are totally different from one another. I loved exploring them both. Forest Town: Joburg’s English Forest Forest Town was founded in the first decade of the 1900s, […]

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The Best Massage in Joburg

In 2014, while working on the SandtonPlaces book, I made a brief visit to the Indaba Hotel in Fourways. I took a walk around the hotel grounds with the marketing person, looked at the rooms, the restaurants, etc. Then we went to see the spa, and my eyes widened. I vowed to go back there someday for a massage. Three years later I finally got my chance, when Hello Joburg Magazine invited me to participate in a blogger event at the Indaba. I got to have dinner at the hotel, spend the night, and then enjoy an entire morning at the hotel’s Mowana Spa where I received not one, not two, but three incredible massages. The Hotel First, the hotel. The Indaba is a large hotel and conference center, just off William Nicol Drive in Fourways. I know what the locals among you are thinking: William Nicol Drive does not seem like the most peaceful place for a relaxing getaway. Trust me though, once inside the hotel grounds you’ll have no idea that you’re steps away from the horrors of Fourways traffic. Everything is green, the fountains are trickling, the birds are singing. The real world disappears. The Indaba Hotel […]

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Meruschka and Heather #WalkMyCity

#WalkMyCity with 2Summers and Mzansigirl

UPDATE #1: This walk sold out very quickly, so we have scheduled a second #WalkMyCity trek for 11 November. Sign up here. Do it now to avoid disappointment, as the walk is once again limited to 25 participants. UPDATE #2: Meruschka, my walking partner, had to fly to Atlanta yesterday for a last-minute trip to Afropunk. (Lucky Meruschka!) So she will not be at tomorrow’s walk but she will be at the walk on 11 November. UPDATE #3: Readers of this blog can receive a 20% discount when shopping at hi-tec.co.za. Use this code while shopping: WMCJHB20.  I have exciting news for the Joburgers among you. My friend Meruschka (aka Mzansigirl) and I are hosting a cultural instawalk through Joburg called #WalkMyCity. The walk is on Saturday 14 October from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., starting and ending at Hangout Jozi in One Eloff Street. It’s sponsored by Hi-Tec and we’ll have some cool Hi-Tec prizes to give away. We will be visiting all kinds of rad, secret places around the city — music stores, clothing stores, art studios, secret rooftops, bookshops, coffee shops, and anything else we discover along the way. If you love Joburg you should really come. The walk is limited to […]

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Zoo Lake Swimming Pool entrance

#Gauteng52, Week 39: Zoo Lake Swimming Pool

Welcome to Week 39 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Zoo Lake Swimming Pool. Some artist/blogger friends of mine have an ongoing collaborative project called #20Laps, for which they visit and document different swimming pools around Johannesburg. Alex swims 20 laps at each pool. Gail takes pictures. Fiver makes sketches. Ang writes blog posts. When I can, I tag along and do some (or none) of the above. Me diving into a pool. (Photo: Gail Wilson) Johannesburg has a vibrant public pool culture, which probably has something to do with the city’s amazing weather. Joburg pools open for the summer on 1 September and don’t close for the winter until April or May. (The Linden Pool is indoors and open year-round.) The pools have relatively low admission fees — around R10, or under a dollar — and tend to be well maintained, even in parts of town that have declined socioeconomically in recent decades. Some of the pools are even heated. Two weeks ago the #20Laps gang visited the Zoo Lake Swimming Pool, which has been on my #Gauteng52 […]

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Lunch at Andalousse

Andalousse: A Quickie Cape Town Restaurant Review

A few weeks ago, during a very bad week, I was in Cape Town. I couldn’t really taste food but I needed to eat. So when my friend Lucy invited my friend Di and me to have lunch at a restaurant called Andalousse, I accepted. Inside Andalousse Authentic Moroccan Cuisine. Andalousse is a Moroccan restaurant, probably the only one in Cape Town, on Victoria Road in Woodstock. It’s a very busy street and Andalousse is an unassuming place, so you have to look: It’s across the street from the police station and right next to a small doctor’s surgery. Don’t be put off by the location; Andalousse is worth it. I’m no expert on Moroccan cuisine. But the food was delicious and the owner of Andalousse, Moosa, was wonderful. This is a great change of pace from the usual high-end, artisanal Cape Town fare that foodie bloggers normally blog about. (Don’t get me wrong, I love high-end, artisanal Cape Town fare but this is just something different.) Andalousse reminds me more of the secret food dives I love to review here in Joburg. Lunch at Andalousse For three people we ordered: One kofta tajine; One half-order of shish kabab; One half-order […]

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Inside St. Sergius Russian Orthodox Church

#Gauteng52, Week 37: South Africa’s Only Russian Orthodox Church

Welcome to Week 37 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh, in Midrand. If you’ve driven from Pretoria to Johannesburg, you’ve probably seen it: The white church with gleaming gold domes in Midrand, easily visible from the N3 Highway. Apparently lots of people show up at the gate of the Russian Orthodox Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh, simply because they have glimpsed the church from the road and are overcome by curiosity. The Russian Orthodox Church of St. Sergius of Radonezh, built in 2003. The domes are covered in very thin gold leaf. Father Daniel, the priest, says it’s less than one kilogram of gold altogether. If you read my blog, then you know I love visiting churches and places of worship of all kinds. So when I got invited to visit St. Sergius as part of an event organized by the Johannesburg Russian Tea Room Group, I eagerly accepted and invited my friends Ang and Gail. St. Sergius is the only Russian Orthodox Church in sub-Saharan Africa (the next closest one is […]

