Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wakkerstroom Arts Festival 2011

Wakkerstroom is the Jewel of Mpumalanga, known for it's calm countryside fare. This tiny town, which is 3 hours from Johannesburg, is a world renowned bird watching destination, retirement village and a peaceful place that city folk visit to get away from it all. This long weekend bird watchers, music lovers and art enthusiasts from all over the country flocked to this little dorp to attend the Wakkerstroom Arts Festival. I was lured there by an advertisement I had seen in a magazine. I arrived on Saturday and was surprised to see that this (usually) sleepy town had magically sprung to life. The streets and restaurants were crowded with local and international tourists, jazz filled the air and amazing artworks were on display everywhere.

Beautiful pictures, antique furniture and luxurious home decor can be found at House of Baxburg, which used to be the old bank. The Health Shop stocks all natural beauty products and organic ingredients. A fountain outside the Bistro, where food and art combined to occupy the afternoon. At Bits 'n Pieces, you will find historic home ware, antique tea sets, old books and one-of-a-kind heirlooms.

Mooi is a treasure chest of vintage finds as well as modern home decor pieces. The Birdsong offers whimsical clothes, bags and beadwork.

The Arts Festival took place over three days at various venues. The entire town was abuzz with activity, each event taking place at a different time and specified venue. There were arts and crafts exhibitions, showcasing the remarkable talent of local artists. The Glass Art Studio of Wakkerstroom had a stall selling their decorative handmade glassware. They also offer classes on the subject. The Mucky Duck screened classic movies at their quaint tavern. The Wetlands Country House was the venue for 'Jazz in the Garden' concerts each afternoon. Guests were entertained by internationally and nationally renowned musicians such as the Pam Mortimer Jazz Trio, Gaabho Motho Tenors, Bena Opera Quartet, The Northern KZN Youth Choir, harpists, pianists, violinists and many more. 

Purchase stunning crystal chandeliers & other ornamentation at Country Home. Wakkerstroom is the second oldest town in the (old) Transvaal, and the church building (pictured above) in the town square is a historical monument. The Brie Street Deli is a charming coffee shop where you will also find a wide range of cheeses, chocolate, home-made preserves and spices from around the world. Local artists showcased their spectacular paintings (bottom right).

Festival Round-up:

Best place to shop...Mooi for their delightful vintage trinkets.
Best place to eat out...Wakkerstroom Country Inn for the delicious freshly baked scones with strawberry jam, whipped cream and seasonal berries. Yum.
Biggest Mistake...Not pre-booking for the concerts. They were all sold out by the time we got there.
Best experience...The lively atmosphere on the main street, where dozens of tourists of all ages from all over South Africa enjoyed a serene afternoon in this small town. 
Verdict...I had a wonderful time at the festival. Wakkerstroom is an enchanting and placid place, filled with friendly people, beautiful boutiques, lovely restaurants, B&B's and old-fashioned charm. It will leave you with a feeling of tranquility. I will definitely be returning very soon.

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