Well… Erunno wasn’t the only one to take a month vacation! I also took my own vacations, finally freeing myself for a month from college and… I stayed for two weeks on my uncle’ and aunt’s house on the beautiful South Africa! They live in Johannesburg, in the province of Gauteng. But Johannesburg has nothing to do with Tolkien (besides from the fact that this was the aunt that introduced me to the Silmarillion, thank you Dalva!).
While in Johannesburg, I visited many beautiful and interesting places. For example, Lion Park, where a lion cub bit me (and damn, lion bites hurt) or the amazing Sterkenfontein Caves and the Maropeng museum, both focused and important to the history of
Middle-Earth humankind. But that’s not what why I’m writing this post. I also visited a very important place to Tolkien lovers: his hometown. Tolkien, unlike most people think, wasn’t born in England. Instead, he was born in Bloemfontein, then part of an independent republic, called Orange Free State, now part of South Africa, in the province of Free State.
I stayed in Bloemfontein only one night, in a hotel called… The Hobbit Boutique Hotel! The hotel, located in President Steyn Avenue, also holds the memorial to Tolkien’s birthplace.
All rooms are named after The Lord of the Rings characters, including Bilbo, Galadriel, Arwen, Frodo (the room I slept in) and Elrond (the master bedroom). Also, on the hotel’s common room, a table has on display a few books: all Lord of the Rings books, divided in three volumes, The Hobbit and There and Back Again (a collection of maps illustrated by John Howe).
Even though the hotel is extremely comfortable, huge rooms, great breakfast and excellent service, the rooms are not designed after a hobbbitesque fashion, assuming, instead, a Victorian style.
In the middle of the common dining room, the most important Tolkien-ish feature of the whole country, Tolkien’s birthplace plaque, written in English and Afrikaans:
The city also has a few other Tolkien memorials, for example, a plaque in the church he was baptized and a memorial in the bank his father worked. I, due to lack of time and information, did not visit them, unfortunately. There used to be a Tolkien Trail, a guided tour to all locations relevant to his history but, as there was not much interest, it was cancelled.
The city itself is beautiful, with a few nice attractions, such as the Anglo-Boer War museum and a giant Nelson Mandela statue located at the top of a hill, the highest location in the city.
All in all, it was a fantastic experience, visiting such an important place to the history of the Professor. It’s only sad that there’s not much interest, as most famous locations are all around England, the country he moved when he was three years old. Tolkien himself said he remembers almost nothing of Bloemfontein and the country (somewhere it is said he remembers a huge spider near his cradle).
The country itself is beautiful, with many different touristic locations, including animal parks, museums, huge shopping malls and casinos (I swear I did not go broke on Blackjack!). The country also produces great wine, sold at fair prices, that can be combined with the delicious (and also fair-priced) food, including ostrich and springbok meat.
Thank you all for reading! Namárië!