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Seamstress at Amani ya Juu

Six Arts and Crafts Hotspots in Africa

Although I generally avoid shopping, I love to buy things when I travel — especially in Africa (which is most of my traveling these days). So when Afristay asked me to write a post about traveling in Africa, I decided to take a look back at some of the best arts and crafts I’ve found in my explorations around the continent. I’ve been to 13 African countries and I’ve come back from every one of them with something amazing. But for brevity’s sake I’m limiting this list to six favorite spots in five countries. African Arts and Crafts: My Top Six Picks 1) Teyateyaneng, Lesotho Teyateyaneng (or TY for short), a small town about 30 minutes from Lesotho’s capital city of Maseru, was one of my first African craft discoveries. There are several weaving cooperatives in TY, in which groups of women work together to create Basotho-themed mohair tapestries. I love the tapestries themselves (I have three), but I also love watching the women make them. My favorite place to visit is the Elelloang Basali Weaving Centre, which I blogged about here and here. Marosa, one of the weavers at Elelloang Basali. The weaving center is lined with recycled cans. Alina with […]

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Kota from Winnie's Tuckshop

#Gauteng52, Week 35: Winnie’s Tuckshop in Tembisa

Welcome to Week 35 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit Winnie’s Tuckshop, a kota restaurant in Tembisa. A few weeks ago, my friends Nells and Tebogo posted pictures of the kotas they ate at Winnie’s Tuckshop in Tembisa, a large township northeast of Joburg. The moment I laid eyes on the first picture, I was making my own plan to go. I don’t think I need to say much more than Nells said above. By the way, Nells and the gang at Ofentse Mwase Films make hilarious short films about life in South Africa. Check them out here. A kota is one of those uniquely South African meals that involves bread stuffed with tons of cheap, messy, fattening food that you eat with your hands. It’s similar to a bunny chow or a Gatsby or an AK-47 or a sly wat-wat. A kota, slang for “quarter”, is made from a hollowed-out quarter-loaf of bread and filled with a variety of things. The kotas I’ve had in the past are basic, filled with chips (fries), cheese, and maybe a piece of […]

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Pink house in Melville

#Gauteng52, Week 34: The Pink Church With a Blue Door

Welcome to Week 34 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Blue Door Print Studio, inside Melville’s mysterious Pink Church. On the southeastern edge of Melville — technically it’s in Richmond but I consider it Melville — is a mysterious Pink Church with white trim. For a long time it was abandoned, then it briefly became an antique shop although the shop rarely looked open. Some people say the Pink Church is haunted. I’ve driven past the Pink Church about 500 times and was always curious. I never went in. The Pink Church at 24 Chatou Road, Richmond. (But really it’s Melville.) Last month I saw an article in the Northcliff Melville Times titled “Building Transformed into Print Haven”. The article said the Pink Church has become the Blue Door Print Studio. I learned that the building was built in 1904, and it was indeed a Methodist church back in the day. Later on it was a synagogue, which somehow makes the Pink Church even more fascinating. Two days later, I finally went to the Pink Church. The front of the Pink […]

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Mama Anna with her beaded Ndebele kudu head

The Ndebele Artists of Mpumalanga: Coming Soon to Joburg

We drove down a dusty KwaMahlanga street, bordered by beige and brown houses. I saw dogs, chickens, and goats, all in various earth tones. Orange and lemon trees, laden with late-winter fruit, provided periodic bursts of yellow and orange. We pulled in front of an earth-colored house, guarded by an earth-colored dog. A color explosion awaited inside. Mama Anna Skhosana stood in the middle of the living room, draped in a jewel-toned blue, yellow, and red Ndebele blanket. Her shaved head was adorned with overlapping bands and a thick beaded collar hung around her neck. Mama Anna’s artwork — a large wooden kudu head covered in intricate beadwork — sat nearly finished on the coffee table. After a few minutes of enthusiastic greetings between Mama Anna, her daughter Minky, and my hosts Nomvula and Mahlapane, Mama Anna sat down to continue beading. Mama Anna works on a beaded kudu head. Every inch of the kudu is beaded. Mama Anna doesn’t use any glue to attach the beads (at least not that I saw) — only thread. We returned to Mama Anna’s house the next day and three kudu heads sat lined up on the sofa, ready for delivery to the […]

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Krishna deities at Lenasia temple

#Gauteng52, Week 33: The Hare Krishnas of Lenasia

Welcome to Week 33 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit ISKCON Lenasia, home to Gauteng’s Hare Krishnas. When I was about 14, my family took a trip to San Francisco. I remember virtually nothing about the trip expect for one afternoon in Carmel, a town outside San Francisco, when a group of Hare Krishnas paraded down the street chanting their mantra: “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.” The Hare Krishnas wore robes and thongs and had interesting makeup and hair styles. It was the craziest and most wondrous thing my teenage eyes had ever seen. I didn’t give the Hare Krishna movement much thought until nearly 30 years later, when my boyfriend’s brother Hal told me about a Hare Krishna temple in Lenasia, the historically Indian township in Joburg’s far south. Hal found himself in Lenasia late last year and stumbled upon ISKCON Lenasia. (ISKCON stands for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness.) He and his friends enjoyed a free vegetarian meal at the temple. ISKCON Lenasia, which I believe is the […]

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